International Law and Public Domain Works

When it comes to determining whether a work is in the public domain or not, you need to pay attention to the country that the original copyright, if any, was acquired in. Each country has different copyright laws that determine when a work becomes public domain material. International law is just what it says – International. In other words, the copyright laws of Japan apply to people in other countries who want to use work that was copyrighted in Japan. If the work is still covered by Japan copyright law, but would no longer be covered under United States copyright laws, the work is not in the public domain – in any country.

You must adhere to the copyright laws of the country where the work was copyrighted in the first place. This is true for all works copyrighted in all countries, no matter what country you may reside or use the work in.

The copyright laws are not the same in every country. It is important that you find out what the copyright laws are before you assume that a work is in the public domain, for the country where that work was copyrighted. Too often, people assume that copyright laws are the same internationally, and this is just not true.

If you do not take the time to determine that a work is indeed in the public domain, you may be infringing on someone else’s copyright. This can lead to large fines, lawsuits, and possibly imprisonment in some countries. If nothing else, it will most certainly damage your reputation!

Do not assume that nothing can happen to you legally if you use work that is copyrighted in a country that you do not reside in. People in other countries can instigate lawsuits in the country where you reside just as easily as they can sue in their own country.

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Resolving Domain Name Disputes

With the continued emergence of the internet as a means of conducting commercial transactions, name recognition has become increasingly important. Companies have realized the value in having their company name identified with their domain name. Registration of domain names has traditionally been dealt with on a first come, first serve basis. Prior to 1999, a company named Network Solutions Inc., was essentially the only company used to register domain names. Since then however, many registrars have been granted the authority to register domain names, after being approved by The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (or “ICANN”). ICANN is a non-profit organization organized strictly for the purpose of managing domain names and registrations. All registrars currently operate on a first come, first serve basis, stressing the importance of early registration.Disputes and conflicts develop when there are two companies with similar names who desire the same domain name. Alternatively, there are many examples of people registering domain names simply because they know that a company or a person would like to use the name and they are seeking a quick buy off. When a company decides to register a domain name, a search must be done to ensure that no one else currently owns the desired name. When a company discovers that someone else owns the desired domain name, that company can either choose another name or decide to fight over the rights to the name.

There are several manners in which domain name disputes can be resolved. The most traditional (and slowest) method is to turn to the court system. Courts do retain the power to determine ownership over domain names and to cancel or transfer ownership of the names. Legal arguments taking place within the court system traditionally focus on trademark law. Unless a likelihood of confusion can be shown, it is difficult to get the ownership of a domain name changed. A likelihood of confusion can be a challenge to demonstrate without already having some level of name recognition. In response to the issues faced within the court system, Congress passed the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act in November of 1999. The Act makes it easier for individuals or companies to demonstrate claims to a particular domain name by showing a lower level of confusion than would be required by a trademark infringement claim. The Act does require, however, that the challenging party demonstrate that the registering party acted in bad faith. Coincidental registration will not be enough to force an invalidation or transfer of ownership of a domain name.

Because of the challenges faced in attempting to invalidate ownership of domain names through the legal process, it is helpful, and sometimes necessary, to turn to other means of dispute resolution. The most used alternative to the court system is the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy, established by ICANN. See, This policy is currently used by all accredited registrars in resolving domain name disputes, and every person or company registering a domain name must agree to the dispute resolution procedure contained within the policy. The policy essentially allows a trademark owner to show true ownership over the domain name by showing:

That the challenger owns a trademark (either registered or unregistered) that is the same or confusingly similar to the registered domain name;

That the party that registered the domain name has no legitimate right or interest in the domain name; and

That the domain name was registered and/or used in bad faith.

This dispute resolution procedure is much less expensive than taking a conflict to the court system. The process takes place through an administrative proceeding where a panel will hear the two sides and determine whether ownership over the domain name should be transferred or canceled. All three points stated above must be proven in order for ownership over the domain name to be transferred or canceled. Failure to demonstrate one of the elements will result in the panel’s refusal to invalidate the name. One of the advantages of the procedure outlined in the policy is that arguments and rebuttals can be heard through email, greatly reducing the cost of the dispute resolution. Other than the court system, the ICANN method is the most widely used and most efficient means of determining ownership over domain names.If you fear a dispute in the future or simply want to protect yourself or your company moving forward you should:

Register any and all valid services and trademarks as early as possible,

Attempt to resolve any domain name conflict outside any formal proceedings,

Don’t give in to unreasonable monetary demands, and Collect evidence necessary to show; That the challenger owns a trademark (either registered or unregistered) that is the same or confusingly similar to the registered domain name;

That the party that registered the domain name has no legitimate right or interest in the domain name; and

That the domain name was registered and/or used in bad faith.

Name recognition is often the key to any successful marketing campaign and only through due diligence can you be sure that you are doing all you can to maximize your company’s value. A qualified attorney can assist in guiding you through the challenges faced in domain name dispute resolution.

This article was written by Nicholas J. Deleault, Pierce Law Center ‘07. Nicholas writes select legal articles for the Law Firm of Goldstien and Clegg, a Massachusetts cyberlaw firm.

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Domain Name Trademarks

As your Internet business grows, the value of your domain name increases. The issue of a domain name trademark should move to the top of your list. You need to guard against unscrupulous competitors that may try to incorporate your domain name in their meta tags to obtain search engine rankings under your name. If you have a domain name trademark, you can go after these individuals and compel the search engines to remove their listings.

What Is A Trademark?

A trademark is a distinctive item that is used to identify a logo, product, device, package or service. The trademark identifies the item as being provided by a particular firm. To protect these items you can obtain a mark from the patent and trademark office that prohibits others from trying to gain economic advantage from your mark.

Domain Name

The patent and trademark office views domain names in a unique way. The office views the “http://www” element as a part of the file transfer process, not your domain name. The “.com”, “.net”, etc., designations are considered top-level domain identifiers and are also disregarded for the purpose of a domain name trademark. For example, our domain name is If we submitted the domain name for registration, only the “sandiegobusinesslawfirm” portion would be considered for a mark.

Locators Cannot Be Registered

A domain name is a locator for file pages. When you type in your domain name, a server locates and displays files. If a domain is used solely for this purpose, it will not be granted a mark. Instead, the domain name must be incorporated into the site. For instance, Amazon is recognized as an online bookstore and the site actually has the word “Amazon” on every page. Since “” is more than a locator, Amazon can apply for and receive a trademark. If Amazon used the domain name,, the company would be able to register “Amazon”, but not “bookstore.”

Generic and Descriptive Terms

Domain names that are generic or descriptive in nature cannot be registered because they fail to designate a distinctive product or service. For example, “sandiegobusinesslawfirm” is comprised of generic terms and describes who and where we are, to wit, a San Diego business law firm. This domain name cannot be trademarked. The same result would occur with,,, etc.

You may be thinking, “What about ‘Coke?’ “Coke” is a trademarked term because it is a distinctive term for a soft drink product. It just so happens that a brilliant marketing plan has convinced most people to refer to soft drinks as “cokes”, even if they actually prefer another brand!

Trademarks are an important factor in protecting your Internet business. Armed with a trademarkFree Articles, you can keep competitors from pulling traffic off the search engines when people search for your site.

Richard A. Chapo is with – This article is for information purposes only. Nothing in this article is intended to address the reader’s specific situation nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

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