For two years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – the organization responsible for the Oscars each and every year – has been engaged in an ongoing and seemingly increasingly complicated legal battle with GoDaddy, the web domain registration and hosting service, and for two years, the legal battle has continued to get more and more complicated, instead of less. Which makes the news that the never-ending fight has now drawn Google into the tussle both surprising – because, why is an entirely separate company being sucked in? – and entirely believable. What else could go wrong?
The conflict between the AMPAS and GoDaddy centers around the question of whether or not the latter company is facilitating trademark infringement by allowing outside parties purchase and then “park” pages on Oscars-related URLs such as “oscarsliveblogging.com” or “oscarshotels.com.” Such cyber-squatting not only hurts the Oscars’ credibility, says the AMPAS case, but it also allows the squatters to benefit from any advertising revenue generated from accidental visits as a result of a pay-per-click advertising model. The argument over the case has been stalled out for some time at the pre-trial discovery phase, and that stalling is in large part responsible for the increasing possibility of Google involvement in the whole thing.
In the past month, reports the Hollywood Reporter, both GoDaddy and the AMPAS have appealed to the judge in charge of their case to compel Google to hand over documents and issue subpoenas to have Google executives deposed as part of the proceedings. The reason for this is that GoDaddy is arguing that the only reason users are landing on the cybersquatted URLs and know they exist in the first place is because people are discovering them via Google searches, and anyway, the advertising pay-per-click program that makes money for the quatters…? That’s also the work of Google.
So far, Google is dissembling in its response to such requests. The company has already handed over somewhere in the region of 4,600 documents to assist in the trial, but seems uncomfortable becoming any more involved, citing that there is a written agreement between Google and GoDaddy prohibiting any discovery towards Google in this trial. That waiver comes from 18 months ago, and relates to the fact that GoDaddy’s legal firm in this case is also Google’s legal firm in certain matters. Weirdly enough, GoDaddy rejects the idea that it actually agreed to any such waiver, something that points to either an untruth or staggering lack of organization on their side while preparing for this case to come to trial.
Waiver or not, everything could change as early next week. A hearing on whether or not Google will be legally compelled to get further involved with the case will be held next Tuesday in San Jose.