Unfortunately, it looks like my prediction about the new GoDaddy pay per click-focused landing page design was prescient. Just yesterday, I wrote “In fact, some registrants may believe this is discourteous if GoDaddy were to monetize their landing page with trademark infringing links that induce a UDRP (or worse).” It looks like this was the exact issue in the ArtPetrossian.com UDRP.
Before diving into the UDRP and its decision, have a look at the landing page on ArtPetrossian.com:
You can see the domain name has a Domain Broker Service message at the top of the landing page, and there are pay per click advertising links in the middle of the page. There is a small footer message about the domain name being parked free courtesy of GoDaddy.
Here’s what the complainant, Caviar Petrossian, alleged in the dispute:
“The Complainant further asserts that the Respondent’s use of the disputed domain name in connection with a parking page with pay-per-click links as well as its alleged offer for sale of the disputed domain name, cannot be considered as a legitimate noncommercial or fair use of the disputed domain name, without intent for commercial gain to misleadingly divert consumers or to tarnish the Complainant’s trademark.”
From the complainant’s perspective, the domain name appears to be used in an infringing manner, and it is not super obvious that the registrar is benefitting and not the registrant.
While the domain registrant apparently did not provide a formal reply to the UDRP, he did let the panel know he was not responsible for the PPC links. In addition, he mentioned that he tried to get GoDaddy to change the content of the links to no avail (although they do not appear to be infringing right now):
“The Respondent also states that, following the notification of the Complaint, he requested the concerned Registrar to remove the links available on the parking page at the disputed domain name related to caviar but it refused to make the requested change because the disputed domain name is locked due to the present dispute.
The Respondent concludes that it was never its intention to have anything other than a blank placeholder page until its website was ready to go live.”
Luckily for the registrant, the panelist ruled against the complainant because the registrant’s name is Artin Petrossian, and having ArtPetrossian.com is perfectly legitimate. Had he not responded to the UDRP, it might have been a different story.
GoDaddy is not alone when it comes to monetizing customer landing pages. Other domain registrars also monetize their customer landing pages with pay per click advertising. In the case of Network Solutions, as an example, the registrar’s logo is prominently displayed at the top of the landing pages (one example found here). This would indicate to an observer that the page is being generated by the domain registrar and not the registrant. In the case of the new GoDaddy landing pages, there is no GoDaddy logo to indicate that this is a GoDaddy generated landing page. There is only the small “courtesy” message at the bottom of the landing page that I highlighted yesterday.
In my opinion, this new landing page design is going to lead to more UDRP filings considering it is the default landing page for registrants who do not change their nameservers. I would imagine many people simply buy or transfer a domain name and do not change the nameservers until their web developer or IT team is ready to go with the website. Unless they visit the unused domain name, they are unlikely to know that their domain name is being monetized with pay per click advertising. Even if they did, they might not understand the potential legal risk that exists. In fact, in the Ovation.com UDRP lost by the registrant, the registrar-induced pay per click landing page was a big factor.
While GoDaddy is probably making a lot of money from this landing page design, it is quite possible doing its customers a major disservice. I would not be surprised to see other UDRP filings if this does not change.