This blog article is not to be taken as legal advice, as it is an opinion piece only and based on researched information. If readers and visitors wish to secure legal advice on any of the topics touched upon in this article, it is suggested that they speak directly with someone who is licensed to dispense legal advice or practice law in their jurisdiction.
Recently, I have watched an interesting situation unfold online. The situation was created by two teenagers who fail to understand laws, rules and regulations and who are determined to flaunt those laws, rules and regulations. What makes this all the more interesting is that a number of authorities have shown them where their thinking is flawed but it hasn’t changed how these two teens behave.
Defamation happens when statements are made to a third party and those statements are both untrue and damaging. According to Gil Zvulony of Zvulony & Co., “it is not relevant if the victim thinks that the words are damaging, rather the relevant inquiry is what the average person would think.”
Cyber-libel, according to this expert in defamation law, is when untrue and damaging comments are made on the internet or via email. When it harms an initiative’s “hard-earned goodwill” or a person’s reputation, cyber-libel has done what it intended to do … to portray untrue statements about an entity or an individual as accurate and true, and in such a way that the average person would have reason to believe those statements to be accurate and true.
At the heart of the problem I have witnessed online, two teenagers are claiming that a parent of one of the teens has “hijacked” a website/domain name. In order to understand what this means, I’m providing a definition for the work “hijack” as it is used in common, everyday language. According to the Urban Dictionary, one of three definitions for hijacking means to forcefully take an object and use it for one’s own purpose.
So how could a parent “hijack” a website? I would think it would be near impossible seeing how most domain registrars have strict Terms Of Service for those registering domains with them. At GoDaddy.com, the Terms of Service state the following:
This Site and the Services found at this Site are available only to Users who can form legally binding contracts under applicable law. By using this Site or the Services found at this Site, you represent and warrant that you are (i) at least eighteen (18) years of age and/or (ii) otherwise recognized as being able to form legally binding contracts under applicable law.
In Canada, minors are not recognized as being able to form legally binding contracts and so, one must be at least 18 years of age to register a domain with GoDaddy. But maybe that’s just GoDaddy’s rules and not the rules that other domain registrars use, so let’s see what the rules are at CIRA.
“On and after November 8, 2000 only the following individuals and entities will be permittd to apply to CIRA (through a CIRA certified registrar) for the registration of, and to hold and maintain the registration of, a .ca domain name:
(a) Canadian citizen. A Canadian citizen of the age of majority under the laws of the province or territory in Canada in which he or she resides or last resided;
(b) Permanent resident. A permanent resident as defined in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, (Canada) S.C. 2001, c. 27, as amended from time to time, who is ordinarily resident in Canada (as defined below) and of the age of majority under the laws of the province or territory in Canada in which he or she resides or last resided (amended June 5, 2003);
(c) Legal representative. An executor, administrator or other legal representative of a Person listed in paragraphs (a) and (b) above;
(d) Corporation. A corporation under the laws of Canada or any province or territory of Canada;
There are other points after (d), but they have to do with organizations, associations, bands, businesses, museums, libraries, et al. Perhaps the third times the charm, so what does Internic have to say about minors registering domain names?
16. REPRESENTATIONS AND WARRANTIES. You agree and warrant that: …
16.5 You are of legal age of 18 years or over to enter into this Agreement.
It’s pretty clear then that in order to register a domain name, the person doing so must be at least 18 years of age to do so, and if a minor registers a domain name on his or her own, then they are in breach of the Terms of Service regardless of which company with whom choose to register that domain name.
So while two teenagers busy themselves with posting on various social media networking sites and emailing a number of people with the false allegation that a law-abiding parent of one of the two teens has “hijacked” a domain name, what they’re failing to understand is that neither of them is legally entitled to register a domain name. Neither of them is of the legal age of 18 years or over, and as such, neither of them is legally able to enter into any Agreement to register a domain name.
The parent had no other option than to contact the company with whom the domain name was registered, and provide proof that the teen who registered the domain name was in breach of the company’s Terms Of Service. That’s not hijacking a website; that’s responsible parenting.
Of course, it’s doubtful that teens who disregard various laws are going to settle down and stop defaming and cyber-libeling those they perceive to be their enemies, including the parent who did the right thing by reporting the breach to the company in question. But it would be nice if those two teens would stop long enough to listen to the many authorities on the matter and let facts guide them and not emotion.
Kudos to any parent who calls their children on unlawful activities the minor commits and kudos to any parent who holds that minor accountable for said unlawful activities. There’s nothing wrong or abusive with a parent who dares to parent his or her minor child appropriately, and it would be nice to have more parents do so.