by Rachel Swan
Add yet another charge to the whole litany of allegations lobbed at "revenge porn site" IsAnyoneUp, which trafficked in (mostly) unflattering nudes from (mostly) unwitting subjects, some of whom may have been victims of a hacking scam. According to Courthouse News Service, the site's new spinoff, IsAnyoneUp.net, is now facing a lawsuit for extorting the company that tried to kill off its antecedent. If the plaintiff prevails, IsAnyoneUp could lose three domain names, $300,000, and any chance to further exploit its now-infamous brand.
What began as a free speech/privacy debate has now entered the intellectual property domain. The plaintiff in this suit, ViaView, is a social network with a fairly conventional mission statement — its patent characterizes the company as an "online community for registered users," according to Courthouse News reporter Nick Divito — but it has the added goal of sanctifying user privacy and building "positive" brand identity. The network and its subsidiary, Bullyville.com, bought the trademark for IsAnyoneUp from the site's original creator, Hunter Moore, in April. Ostensibly a move to prevent Moore and his ilk from posting any more nudes, the sale allowed Bullyville to replace IsAnyoneUp with a public shaming campaign of its own — this one targeted at bullies, cheaters, and other pests. (The IsAnyoneUp.com url currently redirects to Bullyville).
Though it has its own share of lurid pleasures — including a "Bully Blast" section that allows users to publicly expose their enemies — Bullyville errs more on the side of "poetic justice" than prurience. ViaView's attorney Mark Randazza characterizes the company's CEO, James McGibney, as an ex-Marine who "has this very strong credo about protecting people from bullying." Randazza added that from McGibney's perspective, IsAnyoneUp was one of the foulest things that the Internet — and by extension, humanity — ever produced. ViaView bought the trademark "for the purpose of repurposing it."
That might have been a preemptive strike, but evidently it wasn't good enough to stop another enterprising porn mogul — who Randazza describes as "a shithead from New Jersey"— from trying to commandeer the IsAnyoneUp brand. ViaView alleges that a new company called Blue Mist Media rose from the ashes of Moore's empire, bought the domain names IsAnyoneUp.net, IsAnyoneUpVideos.com, and IsAnyoneUpNudes.com, and tried to resuscitate the old revenge porn format. ViaView says it tried to settle the matter outside of court by offering to buy those domains, but after the two parties reached an "undisclosed agreement," Blue Mist breached the contract. Courthouse News reports that the alleged shithead then shut off his cell phone so ViaView brass couldn't reach him. The urls in question still lead to sites that uncannily resemble the original IsAnyoneUp.
"We thought it would be a pretty cheap good deed to pay this guy and put it down," Randazzo said, "but then his parents got involved." The parents stoutly defended their son's creative endeavors, Randazzo explained, so the case went straight to court.
Frustrated, ViaView now seeks to repossess the infringing domains and incur $100,000 in damages for each. It's found, in the realm of trade litigation, a legal avenue for what's essentially a case of "cybersquatting" and brand-sullying — or, to borrow a phrase from Moore, "life-ruining."
We'll have more updates as they come in.