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by Jan Harold Brunvand
December 21, 1999
The Grinch is real.
We interrupt our previously scheduled "Hoax du Jour" for this news flash.
The Grinch is real.
EToys Lawsuit Is No Fun For Artist Group
On September 29, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John B. Shook ordered a preliminary injunction prohibiting the artists from using their web address www.etoy.com. Etoy shut down the address for fear of incurring $10,000 per day fines; the site is still available by IP address. A subsequent appearance by the two parties is scheduled for December 27.
According to the New York Times piece, this was not eToys' only gambit. They had offered up to US$400,000 and stock options to the art group for the domain name. Was the lawsuit a friendly bargaining tool? Not according to "zai," an etoy spokesperson. ""We are not against selling," he said, "but at the moment we see how they treat us, like we're some kind of thing you can manipulate. We don't sell art under this pressure. You cannot force us to sell you this site just because you need it.""
Subsequent to the decision, Network Solutions blocked e-mail services for the domain, an unprecedented action -- particularly because the injunction didn't call for this. This is unprecedented because ICANN rules that were adopted in October don't call for suspending a domain while it's being disputed. If that were the case, malicious complaints to ICANN or Network Solutions would effectively prevent domain holders from using their registered domain name.
As the story progressed, reported primarily on ZDnet and Wired, the eToys rhetoric got deeper and deeper. "We absolutely respect their freedom and their points of view," said Ken Ross, eToys' vice president of communications. EToys.com claims that the etoy site contained obscenity and sadomasochistic images, but Wired noted that nothing of that nature appeared this past summer, when the legal rumble was brewing. In fact, a trademark lawyer told NPR's Madeleine Brand that trademark disputes for companies with similar trademarks but dissimilar services are generally groundless.
As Mark K. Anderson pointed out in The Standard, the etoy site "is about as different from the toy retailer as is a SoHo gallery from Toys 'R' Us." A week ago, an etoy representative discovered that the eToys.com trademark had been rejected by the U.S. trademark office.
No Toying Around
Since the court decision, there has been a groundswell, if not an online riot, of support for the etoy group. Private sites and administrators have hosted virtual sit-ins, firewall blacklists (preventing users from accessing eToys.com), discussion areas, and news bulletins. What hooligans did wrong in Seattle during the WTO conference, netizens are doing right on the Internet. They're mobilizing.
No similar wave of affirmation has come to the aid of eToys, the plastic toy company hiding behind the icons of Santa Claus and the almighty dollar. No surprise there. It could be because no previous battle over identity or intellectual property has been so clearly delineated, and so emotionally charged. Etoy represents no real threat to eToys.com. EToys.com has chosen to be a very real threat to the art group, and in so doing, has brought to the public eye the first large-scale battle over commerce and free speech on the Internet.
Everything about this story is polarized. Business versus free speech. Lawyers versus artisans. Americans versus Europeans. Dot.com newbies versus Internet pioneers. How could a toy company, admittedly targeting young children and adult mothers, make such a mean-spirited move in the weeks before Christmas? Are they daft?
'Be Grateful for Etoy'
In the "Hoax du Jour" column, I usually encourage thoughtful regard; "think before you click." I ask you, the reader, to make up your own mind. To weigh all the facts, hear out the opinions, and act on your own sensibilities.
On this occasion, I break with policy. This Christmas, I ask you to boycott eToys.com. Don't click, don't visit, don't buy; and tell your friends to do the same. If you bought something from eToys, I suggest that you return the purchase.
Why? eToys.com has chosen to use legal bullying to stifle free speech on the Internet, and to steal (yes, steal) a domain name that is not theirs. Their stated excuse is to "protect consumers," but in fact their action is aimed at denying choice to Internet users, and denying the use of a legally owned domain name to the rightful owners. This is truly anti-user, anti-consumer, and anti-Internet behavior. It's despicable.
I hope that you'll agree with me, and join the growing Internet movement to shun eToys.com.
February 5, 2001
After a dismal Christmas, 2000, e-tail season, and ceasing shipments to Canada, eToys.com announced that it is laying off all remaining employees ceasing operations during spring, 2001.
eToys anticipates shutting down in April
There is justice. God bless all who boycotted eToys.com during the 1999 and 2000 Christmas seasons, and throughout the year.
May 20, 2001
The wake for eToys.com is complete. KB Toys, a great place to buy toys at bargain prices (my testamonial), has acquired what's left of eToys. See below. :)
KB Toys Gets eToys Web Site
(Disclaimers: "The Grinch" is a creation of Dr. Seuss and is not a real personage. eToys.com's CEO Toby Lenk is a real person, and, in my view, a very real grinch. You may've guessed that this web site is an Amazon.com Associate. You can read all the pages for free; if you buy something from one of the Amazon links, a small referral fee is paid to Korova.com. It's a small dividend to offset the real expenses of hosting a web site.)