You are here

Taylor Swift registers own ‘adult’ web URLs

'Prevention better than cure' as lawyers advise ownership could avoid high-profile legal action to recover web addresses from third parties

24 March 2015

Add comment

Ahead of the introduction of dedicated '.porn' and '.adult' domain names, it has emerged that singer Taylor Swift has purchased the web addresses for domains which contain her own name.

This follows previous action by Swift to protect her exclusive right to profit from sections of her lyrics, protecting the use of phrases such as 'sick beats' via trademark registration.

Chris McLeod, president of the Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys, explained that while it might seem odd to register something you do not want to appear online in your own name, trying to recover such domain names after they have been created by third parties with bad intentions is a complex process, and requires legal proof that their use of such domains would be 'abusive'.

'Taylor Swift wouldn't be able to force any such sites to be taken down unless it was shown that the operators were using the online asset in what is called "bad faith",' said McLeod. 'This can include a variety of improper uses of the website, from "passing off" the site or any merchandise sold thereon as official or connected in some way to the star, seeking to profit less directly from improper use of her personal brand, or simply degrading her public image in such a way that impacts her own profits from her image or is personally abusive.

'That might appear to rule out a multitude of sins - but the process can be time consuming as well as costly. Moreover, actually removing material from the internet is practically impossible - and wouldn't be helped by a long and high-profile legal case.'

For, as McLeod continued, 'prevention is better than cure', and both individuals and businesses should treat the threat to digital rights seriously.

A generic top-level domain name (gTLD) is one of the categories of top-level domains (TLDs) maintained by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) for use in the domain name system of the internet. It is visible to internet users as the suffix at the end of a domain name.

The release of more than 1,000 new gTLDs is seen as the biggest shake-up since the internet began. Their introduction has been seen as both a game changer and a headache for the intellectual property community.

After an initial scramble to control all websites relating to household names in the early days of the internet, McLeod explains that many big brands have now moved away from the practice of registering a multitude of different URLs.

'These days it is often simply too expensive to attempt to cover every possible variant of a personal or brand name - and so such an intensive effort along these lines is no longer the default action. However, where it is possible to protect intellectual property, registration of rights should always be explored as an option,' he said.

McLeod added that when a business model and reputation is at risk, a preventative course of action can prove a useful investment for individuals, SMEs, and big brands alike.

Haydn Simpson, director of brand protection at NetNames, recently advised that law firms in need of safeguarding data security for clients might find the registration of their businesses under the '.legal' gTLD beneficial to avoid the recent increase in fake law firm phishing scams.

Image copyright of Featureflash /

John van der Luit-Drummond is legal reporter for Solicitors | @JvdLD

Categorised in: