Yesterday, arbitrator and retired Texas judge Carolyn Marks Johnson took away the rights to the domain name KendrickMoxon.com from Donald Myers, a West Hollywood Scientology critic better known as ‘Angry Gay Pope,’ and awarded the domain to Scientology attorney Kendrick Moxon.
AGP is known for his loud, brash way of protesting Scientology, whether in attention-getting public demonstrations or his online activities, which included the website named after the church attorney, Moxon.
For several years AGP had run the website, which lampooned and criticized Moxon. Its tag line was, “America’s Worst Lawyer?”
In July, Moxon filed a complaint with the National Arbitration Forum under the domain name dispute rules of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
Moxon complained that AGP had purchased the domain name in bad faith and was using it to libel him.
“[AGP’s] conduct evidences a malicious, vindictive and purposeful campaign intended to embarrass, discredit, and defame the Complainant and to vitiate, dishonor, and impair the reputation and goodwill of the KENDRICK MOXON service mark. In short, the Respondent’s use of the Disputed Domain is in bad faith,” wrote Moxon’s attorney, Utah lawyer Steven Rinehart, who specializes in intellectual property disputes.
Moxon argued that previous cases established that it was improper to use his name in this way. His complaint quoted the World Intellectual Property Organization: “The right to criticize does not necessarily extend to registering and using a domain name that is identical or confusingly similar to the complainant’s trademark.” The trademark, in this case, being Moxon’s own name.
In his response for AGP, attorney Graham Berry pointed out that the website had a large, very visible disclaimer asserting that Moxon actually had nothing to do with it. Also, Moxon himself had no website of his own except for a blank white page, and he otherwise had virtually no Internet presence. In other words, Moxon himself hadn’t shown any interest in managing a website, whether it carried his name in the domain or not.
Berry also argued that AGP was merely giving Scientology some of its own medicine — we have written previously about the church’s connections to anonymous smear sites that attack the church’s perceived enemies. Berry pointed out that he and his client have both been the targets of such websites.
Emails show Moxon offered $3,000 on December 29, 2012 for ownership of the domain name. Pope asked for a payment of $10,000, which Moxon rejected. The lawyer then increased it to $3,400, and AGP turned him down.
In her decision, Judge Johnson says that under ICANN rules, three conditions have to be shown by a complainant to have a domain cancelled or transferred.
(1) the domain name registered by Respondent is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which Complainant has rights; and
(2) Respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
(3) the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
Johnson said that in this case, Moxon had proved all three, and so she awarded the domain to him. (We checked, and the site is now down, replaced with a placeholder page.)
Here’s the judge’s decision…
AGP is unbowed, telling us that he is already working on a substitute website about Moxon which will meet ICANN’s rules.
Why the focus on Moxon? The attorney has a long and dubious history with Scientology. As a young member of the Guardian Office, Scientology’s notorious spy wing, Moxon was named an unindicted co-conspirator when executives of the GO were prosecuted following a 1977 FBI raid on the church. (Moxon had delivered some handwriting samples the FBI requested which turned out not to be from the man the church said they were. Moxon himself was never charged with wrongdoing.)
In more recent years, we’ve written about Moxon’s personal involvement in sordid church operations. He’s a true believer, and he’s been used again and again by the church for some of its most unsavory attempts to destroy people it believes are enemies to the organization.
But despite all that, we still think Judge Johnson made the right call here. We’ve seen Scientology try to ruin the reputations of people with the use of websites that have deceptive domain names time and time again. It’s a rotten practice, and in our opinion, at least, turnabout is not fair play.
Kendrick Moxon — or someone with the same name — ought to have control of kendrickmoxon.com. Or at least, he shouldn’t be harassed by a website that cynically exploits his own name in that fashion.
Kendrick Moxon doesn’t deserve that misuse of the Internet to smear him, the same as Karen de la Carriere, Mike Rinder, Marty Rathbun, Graham Berry, and many other people also don’t deserve to have their names exploited in smear domains.
We look forward to your thoughts on the matter.
Posted by Tony Ortega on September 5, 2014 at 08:00
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