Originally created 07/21/98

Web site abandoned after newspaper files lawsuit



LOS ANGELES -- An Internet site purportedly containing worker gripes about The Orange County Register was abandoned after the newspaper sued for trademark infringement and successfully subpoenaed America Online Inc. for the names of those who created it.

The site, called the "Orange County Unregistered Press," was operated by someone using the screen name "Slave4OCR," who claimed to be an employee of the newspaper. It included rumors, gossip and complaints from co-workers who were allowed to submit tidbits anonymously.

Freedom Communications Inc., parent company of the newspaper, filed a lawsuit against two "John Does" in federal court in Virginia, alleging the Web site "blatantly infringed" on the newspaper's trademark.

The site operators also allegedly sent e-mails to about 120 Register employees and encouraged them to send information about the paper, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit, filed July 2, claims the defendants' actions significantly reduced employees' efficiency and "created a disharmonious atmosphere."

The trademark infringement lawsuit claims the public could be led into incorrectly believing the Register endorsed the site.

AOL gave the subscriber 10 days notice, then released the name to Freedom Communications on July 14.

Viewers who look for the page continue to see its "Unregistered Press" logo, but a message says the site no longer is being maintained or published, as of July 14.

"This site will cease to exist by slave in order to protect himself from any potential liabilities" the message continues, and asks for ideas for making the page into an employees Web site.

As for releasing the subscriber's name, AOL spokeswoman Tricia Primrose said that is done only if there is a clear violation of intellectual property.

"If it's just someone expressing their views, we tend to leave them alone," Ms. Primrose said. "But if it's blatant trademark infringement, such as someone copying a logo, then we take action."

Jim Whitney, another spokesman for the Dulles, Va.-based company, said today a subscriber's name will be released in response "to a valid legal process" such as a subpoena.

Nelson David Cary, a Washington lawyer who filed the lawsuit, did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment today. There was also no immediate response to an e-mail sent to "Slave4OCR."