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The Courts The Internet Idle

Court Rules Against Woman Who Didn't Like Search Results 173

The Seventh Circuit Court has ruled that Beverly Stayart can't sue Yahoo! because she did not like what she saw on the results page after searching for her name. Stayart claimed that her "internet presence" was damaged by Yahoo! because results for a search of her name showed listings which included pharmaceuticals and adult oriented websites. The court disagreed. From the article: "Stayart had sued under Section 43(a) of the federal Lanham Act, which prohibits false advertising, false implications of endorsement, and so on. Her problem was that a Lanham Act claim requires a showing that the plaintiff has a 'commercial interest' to protect, and Stayart did not have a commercial interest in her own name."
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Court Rules Against Woman Who Didn't Like Search Results

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  • But.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2010 @01:24PM (#33785748)

    Someone like Tiger Woods or Steve Jobbs could sue Yahoo!?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Sylak ( 1611137 )
      So could she but using a different part of the law.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Let the Streisand Effect begin. :S

      • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Monday October 04, 2010 @01:51PM (#33786070) Homepage

        The hundreds of news stories about this trial seem to have swamped the juicy links and made them vanish.

        Is this an 'anti-Streisand' effect?

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by alta ( 1263 )

          Yes, I've noticed the same. overall, she won. Yahoo'ing for her (weird word) doesn't turn up anything juicy, just this lawsuit. Damn, the Seventh Circuit Court just got USED!

          • So maybe I should sue Yahoo too, to clean up my search results. Of course this is only a temporary effect. Fast-forward a year and Beverly Stayart's search will turn-up porn again.

            The irony is that Alyssa Milano did the same thing, to have her nude images removed from the web, and she won despite all common sense (if you pose nude - then it becomes part of the public searches). Why is Miss Milano allowed to clean-up her yahoo/google results but not Miss Stayart?

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by scot4875 ( 542869 )

              There really is no comparison. The images of Milano were copyrighted and being distributed without permission. There were no images of Stayart herself, copyrighted or otherwise; just that a search for her name returned unrelated links to porn.

              There is no irony, or even contradiction. Two completely different issues.


        • by srussia ( 884021 ) on Monday October 04, 2010 @03:11PM (#33786978)

          The hundreds of news stories about this trial seem to have swamped the juicy links and made them vanish.

          Is this an 'anti-Streisand' effect?

          No, this is the "Stayart Effect" ®

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by ydrol ( 626558 )

            Mistress Beverly "whiplash" Stayart should sue Google/Yahoo because first SERP is a bunch of Lawyers diminishing her reputation and frightening away clients

    • Also a "person" like BP, Exxon, Halliburton, IBM, Nike, etc.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Adrian Lopez ( 2615 )

      Someone like Tiger Woods or Steve Jobbs could sue Yahoo!?

      Perhaps they could, but hopefully it would depend on whether Yahoo itself was engaging in such practices, for otherwise it should be granted immunity (that is, it shouldn't be held responsible for what third-party websites do simply because they appear in Yahoo's search results). In any case, I don't think the court was implying the woman would have a valid case if not for her lack of commercial interest. Why bother exploring other issues when you've

    • Re:But.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mea37 ( 1201159 ) on Monday October 04, 2010 @01:42PM (#33785984)

      More likely the judge is just using the most open-and-shut logic applicable in order to put this to bed at minimal cost to all involved. My gut reaction was that this was a Bad Thing, as it left the door open for other litigious behaviors; but when I thought about it, that's the right thing for the court to do: address the case at hand, narrowly.

      Probably we could have a grand old time arguing about who's responsible for keyword associations, and who owns what, and on and on... but when the law in question can be quickly shown as inapplicable by examining a single fact, what's the point letting her dump money into an effort that forces Yahoo and the taxpayers to spend additional money as well?

      If she's really committed to wasting resources, perhaps she'll have her lawyer come up with another theory with which to bring a suit that cannot be so quickly set aside; if so, I guess the fun will start anew.

      • Well part of her problem is the system works on relevancy. There are scores of businesses which deal with optimizing web searches. If her brand or name was important to her as say Tiger Woods, she could spend less money on using the system to get search results that she wanted rather than sue. It does not appear she did that. Judges tend not to like it when your first reaction is to sue. Lawsuits should be the measure of last resort, not the first.
      • Re:But.... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by zeropointburn ( 975618 ) on Monday October 04, 2010 @02:27PM (#33786488) Journal

        Just curious, but isn't it a commercial interest in the modern world when search results are used as part of employee screening? If my name brought up a bunch of scams and raunchy porn in a web search, it is quite possible that a prospective employer would decide not to hire me because of it (in whole or in part). This could be an impact in decisions that directly affect my income.

