Keith Olbermann Falls Victim to Cybersquatting Prank by Tucker Carlson
Earlier this week, Carlson's site the Daily Caller registered the domain name Keitholberman.com as a publicity gimmick. Visitors to the "" site are then redirected to the Daily Caller, which as you can imagine, does not have anything positive to say about the host of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann. It calls the broadcaster an "aging cable anchor" and features a rundown of Olbermann's program with the headline "Keith Olbermann, we salute you: We watch, because we are paid to." Readers are invited to share their feelings with Carlson at his new email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Olbermann -- the real one -- did not respond to a request for comment left via Twitter. MSNBC spokesman Jeremy Gains declined to comment.
Ironically, Daily Caller quotes from Olbermann's tweets arguing that the domain name registration was illegal and mocking "Tuckie" for wasting his money. Carlson, responds indignantly "Some might step back and allow Mr. Olbermann to drain his bladder on the first amendment – indeed, on the Bill of Rights itself. Not us. No, by God, not us." Carlson's metaphor is both disturbing and wrong legally.
"It is cybersquatting," says Enrico Schaefer, founding partner of Traverse Legal, a law firm specializing in these types of cases. If Olbermann decides to sue Carlson, "this is an open and shut case and Tucker Carlson has got a big problem," he says.
Celebrities, in particular, have an easier time proving instances of cybersquatting because their names can considered trademarks. Non-commercial uses are also acceptable but Carlson may have difficulty making that argument since he is soliciting email addresses for a newsletter on the site. The fake Olbermann site also does not make it clear that the television personality is not affiliated with it. Just because someone is first to register a name does not mean he can keep it.
"... being the first to register a name doesn't give you special rights or protections if you violate the law. Just as in physical space, you cannot use another's trademark to your own commercial advantage if the result is to `steal' the value of the trademark's goodwill and turn it to your own advantage," according to Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
Losing a cybersquatting case can result in fines of $100,000, plus attorneys fees. Carlson, who did not respond to requests for comment, won a similar case against a cybersquatter in 2008, according to Salon.com. To give Carlson a dose of his own medicine, Salon has registered tuckercarlson.net and is accepting "suggestions" about what to do with the domain.
Carlson would have avoided potential legal trouble if he had registered a site called keitholbermannsucks or some other version of that name because it would be considered free speech protected by the First Amendment, according to Schaefer.
There's also a lesson for Olbermann here. "I wish I could tell you that it's shocking, but it's not," Schaefer says. "Celebrities are the last people to protect themselves and their reputations online."