Having been toasted in a recent Belgian children's cartoon, Smurfs are now on the counter-attack, mounting an intellectual property rampage against domain name holders. Studio Peyo, which owns the rights to the Smurfs trademark and copyright, has been sending out threatening letters to webmasters who use the name in their web addresses.
The letters are fairly indiscriminate, notes East Bay ISP Robin Bandy. He received one for a nine year old web page he hosts that translates English into Smurf language. He told them to take a Smurfing hike.
A Smurf representative hit back, insisting that "the simple registration of a domain name websmurfer.devnull.net containing a protected denomination and the use of that domain name, even as a personal webpage, constitutes a violation of the copyright and trademark rights attached to this denomination, notwithstanding if the web-site refer or not to the Smurf™ character by itself."
The email goes on to threaten UDRP, the domain name dispute resolution process overseen by internet quango ICANN.
But the UDRP doesn't apply to host names, only domain names, Bandy points out.
"In short: ICANN's UDRP does not apply to the site 'websmurfer.devnull.net' and even if it did the UDRP would not treat that site as having been registered in bad faith and would consider my use of the term 'websmurfer' a legitimate interest in the name. Good day," he replied.
But the little blue people's legal offensive has had already had a chilling effect on academia with a Smurf Name generator hosted by the University of Michigan falling silent pending legal advice.
Stand fast against the blue people, advises Bandy.
It seems that there's a new, and as yet undocumented member of the VIS (Very Important Smurf) clan - cloned from the blue DNA of Brainy Smurf - "A moraliser who believes everything Papa Smurf says is sacred. Everyone puts up with him, but let's face it: he's a bore. In fact, he's a real pain in the Smurf."
Yes, I think we've all met IP Lawyer Smurf. ®