        My guess is that the legal meaning of 'commercial' has little to do with the common meaning, thus leading to my irrelevant conjecture above.

        • by mea37 ( 1201159 )

          Actually, that may be a good question (but IANAL). The judge apparently didn't see it that way, but we don't know how the matter was presented by the lawyers; maybe a case could be made. Ultimately the judge is saying she didn't show that she had a commercial interest in her name; maybe she didn't assert an interest in her name as it appears to a job interviewer, or maybe her circumstances don't lead the judge to believe that will be a problem for her (e.g. if she's disabled, or a stay-at-home mom, or ret

    • Well, anybody can sue. She did herself.

      The important part is winning. She didn't. Now, the part of the law that got her suit thrown out wouldn't necessarily be the same part that would get the same suit by a publicly recognizable figure, but that doesn't mean that their own suits wouldn't also be thrown out - just because of a different part of the law.

    • Potentially, but I think the wording in the law is there for things like protecting business trademarks and fighting scammers. Names just don't fall into the same category.

      I would think Tiger Woods, LLC would have a better chance at removing fake reviews of his products than just Tiger Woods, the man trying to get all those stories about him cheating on his wife off the internet.

  • Be Honest (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ironhandx ( 1762146 ) on Monday October 04, 2010 @01:27PM (#33785776)

    How many of you just went to google images and turned safe search off and searched for this womans name?

    I think the answer will illustrate just how bad an idea this was for her.

    • Though apparently the search will not. Having posted that I actually went and did that myself and came up empty. Given what I did see there I'm wondering what she's complaining about...

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by satuon ( 1822492 )

        I think her complaint is with Yahoo.

      • I did it and came up with what looked like avatar photos on a bunch of forums.

        It's pretty easy for any of us to figure out the rest. If her name and her picture are on a bunch of forums that are not well maintained (i.e., spammed heavily) then they have both been related to each other pretty well. That would make the search engines accurate to associate the two. Well, as accurate as those get. If you do the same search for me, you'll see on page 3, I died on August 21, 1939.

        • True, but all I saw were some avatar photos on sites that didn't look that bad.

          Also, I share your pain. I died on March 9th, 1962.

          • True, but all I saw were some avatar photos on sites that didn't look that bad.

            Also, I share your pain. I died on March 9th, 1962.

            Not only did I die in the 1800s but I was born in 2005 and someone claiming to be my daddy put up a webpage about it. Might've put up a webpage but I have to work for a living! I should sue the bastard for child support.

      • by yuna49 ( 905461 )

        Look harder. Try page 35 and page 36.

    • by hex0D ( 1890162 )
      it getz meh seal of approval.

      no, seriously, whatever she saw is now ruined by the Steisand effect.

      • by grub ( 11606 ) *

        How would it be the Streisand Effect? She isn't trying to bury something that is spreading across the net against her wishes.
        • by hex0D ( 1890162 )
          She was embarrassed by what was associated with her name. Now many, many, many more people are aware that there were embarrassing things associated with it, things that probably were nowhere near as bad as people are likely to imagine upon scanning a headline.

          She will forever be that 'chick whose name search produced ciallis ads' to me and many others now.

          • Look at it from her perspective...

            If a prospective employer googled her name and found a bunch of porn and spam, it would be entirely possible that they’d conclude either (a) she’s personally involved in porn or spam or more likely (b) she gave them a fake name.

            At least now they’ll see that she’s a real person, that’s her real name, and although googling it might have gave porn and spam (at one point) it at least didn’t have anything to do with her.

    • I'm at work so I don't dare do such a thing, but based on natural assumptions alone... when are people going to learn how the Streissand Effect works?! If you don't want attention the best thing you can do is ignore somebody. Trying to silence them is about as effective as handing them a megaphone, because in addition to whatever 'interesting' thing they were saying about you before, they can now additionally talk about how you're suppressing them to a forum which above almost all other things despises supp
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2010 @01:28PM (#33785788)

    Turns out it was just me. How did they know I like drugs and sex?

  • I don't care what sort of drivel or ads they put in with search results for my name. Anyone with an ounce of sense would mentally filter the results, disregarding all such irrelevancies.
  • by A. B3ttik ( 1344591 ) on Monday October 04, 2010 @01:28PM (#33785798)
    Beverly Stayart free porn sex sex anal Beverly Stayart free free porn sex sex anal sex midget teen teens sexy sex Beverly Stayart dirty sex orgy anal lube sex sex teens Beverly Stayart free porn sex sex anal Beverly Stayart free free porn sex sex anal sex midget teen teens sexy sex Beverly Stayart dirty sex orgy anal lube sex sex teens Beverly Stayart free porn sex sex anal Beverly Stayart
    • Python? (Score:5, Funny)

      by snspdaarf ( 1314399 ) on Monday October 04, 2010 @02:27PM (#33786476)

      Beverly Stayart free porn sex sex anal Beverly Stayart free free porn sex sex anal sex midget teen teens sexy sex Beverly Stayart dirty sex orgy anal lube sex sex teens Beverly Stayart free porn sex sex anal Beverly Stayart free free porn sex sex anal sex midget teen teens sexy sex Beverly Stayart dirty sex orgy anal lube sex sex teens Beverly Stayart free porn sex sex anal Beverly Stayart

      "Could I have that without so much Beverly Stayart in it?"

