California Legal Research Request

 

Ladies & Gentlemen,

I am going to take a little break from worrying about the far horizon for our species and crowdsource some legal research. Here are the specific statutes :

California Business & Professional Code § 17525

(a) It is unlawful for a person, with a bad faith intent to register, traffic in, or use a domain name, that is identical or confusingly similar to the personal name of another living person or deceased personality, without regard to the goods or services of the parties.

(b) This section shall not apply if the name registered as a domain name is connected to a work of authorship, including, but not limited to, fictional or nonfictional entertainment, and dramatic, literary, audiovisual, or musical works.

(c) A domain name registrar, a domain name registry, or any other domain name registration authority that takes any action described in subdivision (a) that affects a domain name shall not be liable to any person for that action, regardless of whether the domain name is finally determined to infringe or dilute a trademark or service mark.

California Business & Professional Code § 17535

Any person, corporation, firm, partnership, joint stock company, or any other association or organization which violates or proposes to violate this chapter may be enjoined by any court of competent jurisdiction.  The court may make such orders or judgments, including the appointment of a receiver, as may be necessary to prevent the use or employment by any person, corporation, firm, partnership, joint stock company, or any other association or organization of any practices which violate this chapter, or which may be necessary to restore to any person in interest any money or property, real or personal, which may have been acquired by means of any practice in this chapter declared to be unlawful.

Actions for injunction under this section may be prosecuted by the Attorney General or any district attorney, county counsel, city attorney, or city prosecutor in this state in the name of the people of the State of California upon their own complaint or upon the complaint of any board, officer, person, corporation or association or by any person who has suffered injury in fact and has lost money or property as a result of a violation of this chapter.  Any person may pursue representative claims or relief on behalf of others only if the claimant meets the standing requirements of this section and complies with Section 382 of the Code of Civil Procedure, but these limitations do not apply to claims brought under this chapter by the Attorney General, or any district attorney, county counsel, city attorney, or city prosecutor in this state.

California Business & Professional Code § 17536

(a) Any person who violates any provision of this chapter shall be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500) for each violation, which shall be assessed and recovered in a civil action brought in the name of the people of the State of California by the Attorney General or by any district attorney, county counsel, or city attorney in any court of competent jurisdiction.

(b) The court shall impose a civil penalty for each violation of this chapter.  In assessing the amount of the civil penalty, the court shall consider any one or more of the relevant circumstances presented by any of the parties to the case, including, but not limited to, the following:  the nature and seriousness of the misconduct, the number of violations, the persistence of the misconduct, the length of time over which the misconduct occurred, the willfulness of the defendant’s misconduct, and the defendant’s assets, liabilities, and net worth.

(c) If the action is brought by the Attorney General, one-half of the penalty collected shall be paid to the treasurer of the county in which the judgment was entered, and one-half to the State Treasurer.
If brought by a district attorney or county counsel, the entire amount of penalty collected shall be paid to the treasurer of the county in which the judgment was entered.  If brought by a city attorney or city prosecutor, one- half of the penalty shall be paid to the treasurer of the county and one-half to the city.  The aforementioned funds shall be for the exclusive use by the Attorney General, district attorney, county counsel, and city attorney for the enforcement of consumer protection laws.

(d) If the action is brought at the request of a board within the Department of Consumer Affairs or a local consumer affairs agency, the court shall determine the reasonable expenses incurred by the board or local agency in the investigation and prosecution of the action.
Before any penalty collected is paid out pursuant to subdivision (c), the amount of such reasonable expenses incurred by the board shall be paid to the State Treasurer for deposit in the special fund of the board described in Section 205.  If the board has no such special fund the moneys shall be paid to the State Treasurer.  The amount of such reasonable expenses incurred by a local consumer affairs agency shall be paid to the general fund of the municipality which funds the local agency.

(e) As applied to the penalties for acts in violation of Section 17530, the remedies provided by this section and Section 17534 are mutually exclusive.

Specific details and concerns include:

  • Domain squatter is a California resident.
  • Domain squatter has dozens of victims.
  • Domain squatter is an adjudicated SLAPP suit artist in California & Texas.
  • Domain squatter has engaged in threat hoaxes in multiple California jurisdictions.
  • Domain squatter maintains a thin pretense of developing reality TV show.
  • Domain squatter is in violation of anti-stalking statutes in addition to name squatting.
  • Domain squatter often violates extortion statutes, albeit in a non-monetary fashion.

