WASHINGTON – A federal judge Thursday denied Republican congressional candidate Robin Ficker’s claim on the domain name “robinficker.com,” saying the Web site owner had a First Amendment right to use the candidate’s name.
“By entering the public arena as a candidate for political office, (Ficker) has invited comments and critique, which operates in the spirit of healthy democracy of this country,” U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams Jr. wrote in the four-page ruling.
The Web site, robinficker.com, includes disparaging stories about Ficker, who is running in the GOP primary for the 8th Congressional District. At one point, the site redirected Web surfers to the official campaign site of one of Ficker’s opponents in the primary, Chuck Floyd.
Ficker sued John Tuohy, the owner of the domain name robinficker.com. Tuohy is also a paid political consultant to Floyd, who has paid Tuohy $13,500 for his services, according to the latest Federal Election Commission records.
Floyd has repeatedly denied that he knew of Tuohy’s ownership of the domain name.
With the primary days away, Ficker said Thursday he does not plan to appeal the case, because he doubts it will be heard before Tuesday.
“I don’t think there are any legal recourses that are going to be practical at this point. So, we are just going to live with this decision,” Ficker said.
He sued under the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, which protects against unauthorized use of trademarks — and individual names — as domain names.
But Williams said that Tuohy’s First Amendment rights outweighed Ficker’s claim. He also wrote that Ficker, who sought to have the Web site taken down, failed to meet the burden of proof in the case.
“The plaintiff (Ficker) has failed to demonstrate the he will suffer irreparable harm if the court denies the requested relief,” the opinion said.
Williams was also swayed by a disclaimer that appeared at the top of the Web site. It said: “This is an unofficial site. It is not Robin Ficker for US Congress. Robin Ficker for Congress can be found here.” A link on the word “here” led browsers to Ficker’s official campaign site, robinficker2004.com.
Ficker noted after the ruling that the disclaimer did not appear on Tuohy’s Web site until recently.
Williams heard arguments in the case by phone Thursday morning and issued his ruling later in the day.
Tuohy could not be reached for comment.
Ficker, Floyd and a third Republican running in the 8th District primary, Steve Rosen, are scheduled to appear Friday at 10 a.m. on WTOP’s radio call-in show, “Politics Program.”
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