Time Warner is apparently so fierce about protecting its assets, it has sent legal notice to an 18-year-old Panera Bread employee who uses the domain CNNBreakingOfficial.com as a jump-off to his personal blog. Matthew Lawson, the Oakland-based teenager and aspiring photojournalist who runs the account (he re-directs to Tumblr,) addressed the issue on his blog:
“So as you may have saw earlier, my URL conflicts with the copyright and representation of CNN News, and their parent company Turner Broadcasting and I talked about my URL’s representation and presence online.
I cannot use this URL or I will have to ‘talk to my attorney’ as people may believe I represent CNN on this site. And since Turner Broadcasting owns CNN, TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network, TCM, and many more, I am definitely not going to fight this.”
Now, domain name disputes happen all the time; Apple has been famously bullish towards cybersquatters who created websites with product names in them. But many of the cases between companies and people who use their names are understandable because the cybersquatters are hawking counterfeit gear or purposely spreading a negative message about the company. This is not the case with Lawson’s blog, which doesn't have anything to do with CNN or breaking news—the domain is clearly meant to be facetious. It seems vituperative and over-the-top for Time Warner to go after a kid on Tumblr, but perhaps the media giant believes Lawson is going to blow up in popularity soon and they want to get ahead of it… or they’re just being overly litigious.
Time Warner isn’t known for being diplomatic when it comes to domain disputes. In the early 2000s, the company started going after passionate Harry Potter fans who ran fanpages, since the company’s subsidiary Warner Bros. had acquired the rights and wanted those domains for itself. In that case, a teenager named Claire Field successfully petitioned to keep her fan domain —but it sounds like Lawson doesn’t want a fight.
I reached out to Lawson to see some proof (he is a comedian, after all) and he sent back some of the emails he’d been exchanging with CNN’s legal team (click to expand):
Lawson offered to add a line to his blog that explains he's in no way affiliated with CNN.
At the very least, Lawson is retaining a sense of humor about it:
“If any of you have good URLs that I could have I’d love to look at them, I need a new one soon, and it needs to be funny.
I’m thinking of ‘cnnsucksbigtime.tumblr.com’?”
Sounds about right.
Photo via Flickr/Haydn Blackey