Concerns:

  • How does this statute work against an LLC registered in Delaware when the managing member is a California resident?
  • Would the statute apply to former members of the LLC, assuming it can be demonstrated that the domain names were purchased when the former member was still active?
  • Would the statute apply to former members of the LLC who reside outside California?
  • How would these statutes work if the victim is purely a private citizen?
  • How would these statutes work if the victim were an author? A blogger? Performance artist?

It’s pretty clear this set of statutes were created to support Hollywood – there is enough celebrity here that I’m sure the Attorney General does a brisk business squishing name squatting parasites. This case is just a bit different, as a wanna-be celebrity is harassing a wide spectrum of victims under the pretense of developing a reality TV show.

What I really need is an example of a complaint that is in some way similar to this which has proceeded. Given the diversity of residence of the victims it would seem the California Attorney General would be the right place to start.

The squatter has overt psychiatric problems, but is apparently gainfully employed with a six figure income, one confirmed former member of the LLC who resides in California could easily cover the $90,000 cost of three dozen violations, and there is another individual in California who may have been a member and who could afford to pay. If California can collect out of state there are several former members of the LLC with significant assets.

 

There isn’t any financial reward in this for the victims, the $2,500 per violation is for the agency that pursues the complaint, so this isn’t a situation that would attract an attorney on a contingency basis. Given that there are dozens of victims, some of whom have been suffering for five years, that the victims include multiple minor children of adult targets, and that the conduct is already adjudicated as willful and malicious in another stateI hope this adds up to something that would generation action on the part of the AG’s office.

I never approve comments so just go ahead and post your findings here, I’ll save the text and delete them.

California Department of Justice: Office of the Attorney General

California Department of Justice: Office of the Attorney General

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9 thoughts on “California Legal Research Request

  1. Neal Rauhauser Post author

    California has a “long arm statute” – jurisdiction is such that out of state actors do not have the state border as a defense.

    California has passed a law that may have a substantial impact upon site owners and their web site designers. On the face of the statute, the law seems to apply not only to those sites within the geographical borders of the state but potentially throughout the entirety of the electronic world. If you are a site owner or a designer, no matter where you are located, it appears this statutes is one to which you should pay some attention.

    http://www.ivanhoffman.com/17538.html

    Reply
  2. Neal Rauhauser Post author

    California AG activity regarding B&P § 17525

    https://oag.ca.gov/news/press-releases/attorney-general-kamala-d-harris-shuts-down-imitation-%E2%80%98covered-california%E2%80%99

    https://oag.ca.gov/new-press-categories/health-care-reproductive-rights?page=2

    https://oag.ca.gov/new-press-categories/law-enforcement?page=8

    There are articles about businesses and celebrities dealing with cybersquatters, but there isn’t anything about private citizens facing a business run by a failed wanna-be celebrity. Litigation in this area is going to produce some case law.

    Reply
  3. Neal Rauhauser Post author

    A commenter suggests an ICANN complaint. Those cost $1,300, they take a long time, and their model is dispute resolution. The other victims and I don’t have a dispute, we have an obsessive stalker attempting to monetize his conduct disorder. Rather than giving ICANN $52,000 to resolve the issue for forty victims, it would be better if an inescapable $100,000 bill from the state landed on this guy along with an order forbidding him to register any similar harassment domains after losing the first crop.

    Reply
  4. Neal Rauhauser Post author

    http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/cybersquatting

    https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/15/8131

    The ACPA was very much intended to protect companies from cybersquatters, rather than individuals facing an extortion effort. This creates an opportunity for a civil case, but what we really want here is for the California AG to strike on behalf of all victims in a single move. Ideally they will penetrate the LLC’s corporate veil, given the intentional illegitimacy of the operation for its inception, they’ll reach back to the Nevada entity that preceded the Delaware registration, and the state’s long arm provision will permit them to seize assets in Nevada and Illinois, as well as California.

    There is a chance that the collection effort from enforcing CA B&P 17525 could reveal details that would facilitate a mix of extortion and conspiracy charges for those involved. That’s speculative, the actionable domain name purchases are not.

    Reply
  5. Pingback: Unintentional Cascades | Neal Rauhauser

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