Wargames Fight Brewing Over Domain Name

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Author Rogers Cadenhead has owned Wargames.com for eight years, but faces the prospect of losing the domain to MGM Studios in arbitration.

Way back in the dark ages of the personal computing era, in 1983, a movie called WarGames depicted the dangers of hacking into a government computer. Only by tricking the computer into playing unwinnable games of tic-tac-toe against itself does the hero manage to avert World War III.

Since Hollywood has a long history of “re-imagining” existing movies into newer movies, it was probably inevitable that a studio would decide it was time for a WarGames remake, scheduled for 2007. That little spate of ‘creativity’ looks to have drawn Cadenhead into the part of the creative process known to most as ‘litigation.’

Cadenhead wrote on his blog how MGM Studios has dispatched a Chicago lawyer named Nathan Hole to wrest Wargames.com away from him:

For the past three months I’ve been privately engaged in a time-consuming dispute with Nathan J. Hole, a lawyer representing MGM Studios who claims that Wargames.Com, a domain that I’ve owned since April 16, 1998, is the rightful property of the film company because it produced the 1983 movie WarGames and registered it as a trademark.

I registered the domain to sell military wargames like Axis & Allies and Battle of Britain and was able to realize these plans earlier this year. I’ve never run my own business, so figuring out sales taxes and licensing, finding suppliers, running a secure web server and setting up ecommerce software took around two years.

My store has nothing to do with the film WarGames or any other movie, but attempting to convince MGM there’s no infringement has been utterly fruitless.

In similar cases, individuals have been found to been acting in bad faith when registering a domain name consisting of a trademarked term. That does not seem to be the case here.

Cadenhead has some good faith history on his side, as he pointed out Washington Post coverage of his donation of the domain BenedictXVI.com to a New York charity called Modest Needs. Part of that donation included a condition to turn the domain over to the Vatican should their officials request it.

He’s also promised to track the legal dispute through his blog as the arbitration process goes forward. It is difficult to fight a deep-pocketed studio with a trademark registration on its side, and although Cadenhead has noted the existence of wargames as a general term well before the 1983 movie, the success Apple Computer has had in forcing webmasters to remove the word ‘pod’ from their domain names could portend an unfortunate decision awaits him.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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