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Return of the Jedi? StarWars.co.uk bod to fight the Empire (Disney)

Bloke appeals US giant's bid to snatch domain name

By Kieren McCarthy, 10 Aug 2015

The owner of StarWars.co.uk has vowed to fight on against Disney after the media giant won control of his domain name.

Mark Lewis, chief exec of Abscissa.com, who has held the domain and a number of similar names for 12 years, has appealed a decision by the operator of the .uk namespace Nominet.

"I can't believe that over the last two decades someone from either Lucasfilm or Disney did not do a Whois and find that starwars.co.uk and star-wars.co.uk were not registered to them," Lewis told the BBC. "There has to be a point in time, surely, where a registrant has to be able to hold some title."

As we reported last month, Nominet decided that Abscissa had registered and was using the name abusively, even though it had picked it up in 2003. Since then the company has used StarWars.co.uk (as well as star-wars.co.uk, star-wars.uk, starwars.uk, and others) to sell authorized costumes of the main characters from the sci-fi classic, as well as a range of memorabilia related to the film.

What's more, Lucasfilm actually owned StarWars.co.uk, but let the domain registration lapse back in 2001 (two years after the terrible Phantom Menace and a year before the even worse Attack of the Clones). Abscissa only grabbed it two years later.

Use the force... of binding arbitration

What appears to have sparked Disney (which bought Lucasfilm in 2013) to decide to try to grab the domains after a decade was Nominet's controversial decision to create just .uk domains, i.e., drop the requirement for UK domains to be at the third level (.co.uk, .org.uk, etc).

As part of that process, Nominet gave preference to existing .co.uk owners for the new .uk domains. As such, Abscissa registered starwars.uk and earned Disney's wrath. Abscissa actually offered to give Disney the starwars.uk domain if it let it keep the .co.uk, but the Mouse Empire decided that instead it would go to Nominet's dispute resolution service (DRS) and grab all of them.

"We cannot find any case where a complainant lets a domain lapse, then files a complaint," Lewis notes. "I believe this case sets a precedent."

He also disputes the "abusive registration" finding [PDF] of the single-person DRS panel. "We haven't abused them. We haven't rented them. We haven't offered them for sale. The internet domains point to legitimate Star Wars-branded costumes that we've been selling for the past 13 years."

Abscissa had 10 working days after it received notice of the DRS decision to appeal. A notice to appeal costs £360 (US$560) and provides a further 15 working days for the formal appeal. The formal appeal costs £3600 (US$5,600).

The three-person appeal panel then has 30 days to review the case and make a decision, which means we should expect a decision on whether Abscissa gets to keep its domains in early October.

Very few DRS cases go to appeal. There have been just 48 appeals since 2002 and this case is only the second in the past two years. As for the likelihood of success, it's 50-50. Of the 48 appeals, 25 have supported the original decision, 22 have reversed it, and one was cancelled. ®

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