      "You mean free porn sex sex anal free free porn sex sex anal sex midget teen teens sexy sex dirty sex orgy anal lube sex sex teens free porn sex sex anal free free porn sex sex anal sex midget teen teens sexy sex dirty sex orgy anal lube sex sex teens free porn sex sex anal? Eugh!"

      "What do you mean, 'Eugh!'? I don't like Beverly Stayart!"

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by 2phar ( 137027 )
      She's unleashed a monster. Note the text following the photo at []
    • I'm surprised the lameness filter let that through. :)

      Oh well, can't blame /. for letting freedom have the upper hand, and letting moderation rule out the true page lenghtening post.

  • So what if she did? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KnownIssues ( 1612961 ) on Monday October 04, 2010 @01:29PM (#33785804)
    So what if she did have a "commercial interest" to protect? Could the court have ruled that Yahoo! could be sued for search results in that case? How would you prove that it's not just someone with the same name? It's almost too bad she didn't have a commercial interest to protect, because it would be interesting to see what the ruling would have been in that case. And it would be even more interesting to see how Yahoo! could comply.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ktappe ( 747125 )

      So what if she did have a "commercial interest" to protect?

      I don't understand how she could NOT have a commercial interest to protect. Each of us is an employable worker, which is a business contract for both employer and employee. If her ability to become employed is damaged by Yahoo search results on her name (and we should all assume prospective employers are Googling/Yahooing the names of applicants), then that budding business contract could be materially damaged.

      • by tool462 ( 677306 ) on Monday October 04, 2010 @01:50PM (#33786054)

        And in her case, she should be glad her search results are polluted with links that are obviously unrelated to her. It will cause any potential employer who might search her name to question the legitimacy of anything he finds.

      • If her name is trademarked for business purposes, like Donald Trump, then yes. But this is far more appropriate for a defamation suit, which (I can only guess) her lawyer thought would be harder to win.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Loadmaster ( 720754 )

        A "commercial interest" is not just whatever someone thinks it is. To maintain an action under the Lanham Act you must meet the definition of a "commercial interest" as used/implied by the Act. The court tells you what that means in the opinion.

        Stayart’s argument hinges on the claim that by virtue
        of her extensive activities, her name has commercial
        value. These include: humanitarian efforts on behalf of
        baby seals, wolves and wild horses; what she describes
        as “scholarly posts” on a website;

        • by jd ( 1658 )

          I would have thought that the key part of the Act was not the "commercial interest" but the fact that it requires that said interests be damaged by a competitor.

          In this case, it is most unlikely Yahoo! is a competitor in the baby seal rescuing market. And to judge by past performance, it's hard to describe them as much of a competitor at all.

          The advantage of that approach is that charities are quite significant businesses and those who are, in effect, charity celebrities have market value by right of being

      • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

        If you're going to file a claim under trademark law (Lanham Act), step one would be to own a trademark.

      • Based on the description of her claimed "commercial" interest in her name, I'd say it's because she's idle and rich, or a dabbling housewife. In either case, it seems true that she had no real commercial interest in her name. Would definitely have been more interesting had this been a professional actively seeking a job who had filed this lawsuit.

      • by hhw ( 683423 )
        Well, any potential future employer can now see how litigious she is, which is going to be much worse than having unrelated spam links show up. I don't think too many employers want to hire a lawsuit waiting to happen.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by catbutt ( 469582 )
      Maybe, but this case didn't get that far. It didn't say anything on whether the case would have merit if things were different, it just pointed out the first reason why this one can't go further.
  • Damn, the judge destroyed her business model in one stroke of his pen.
  • Googling a potential new hire or business associate for background information has become too widespread for anyone to have "no commercial interest" in their name. False information, even when obviously false, can and does adversely affect anyone looking for jobs or business opportunities beyond paper hats and drivethroughs. It goes to show how out of touch this court is from the mainstream of society.
    • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Monday October 04, 2010 @01:56PM (#33786122)
      Someone who is googling and not testing whether the results are false is probably someone you don't want to work for. Also someone who googles a lot would hopefully recognize that sort of thing happens a lot.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Someone who is googling and not testing whether the results are false is probably someone you don't want to work for.

