(IAM: xTewFittyx‘s BME logo’d feet by Joey G. at Sure-Fire Tattoos)
Hi, folks. If you’ll recall, I mentioned a while back that BME was embroiled in a silly lawsuit with world-famous cybersquatter Greg Ricks. To recap, Ricks owned the BME.com domain and used it to host photos and ads related to body modification, which makes for a pretty clear-cut case of intellectual property theft. I tried to purchase the domain from him several times, and each time he would agree in principle, only to jack up the price at the last minute. (Shocking, right? If you can’t trust a professional cybersquatter, then really, what’s left in this world?) This grew tiresome, and BME filed a suit against him before the World Intellectual Property Organization, which promptly found in favor of BME. (Also discussed here.) Easy enough, right? All’s well that ends well and all that good stuff?
Well, no. Ricks decided to play the agitator, and made the preposterous claim that not only was he within his rights to use BME.com as a means of generating income by way of diverting traffic from BME, but that we were infringing on his copyright! Seriously! He actually said this! So he countersued (also claiming that BME is only a “pornography site”), and on goes this ridiculous comedy of errors.
Here’s where things start to get interesting. See, you get to learn a lot of fun stuff during court cases. Now, maybe it could be realistically argued that registering a three-letter domain like BME.com is just good business sense, and that Ricks had no intention of capitalizing on the sort of content that BME offers until he saw the huge spike in traffic he got from visitors trying to come to us, and then he decided to put up some stolen images and tattoo links and such. This is a charitable perspective, to say the least.
Except, ha ha, there is convincing information to suggest that Ricks is either heavily involved in or solely comprises Gee Whiz Domains, an outfit that seems to have a disproportionately large number of cybersquatting domains. BME.com is one thing, but when you take into account that Gee Whiz is also sitting on such frequently typo’d destinations as “yahooemai.com,” “msnnb.com,” “officedepo.com” and “cnnmmoney.com,” well … something doesn’t smell right. (For more on this, go here.)
For more fun facts, consider that Gee Whiz also owns domains like: drugdealer.net, youngpreteenlolitagirls.com, underagelolitaphotos.com, and xxxanimalclips.com. Drug dealing, underage girls, and bestiality. What fun. It may be that Gee Whiz only does business with Mr. Ricks, but if our suspicion is proven true — that Ricks is the owner of Gee Whiz — his accusation that we are a porn site will look really funny in light of his domain portfolio. (Ricks actually just lost a similar case, but for some reason decided not to follow that one up with another silly counter-suit. I guess we’re just lucky.)
The dispute largely centers on Ricks’s assertion that BME’s claim to “BME” is invalid, and that we have branded ourselves as “BMEzine,” which is simply not true. From day one, the “brand” has always been “BME,” whether it’s been:
Internal use, such as an April 11, 1997, site update that included references to “BME News,” a message mentioning that “BME is user-supported,” and a copyright notice that plainly refers to “BME: Body Modification Ezine.” Oh, and cross-site use throughout the years, including features such as “BMEradio,” “Your BME,” “BME/live,” “BME/extreme,” “BME/HARD,” and contact links instructing users to “Contact BME.” (More on this here.)
Users on websites as far removed from the usual subject matter with which BME deals as travellerspoint.com asking for advice about where to get tattooed while on vacation, only to have another reader mistakenly suggest BME.com as the ideal reference point; the reader quickly corrected himself and pointed the original author at BMEzine.com. Apparently, people expect BME.com to be the domain of BME! (More on this here.)
References in the media, including: The Guardian (London) mentioning on September 11, 1997, that “BME is a Body Modification E-Zine [...] devoted to [...] piercings and tattoos”; National Public Radio including discussion of “the online magazine BME, Body Modification Ezine” in a June 7, 2003, broadcast about tongue-splitting legislation in Illinois; and a United Press International report from March 16, 2004, writing of “BME — Body Modification Ezine — a popular online forum dedicated to educating people and promoting issues about body piercing and modification.” (More on this here.)
But don’t take their word for it! Body modification experts like Master Piercer Elayne Angel and Allen Falkner have gone on the record to emphatically state that BME has always been the signifier for our site, not to mention the launching point for complementary projects such as “BMEvideo.com,” “BMEshop.com,” “BMEfest.com,” TeamBME.com,” AskBME.com” and “BMEworld.com,” among several others. Because, you know, it has been.
How’s this for a barnburner, though? A Florida-based lawyer named Kevin Wimberly (who, it just so happens, is also a self-proclaimed “tattoo enthusiast”) caught wind of this case, and it reminded him of a paper he wrote while in law school entitled “Tattooed Identity: Resolving the Tension Between Statutory Copyright Law, Identity, and Skeptical Subculture.” Much of the research for this paper was done with the help of BME’s article archives, and Wimberly claims he’s been using BME as a resource since at least the year 2000, and that, “[if] any other company used the designation BME, it would confuse me and anyone else in the marketplace.” (More on this here.)
So, even with all of that said, the cybersquatter is still making the argument that the “BME” name is his, and that we have been the ones wrongly using it all this time, which is his right as an American, I guess? Anyway, I just wanted to give you all an update on this silliness, and with any luck, this will all be settled soon. I’ll keep you in the loop. And of course, as always, thank you for supporting BME — without all of you, there’d be nothing to fight for!