What’s in a name? According to Jews for Jesus, plenty.
Last week, the Messianic Jewish organization filed a lawsuit against Internet titan Google in U.S. District Court in New York City, citing trademark infringement. The subject of the complaint is jewsforjesus.blogspot.com, the blog of an anonymous individual self-identified as Whistle Blower. The lawsuit demands control of the subdomain name as well as damages.
Whistle Blower has used the blog as a forum to criticize Jews for Jesus, including references to executive director David Brickner’s “management by anger” style and a call for a full accounting of a recent five-year missionary effort by the organization. From the posts, Whistle Blower appears to identify as a Jew, writing “Jews for Jesus ‘knew’ that Jewish people weren’t thinking for ourselves,” and suggesting that “something might not be so kosher in JewsforJesusland.” The Forward was unable to reach Whistle Blower for comment.
According to Susan Perlman, associate executive director of Jews for Jesus, the issue at stake for the organization is not the content of the Web site but the right to control its own trademark. “We feel there is a right to free expression on the Web,” Perlman told the Forward. However, she added, “We feel we need to protect our name.”
Jews for Jesus has defended the right to its name on the Web before. In 1998, the organization successfully sued for control of the domain name www.jewsforjesus.org. According to Paul Winick, an attorney representing Jews for Jesus, the group is suing Google rather than Whistle Blower because Google is the commercial entity in charge of blogspot, maintaining the right to remove blogs that violate the law. “They’re most clearly using it commercially,” Winick said. “It’s their Web site, their advertising.” In addition, Winick said, “there are complications to suing an anonymous party.”
One unintentional effect of the lawsuit has been to reinvigorate the blog itself. Whistle Blower had only posted to the blog three times since its inception this past January, the most recent post being in May. According to exhibit documents filed with the complaint, as of December 21, the site had been visited a total of 54 times, and the blog entries had received all of two comments — one from Jews for Jesus’ web developer, requesting control of the subdomain, and one from Whistle Blower refusing the request.
After the lawsuit was filed and reported on Reuters, however, Whistle Blower resumed blogging on an almost daily basis. As of press time, the blog entries had received 264 additional comments and the site had been visited 3,395 times.
Google could not be reached for comment.
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The Frumster.com dating Web site says it is now open to all “marriage-minded Jewish singles.” Frumster, which says it has married off 250 Jewish couples, had been open only to Orthodox Jewish singles. Officials with the site say it has 20,000 active members worldwide.
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A Jewish lottery was launched Sunday in Britain. The lottery aims to raise money for charities in Britain, with some of the money earmarked for Jewish schools. It has a jackpot equivalent to $17,000.