Two years ago, Men’s Rights hate site A Voice for Men decided to get into the violence prevention business, in its own backwards way, by getting up in the business of the White Ribbon Campaign, a longstanding international initiative to encourage men and boys to fight against violence against women and girls.
AVFM didn’t organize any workshops or Walks Against Family Violence or anything of the sort. Instead, it launched its own ersatz White Ribbon website, using a domain name (WhiteRibbon.org) that the real White Ribbon organization had neglected to register for itself. With a design similar to White Ribbon Australia’s site, it featured a “donate” button that sent donations straight to AVFM itself.
Though the donate button was later removed, AVFM’s “White Ribbon” site seemed pretty clearly to be a bad faith effort “designed to undermine and co-opt the real White Ribbon campaign,” as I put it at the time.
Shortly after the site’s launch, AVFM head cheese Paul Elam responded to my criticism, and similar criticism from Salon and ThinkProgress, with a thoughtful blog post inviting us all to
Go right straight to Hell you gang of bigoted, lying scumbags. That is, if Hell will even have you pieces of shit.
He also challenged the White Ribbon Campaign to
Send your lawyers. We will be happy to ride them for a while just for the fun of watching you pay the f**king bill.
Well, it turns out that White Ribbon Australia did send lawyers, taking the case to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the United Nations entity tasked with resolving these sorts of disputes.
And guess what? In a ruling last week, WIPO declared that, yep, the fake WhiteRibbon.org site set up by AVFM was indeed fake, a bad-faith infringement of the real White Ribbon Campaign’s trademarks intended to confuse anyone who visited the site.
Below, some relevant passages from the WIPO’s ruling which you can read in its entirely here. “The Complainant” is the real White Ribbon Australia; “the Respondent” is Whois Privacy Protection Service/woman-blaming domestic violence “expert” and longtime AVFM ally Erin Pizzey. (While AVFM still hosts the site, it handed the official ownership of WhiteRibbon.org over to Pizzey some time ago, presumably for legal reasons.)
The Disputed Domain Name incorporates the Complainant’s WHITE RIBBON trade mark in its entirety, and is therefore identical to the Complainant’s trade mark. …
[T]he Panel also finds that the Disputed Domain Name is confusingly similar to the Complainant’s WHITE RIBBON CAMPAIGN trade mark, WHITE RIBBON DAY trade mark, WHITE RIBBON design trade mark and WHITE RIBBON NIGHT trade mark, which were all registered prior to the Respondent’s registration of the Disputed Domain Name. …
The Respondent’s Website also features a white looped ribbon against a black background, which is similar to the Complainant’s WHITE RIBBON design trade mark, and the looped white ribbon on the Complainant’s website. Both the Respondent’s Website and the Complainant’s website have a similar black and white design. Therefore, the Panel finds that the Disputed Domain Name has been used in a manner that misleads Internet users into believing that the Disputed Domain Name is associated with the Complainant … For this reason, the Panel is of the view that while the Respondent’s use of the Disputed Domain Name may be a noncommercial use, it is not a legitimate or fair use. …
The Panel accepts that the Respondent registered and has been using the Disputed Domain Name in bad faith … with the intention of confusing Internet users into believing that the Disputed Domain Name is associated with the Complainant.
Three strikes, and Pizzey is out!
WIPO ordered Pizzey to transfer the domain name over to White Ribbon Australia.
AVFM reported the news in a post on Tuesday that is notably more subdued and sober than Elam’s original response to critics. It sounds a lot like it was written by a lawyer, or at least run past one.
But never fear! Elam managed to inject some of that old Elam magic into the otherwise pretty dry post:
AVFM CEO Paul Elam stated that, “WIPO’s panel investigated this case the same way the FBI investigated Hillary Clinton,” and added, “White Ribbon Australia are bullies with deep pockets beating an old woman in a wheelchair into submission and silence so they can continue a corrupt enterprise without dissent.”
#NotYourShield? More like #TotallyYourShield
Needless to say, old women in wheelchairs are no more entitled than young women not in wheelchairs to infringe upon the trademarks of legitimate anti-violence campaigns in a bad-faith effort to confuse Internet users and push their own line of propaganda.
The “old woman in a wheelchair,” who has clearly not been “beat[en] … into submission and silence,” had a few choice words to say about the ruling as well:
When contacted for comment, Pizzey said she was considering her legal options and viewed the ruling as a temporary setback. “I am not going to stop,” she told AVFM. “I have dedicated over 50 years of my life to educating people about family violence and I won’t be stopped now by these hoodlums.”
Hoodlums, really? Pizzey once declared that, to her,
the definition of domestic violence is quite clear: if you are not in fear of your life, you are not suffering it.
But neither she nor Elam have any problem talking about White Ribbon Australia with the same language one might use to describe a domestic abuser.
To Elam, White Ribbon Australia’s defense of its trademarks against a deliberately deceptive web site trying to undermine it is basically the same as “beating an old woman in a wheelchair into submission and silence.” To Pizzey, the real White Ribbon campaign is a bunch of “hoodlums.”
As of today, more than a week after the WIPO ruling, it doesn’t look as though Pizzey has handed over the domain name. Clicking on WhiteRibbon.org doesn’t send you to White Ribbon Australia or to any of the other other legitimate White Ribbon organizations around the world; it sends you to Pizzey’s fake site, now calling itself Honest-Ribbon.org — but still sporting the same black-and-white WhiteRibbon.org logo as before.
So I guess the lawyers aren’t quite done yet.