Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Union Square (NYC) domain name and parody case settled


A website that parodied a Union Square development group (relative to ancient Union Square on 14th St in New York City, not the glitzy Union Square in San Francisco) is back up after an expensive out-of-court settlement. The original domain had been called “unionsqaurepartnership.org” and apparently the business development group did not bother to set up a domain in time before the parody site was set up. However, this domain name will be relinquished.

The new domain name cannot be safely repeated here because of a “bad word” in it, but here is the link. The satire on center left column “The Results Are In: USP Victory Over Activist Savitri Durkee and the First Amendment” explains what happened pretty well. The actual Union Square Partnership development group’s site is here.

The legal case also involved copyright law, and the arguments maintaining that parody is fair use. But it seems that the main dispute was really over the domain name itself. It sounds, in practice, more like a trademark or trademark dilution case.

I lived three blocks from Union Square, at 11th and Broadway, in the Cast Iron Building from 1974 to 1978. In those days, Union Square looked dismal, and I would note the contrast with a similarly named public space in San Francisco. The BMT and IRT (Lexington Ave. line) subways both stop there. I last saw the area in 2004, but expect a visit again some time during the first half of the year.

In a number of communities around the country, real estate developers have tended to threaten protesters with SLAPP suits. This is one of the areas where tort law abuse seems to be the most troubling. It’s unclear how the national real estate economic meltdown and financial crisis will affect the legal climate or its abuse.

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