Last week, an arbitration panel issued a decision in favor of Marc Randazza and Randazza legal group in a dispute with “investigative blogger” Crystal Cox. You may recall that earlier this year, Crystal Cox was up to her old tricks of defaming people on the internet, and offering them “reputation management services,” whereby for a nice sum of money she would remove the negative things she wrote about those individuals.
Cox went after Marc Randazza after becoming angry with him over his potential representation of her in another case involving extortion. The original case was noteworthy, not so much because it demonstrated Cox’s fondness for attempting to destroy reputations and then offering to repair those reputations for a large sum of money, but because the judge ruled that Crystal Cox is not a journalist. (This is not to be confused with “bloggers are not journalists,” which some people incorrectly reported after a key decision in the case. The decision was only that blogger Crystal Cox is not a journalist.)
In attempting to destroy Marc Randazza’s reputation, Cox bought up a bunch of domain names associated with him, such as marcrandazza.com. Predictably, she offered “reputation management services,” whereby if Marc agreed to pay her every month, she would not post reputation-destroying content about him on her websites.
Cox denied that she was trying to extort money from Randazza, writing on one of her sites (yes, this is verbatim, odd capitalization and all):
And now Kashmir Hill of Forbes, David Carr of the New York Times, Marc Randazza, Kenneth P. White of Popehat.com, Tracy Coenen, Randazza Legal Group, have launched a campaign to set up a Blogger for Extortion when I was not accused of Extortion in an Criminal Complaint, nor was I on trial for extortion and now this Lynch Mob has put me under Extreme Duress and ALL will be named in my Federal Hate Crime Filing, Criminal Complaint, Judicial Complaint, FBI Complaint, Attorney General Complaint, Bar Complaint and Department of Justice Complaint.
Randazza took legal action to have the domain names registered by Crystal Cox returned to him, saying that the domain names are creating confusion. The domain names are so similar to his name and the name of his law firm, both of which he has been using in a way that gives him common law trademark rights to them.
An arbitration panel issued a decision in favor of Marc Randazza, and has ordered that the domain names marcjohnrandazza.com, marcjrandazza.com, marcrandazza.com, marcrandazza.biz, marcrandazza.info and marcrandazza.mobi be transferred to him.
In that decision, the arbitration panel discusses the extortionist activities of Crystal Cox (emphasis mine):
Such websites are not “criticism sites” but merely a pretext for [Cox]’s bad faith extortionate use.
Third, [Cox] attempted to commercially benefit from registration of these names by offering “reputation management” services to [Randazza] – through baiting [Randazza] into an extortionate scheme. Specifically, once [Randazza] declined her “reputation management” services, [Cox] then registered domain names that contained not only [Randazza]’s surname, but also the personal names of his wife and three year old daughter, and then included falsehoods about [Randazza] on her websites to which the domain names resolved. [Cox] would then eliminate such sites, and hence the ensuing injury to [Randazza]’s reputation, only if [Randazza] would purchase her “reputation management” services. Further, [Cox] repeatedly engaged in the same general type of extortionate conduct by offering her “reputation management” services to others, including as her targets various business people and third-party attorneys, thus reflecting a pattern of such conduct.
Furthermore, [Cox]’s actions in registering and using the disputed domain names may appear, at a first glance, to simply be a vehicle through which she provides advertising through pay-per-click sites, but on slightly closer examination are actually components of an artifice intended to extort funds from [Randazza] and thus a pretext for a rather egregious variant of cybersquatting. As such, none of those actions can or will serve as a predicate upon which [Cox] can lawfully develop any rights or legitimate interests in any of the disputed domain names.
In any event, for purposes of the Policy the Panel finds [Cox]’s intention, as reflected by the record, was never to solely provide, through her websites, speech critical of [Randazza]. Rather, her objective in both registering and using the disputed names was apparently to engage in a rather sinister and tenacious scheme to extort money from [Randazza]. Specifically, [Cox] first posted negative and false commentary on her websites that was intentionally calculated to injure [Randazza]’s on-line reputation and disrupt [Randazza]’s business conducted through his law firm. Thereafter, [Cox] used those sites in a manner that apparently optimized their ranking on the Google search engine in order to increase their visibility and prominence on search results yielded through a Google search of [Randazza], thus likely exacerbating the injury caused to [Randazza]. Once all this occurred, [Cox] then offered her reputational management services to [Randazza] through which, for a considerable fee, she would remediate [Randazza]’s on-line reputation by eliminating all the negative and false commentary of her own making and presumably also ceasing her use of the disputed domain names. Basically, for a price, she would undo the injury to [Randazza] for which she was responsible for having created in the first place. This egregious conduct clearly constitutes bad faith under the Policy.
So there you have it. Another discussion of Crystal Cox that concludes she was trying to extort people, not be an “investigative blogger” or “reputation manager” as she would have you believe.