“Safe Harbor” protection denied to GoDaddy for its parked pages

Last summer, business-dreyfus-8-150x150GoDaddy, a domain name registrar, was denied Safe Harbor protection by the Federal Court of California in relation to its parked pages program. (Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences v GoDaddy.com Inc., California 2013)

The US Department of Commerce established the Safe Harbor to protect personal data; the program certifies that companies provide an adequate level of protection of personal data, which is at least as stringent as that of the European Economic Area.

In 2010, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (organizer of the Oscars) initiated legal proceedings against GoDaddy for violation of the provisions of the ACPA, a US law protecting consumers against cybersquatting. The Academy claimed that GoDaddy was a cyber-squatter and that it made profits out of the domain names <academyawardz.com>, <2011Oscars.com> and <Osccarlist.com> by displaying pay-per-click commercial links. GoDaddy called uponthe Safe Harbor protection granted to registrars in its defence.

Indeed, the ACPA grants Safe Harbor immunity to domain name registrars when they’re the subject of claims relating to registration activities and in the absence of malicious intent to profit. This immunity offers a limited liability to the registrar for its passiveness during the course of its activities.

The Academy successfully established that GoDaddy did not just carry out mere registrations and renewals of domain names. In relation to the ACPA, the commercial exploitation of domain names through parked pages is interpreted as “use” of the domain name. The registrar claimed for lack of evidence showing the revenues it made, but the Court held that it falls within the definition of use even in the absence of actual monetization and that GoDaddy is a cyber-squatter.

However, GoDaddy has not yet had its final say and the case is still pending.