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the right to criticise?

5 September 2012

Optical Express has failed to get the domain name opticalexpressruinedmylife.co.uk transferred to it.

The Nominet Expert decided that the domain name was a genuine criticism website; so although Optical Express was found to have relevant rights in a name or mark similar to the domain name, it could not be characterised as an “Abusive Registration”.

This is in contrast to a previous decision in which ihateryanair.co.uk was ordered to be transferred to Ryanair. In that case, receiving advertising revenue from the site was sufficient to render the registration abusive.

The Expert in opticalexpressruinedmylife.co.uk suggested this approach could be “somewhat harsh” but in any event, the registrant of opticalexpressruinedmylife.co.uk had not sought to profit from the domain.

This decision emphasises that the right to criticise is important to free speech and shows that brand owners may not be able to use the Nominet DRS to shut down genuine criticism sites, although there will still be routes available in the courts to prevent defamation or Trade Mark infringement.

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