A reader of my blog posting, The Line Between Legal Domaining and Illegal CyberSquatting, asked a follow-up question:
If you were to purchase the domain of a famous athlete say Tim Tebow and you purchased TimTebow.com, could you develop a fan site and try to sell jerseys and other merchandise from Tim and his university or would that be some sort of infringement? Also, if Tim came to you and wanted the rights to his name, would you be required to turn over the site per the Bernard Berrian case? I am confused about what constitutes cybersquatting and where exactly that line is drawn.
Here’s my response . . .
You can use the personal name of a celebrity or other famous person as a domain name if you are using the domain name and website in a non-commercial manner. Non-commercial websites include legitimate fan sites, gripe sites, and criticism sites. Selling merchandise likely pushes the fan site from a legitimate, non-commercial site protected by the First Amendment to a commercial site making a commercial use of the celebrity’s name. If a celebrity disputes your use of a domain name on a fan site from which you sell merchandise – especially merchandise with the celebrity’s name on it – the celebrity would likely win and you would have to turn the domain name over to him.
More Information on Domain Names with Celebrity Names
What you can and can not do with domain names will be covered extensively in my forthcoming book, The Cyber Citizen’s Guide Through the Legal Jungle. In the meantime you can find a few more Fan Site Do’s and Don’ts over at my Guide Through the Legal Jungle Blog.