As so many of us predicted, law designed to prevent cybersquatting can too easily be mis-used to intimidate core First Amendment speech. Via The Trademark Blog, here’s a link to Blogger shuts down Web site that mocked legislator in the Honolulu Advertiser.
An irreverent local blogger has chosen to give up a Web site making fun of state Rep. Bev Harbin after Harbin threatened to take him to court under the state’s law against cybersquatting.
Jon Asato, a tour guide and writer, said he agreed to drop the domain names BevHarbin .com and BeverlyHarbin.com after Harbin sent him two letters warning of a civil lawsuit. Asato said his Harbin Web site, which had cartoons that likened Harbin to The Incredible Hulk and the Joker character from the movie “Batman,” should be protected as free speech.
The law at issue is a state law, not the federal Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. And I think that any law which reached this sort of political criticism would be unquestionably unconstitutional. But fighting those fights is expensive, and most regular citizens don’t have the money and the time to do it. Intimidation works.