        That's not a luxury most people have.

        • I never said it was fair but would you want to be hired by said company and then have your job terminated because of questionable results. You might have a job for a while, but will you never be secure in that job:
          "Bob, we'll have to let you go based on the charges that were filed against you yesterday."
          "Huh? What?!"
          "You got a DUI and ran over a school bus."
          *Googles* "That's another Robert Smith in another state."
          "Sure it is. Clear out your desk immediately."
    • False is rather relative in the case of search results. The results may be false for one person and accurate for another. Further I believe that search engines often rank results on popularity which has little to do with accuracy.

    • Yes, it is a damn shame the judge didn't call you up for a definition of "commercial interest", and instead he turned to the musty old ivory tower elitist law books, which are totally out of touch with Joe on the street in REAL AMERICA. In this case, the plaintiff sued under trademark law, for advertising that, by "false or misleading representation of fact, which -- is likely to...deceive as to the...sponsorship or approval of his or her goods, services or commercial activity by another person".


    • by Dan667 ( 564390 )
      You would not want to work for any employer too stupid to be able to distinguish between related and unrelated information about you.
    • by Xugumad ( 39311 )

      Okay, so... Googling my real name gets you someone else. We can't both be the top set of results. Now what?

      The problem isn't Yahoo/Google, the problem is companies that think real names are a unique identifier.

  • Was Yahoo's search engine not able discriminate between Stayart and "Stay Hard"?

  • Where there any sponsored ads to buy her on eBay? Inquiring minds want to know.

  • What (Score:2, Interesting)

    Yahoo is just a search engine, as far as I know they don't have any responsibility for the websites that people find while using it (if they do, they shouldn't). Good thing she lost, because she's a fucking idiot.

  • by hex0D ( 1890162 ) on Monday October 04, 2010 @01:36PM (#33785918)
    ...posting images associated with her name that are truly offensive. It would actually be a good object lesson in why not to file stupid lawsuits like this.
  • Because everytime I google myself, I get all those pictures of dumb-looking men, many of whom buy car insurance from small lizards.

  • seals, wolves, and wild horses;


    ...'scholarly posts' on a website

    Of course. All of my posts are scholarly as well.

  • by guyminuslife ( 1349809 ) on Monday October 04, 2010 @01:55PM (#33786116)

    She may have lost in court, but if you search for "Beverly Stayart" now, the first result is actually her.

    Be careful what you wish for.

  • This isn't idle. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by colmore ( 56499 ) on Monday October 04, 2010 @01:58PM (#33786158) Journal

    This is a somewhat important story. It isn't idle.

    The interesting thing here is that her suit worked. I just searched google and yahoo for Beverly Stayart, and none of the kind of websites she was talking about came up.

    • by Inda ( 580031 )
      I just Googled using their handy date range form, in 12 month blocks, back to 2005.

      Nothing about nothing.
  • The court shouldn't've ruled she had no commercial interest in her name. Down that path lies a situation where nobody can get redress for libel and slander because they had no interest in their good name. They should've ruled simply that nobody has a right to be the only subject of any particular search. She can hold the search engine liable if she can show the results weren't responsive to that particular search but the search engine put them in anyway. She can't hold the seach engine liable for results th

    • by lgw ( 121541 )

      The court ruled only that she had no "commercial interest" in her name under the trademark law she sued under. This has nothing to do with "intrest in her good name" under libel and slander law.

  • by bobdotorg ( 598873 ) on Monday October 04, 2010 @02:27PM (#33786480)

    Let's just hope that Bobbie Goatse never googles herself.

  • [facetious remark]They were the ones who gave her that name, after all... [/facetious remark]
  • by chebucto ( 992517 ) on Monday October 04, 2010 @02:43PM (#33786660) Homepage

    Cases like this are good in a way.

    Think about it: in 2000 years, long after the American Empire collapses to the Canadian Hordes, scholars will look back at the US legal code and declare it to be the more comprehensive in existence, covering every conceivable eventuality, no matter how brain-dead.

  • ..but all I found was articles about being an attention whore. Was I not doing it right?
  • by dbet ( 1607261 ) on Monday October 04, 2010 @03:53PM (#33787550)
    That's my real name, and I have the EXACT same problem.
  • Dammit! (Score:3, Funny)

    by fishexe ( 168879 ) on Monday October 04, 2010 @05:44PM (#33788618) Homepage
    Searching "Beverly Stayart" was my main starting point every time I want to wank off. Now the porn is all replaced with articles about her stupid case. Time to find a new search. Maybe "Christine O'Donnell?"

What this country needs is a good five cent ANYTHING!