Bill Cosby Wins Rights to Fat Albert Domain Name
Bill Cosby has been awarded custody of fatalbert.org, which had heretofor been used as a spam site.
A U.N. panel awarded to comedian Bill Cosby on Monday an Internet domain name based on the Fat Albert cartoon character he created in the 1960s. Arbitrators for the World Intellectual Property Organization ordered the transfer of fatalbert.org to Cosby, who had complained it was being used in bad faith to divert visitors to a commercial search engine and a Web site selling sexually explicit products.
Cosby created Fat Albert as part of his standup comedy routine about his childhood in Philadelphia. The children’s series “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” first appeared on CBS in 1972, and a Fat Albert movie was released last year.
Sterling Davenport of Loretto, Tenn., who had registered the domain name, did not respond to Cosby’s complaint, arbitrator John Kidd said. Nonetheless, Kidd said, “the respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name.”
A number of celebrities, including Morgan Freeman, Julia Roberts, Madonna, Nicole Kidman, Pamela Anderson, Pierce Brosnan and Carmen Electra, have already won the Internet version of their names through U.N. arbitration. Anyone can register a domain name for as little as a few dollars. The arbitration system, which started in 1999, allows those who think they have the right to a domain to claim it without a costly court battle or payment of large fees to buy the name. Critics say the system favors trademark holders and not individuals who also may have legitimate rights to the names for parody, criticism and other purposes.
This is a rather tricky area. On the one hand, Cosby created the Fat Albert concept and has earned the right to any profits that come from it. On the other hand, Davenport’s site isn’t using the Fat Albert characters but merely a rather generic name. It’s not entirely clear to me why Cosby should have exclusive rights to any use of that combination of words, even when not in the context of a cartoon show, especially without having laid claim to them by purchasing the domain name.
Anecdotally, in doing research for this entry, I decided to do due diligence on the fatalbert.org domain. It currently redirects to an old Reuters story “The Albert Bear.”