Fox News personality Glenn Beck has lost a battle for a Web domain which jokingly asked whether he raped and murdered a young girl in 1990.
Isaac Eiland-Hall, the satirist behind glennbeckrapedandmurderedayounggirlin1990.com, thanked the pundit for his "assistance" in helping spread the rhetorical meme. Beck had filed a dispute with the World Intellectual Property Organization to gain control of the domain.
Following his victory, the Web site's creator voluntarily turned the domain over to Beck and published an open letter publicly shaming the host for assaulting the First Amendment.
The Web site, which has now been taken offline, was a mockery of the right-wing entertainer's now-famous rhetorical style, asking questions and making hazy connections between many times unrelated people or events, then wondering why he has not gotten a denial of his often loosely-defined allegations.
Beck's lawyers had argued their client's name was in fact a trademark, leaving Eiland-Hall in breach of intellectual property laws by using it in a domain. They also argued that the site, which is clearly labeled as satire, somehow led users to believe its information was factual.
The WIPO ruled against Beck on Friday.
National Public Radio added: "'Even a 'moron in a hurry,' read the decision, quoting Eiland-Hall's attorney, 'would not likely conclude that Complainant sponsored, endorsed or was affiliated with the website addressed by the disputed domain name.'"
In a letter to Beck that concluded with the username and password to access the domain, Eiland-Hall said:
It bears observing that by bringing the WIPO complaint, you took what was merely one small critique meme, in a sea of internet memes, and turned it into a super-meme. Then, in pressing forward (by not withdrawing the complaint and instead filing additional briefs), you turned the super-meme into an object lesson in First Amendment principles.
It also bears noting, in this matter and for the future, that you are entirely in control of whether or not you are the subject of this kind of criticism. I chose to criticize you using the well-tested method of satire because of its effectiveness. But, humor aside, your rhetorical style is no laughing matter. In this context of the WIPO case, you denigrated the letter of First Amendment law. In the context of your television show and your notoriety, you routinely and shamelessly denigrate the spirit of the First Amendment. The purpose of the expressive freedoms embodied in the First Amendment is not to simply permit the greatest possible scope of expression, but also, in doing so, to also strive for excellence in the conveyance of ideas. Rather than choosing to strive for excellence and civic contribution, you simply pander to the fears and insecurities of your audience. And in the process, you do them, and all of us, a great deal of harm.
Shame on you Mr. Beck.
The WIPO clearly agreed in its ruling, calling the site a “satirical critique" of the public figure and “strongly protected” under long standing law safeguarding free speech.
"The panel [also] found that the URL is, in fact, confusingly similar to Beck's trademark and that people searching for legitimate information on Beck might stumble upon this site," PC Magazine noted.
Tech reporter Chloe Albanesius continued: "On the second point, however, the panel found that Eiland-Hall had an interest in the URL for political purposes, and that he did not benefit financially from Beck's name."
"Why won't Glenn Beck deny these allegations?" the site reads. "We're not accusing Glenn Beck of raping and murdering a young girl in 1990 – in fact, we think he didn't! But we can't help but wonder, since he has failed to deny these horrible allegations."
The joke was originally created by comedian Gilbert Gottfried, who once performed a bit about fellow comedian Bob Saget raping and murdering a young girl.
"The idea is to force someone to explain away completely baseless charges made by insinuation alone; since Beck already has a reputation for doing this, the joke was supposed to give Beck a taste of his own medicine," explained Nate Anderson at Ars Technica.
"I imagine [the ruling] may further open a floodgate for the creation of similarly extreme sites should Beck remain as zeitgeisty and controversial as he has been these last few months," Mediaite writer Glynnis MacNicol suggested.
Glenn Beck did not actually rape or murder a young girl in 1990.