[gnso-rpm-wg] "free speech"
rlt26 at law.georgetown.edu
Wed Sep 28 17:34:39 UTC 2016
Just to correct a misstatement on the call earlier: Most nations don't have a US-style First Amendment. Most nations with a rule of law do, however, recognize freedom of speech in some form, including the right to criticize private companies. As this Wikipedia entry notes, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech_by_country, implementation can be inconsistent on the ground, but I expect that inconsistent enforcement of trademark rights on the ground doesn't mean that trademark owners want ICANN to ignore the law on the books; freedom of speech is equally a principle worth honoring. In addition, I don't know how many countries whose nationals participate in the ICANN process have signed on to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes freedom of speech, http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/, but I doubt we want to make policy based on the countries that don't recognize any freedom of speech at all.
Also, you can't have it both ways: if domain names can facilitate infringement, which they absolutely can, then they convey meaning; if they convey meaning, they can also facilitate noninfringing conduct or affirmatively protected freedom of speech. It is just as true, or untrue, that a trademark owner can register a different string if it can't have the one that it wants as it is that a person making fair or otherwise noninfringing use can do so. This is especially so if we've given trademark owners the ability to jump the line in many circumstances. Freedom of speech principles may help tell us when preclusion of a domain name to a speaker-whether a trademark owner or a non-owner-is of particular importance. That is, they can help us identify the important false positives (notifications generated in response to domain names that wouldn't infringe).
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