NEW YORK (PRWEB) April 14, 2004
In what appears to be a first in Internet history, the World Wide Web's legal arm has rebuffed an attempt by ex-child actor Dustin Diamond ("Screech" of TV's "Saved by the Bell") to claim the eponymous Web site, http://www.dustindiamond.com.
Instead the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) will allow on-line artist Max Goldberg to continue to maintain his parody Web site at the dustindiamond.com address.
An arbitrator acting on behalf of ICANN issued the decision on Monday (National Arbitration Forum Claim Number: FA0402000237446)
. The precedent-setting decision is believed to be the first time that a celebrity has lost a domain name dispute to a non-commercial parody site.
Goldberg, 21, is a free-lance programmer whose parody Web sites have been entertaining thousands of fans for several years now. His cyber-installations include http://www.yourethemannowdog.com, which continues to get tens of thousands of hits every week, and another heavily visited site, http://www.getyourasstomars.com. Another Goldberg art site, http://www.ytmnd.com, is set to debut on April 10.
Faced with Diamond's 38-page legal complaint, and unable to afford to hire his own legal firepower, Goldberg wrote a 28-page response himself with the help of his mother and older sister. "I was outraged that Screech would attempt to revive his floundering career by destroying my work of art," Goldberg says. "The ICANN decision shows that an artist's right to fair use still has clout in the legal arena."
Goldberg, a resident of New York City, created the dustindiamond.com site when he was just 18 years old. The site is a low-tech masterpiece making fun of America's worship of celebrity. It includes a public forum "guest book" that has been taken over by pranksters posing as rabid Diamond fans. In a typical post, someone calling himself "Kurt Steinberg" wrote to the child actor, "Your queer fans (who comprise 97% of the people who view this guestbook daily) are simply looking for homo-erotic Saved By The Bell fantasies involving you, Diamond! Such messages allow your gay followers to lose many loads annually!"
Diamond's attorneys had argued that Goldberg's site infringed on the trademark value of the actor's celebrity, calling him "a major pop icon of the 1990s" whose "'squeaky' clean image" was being damaged.
Goldberg's response pointed out that the site's reference to Diamond as a "sex symbol" clearly signaled that it is a parody. "His 'Screech' character is a stereotypically asexual geek," the response says, "and Mr. Diamond's subsequent attempts to revive his show-business career have portrayed him in a similar light, notwithstanding his recent cultivation of facial stubble." Goldberg included a photograph of Diamond as one of the exhibits in his response as proof of the actor's lack of sexual charisma.
Goldberg also pointed out that his site sells no products, carries no advertising, and yields no income. "The site exists solely for the sake of its humorous and artistic value," his response to Diamond's complaint says. "It is truly art for art's sake."
The arbitrator found that Goldberg's site falls within the realm of "fair use." The decision reads: "The Panel accepts [Goldberg's] arguments that the 'outrageously ugly and low-tech graphics and numerous errors and misspellings,' as well as the sheer absurdity of the site's claim that Dustin Diamond is a 'FAMOUS SUPERSTAR AND SEX SYMBOL' clearly signal that the site is not meant to be taken seriously."
The decision continues, "Whether the site is regarded as parody, satire, or critical commentary, and not withstanding [Goldberg's] assertion that 'lawyers are notoriously bad at understanding how humor works,' this Panel finds that legitimate non-commercial fair use commentary is involved.'"
The complete text of the decision, together with Diamond's original complaint and Goldberg's response, are available at a site Goldberg's associates registered just in case the ICANN decision went against him: http://www.dustindiamondsucks.com.
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