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Thou shalt not steal? Christian college, alum end battle over domain name

 

Cybersquatting is not a very Christian — or legal — thing to do.

That had been the premise behind a Florida college’s now-dropped lawsuit against a former student who has allegedly committed trademark infringement and cybersquatting for more than a decade after registering and maintaining a website critical of Pensacola Christian College.

The college gained control of the website after the student accused of using it to criticize the school handed it back when Pensacola Christian College filed the suit.

“Gage willfully infringed on PCC’s rights in the Pensacola Christian College mark by holding the domain name hostage, demanding that PCC pay him or a charity of his choice the sum of seventy-five thousand dollars in exchange for the transfer of the domain name,” according to the lawsuit filed on March 25 in the Florida Northern District Court, which was dropped in early April.

"Unfortunately, PCC throttles the hearts, minds, and spirits of their students and makes no apology for the mess they make in the long run."

- Peter Gage, PensacolaChristianCollege.com

The website, pensacolachristiancollege.com, does provide a link to the official page of the 4,500-student college at pcci.edu, but continues to cause “irreparable injury” to the school, according to a lawsuit against graduate Peter Gage seeking $100,000 in damages.

Gage, of Spokane, Wash., graduated from the private school in 1996, five years before registering the website in 2001. Some two years later, Gage ceased all use of the website but continued to maintain its registration as recently as February, according to the lawsuit.

Gage, who declined to comment when reached by FoxNews.com before the suit was dropped, last updated the website in 2003 and bills it as “The Student Voice,” or the “unofficial” informational website for the Florida college. In a frequently asked questions section of the website, Gage details his “main problem” with PCC.

“The fact is, an institution trying to follow God (more or less) is going to have problems, hurt people, and make mistakes,” the website reads. “Many of us have probably seen churches try to enact biblical discipline only to have it end up in courts or with hurt families or misunderstandings, etc. We can't expect PCC to be perfect. Unfortunately, PCC throttles the hearts, minds, and spirits of their students and makes no apology for the mess they make in the long run. They won't even own up to it.”

Gage also dissuades potential students from attending the bible-centered institution.

“No, I do not think you should go to PCC,” the website reads. “That is my educated opinion, based upon my experience and the experience of thousands of others. The Christianity you are exposed to by the administration is not one you want to emulate throughout your life. The Christian emphasis, godly peer-pressure, and good academics can be found at numerous other good Christian colleges which don't put you through all the garbage.”

In 2001, PCC officials filed a complaint against Gage with the National Arbitration Forum, which oversees disputes regarding websites. Its decision, however, sided with Gage and dismissed PCC’s complaint, finding that the Washington state man clearly identified the site as an unofficial information portal and included a link to the school’s official website. Gage’s site also utilized a .com suffix rather than .edu, thus avoiding confusion that it was officially affiliated with PCC.

“The panel determine that respondent has rights and legitimate interests in respect of the domain name at issue,” according to the ruling. “Accordingly, the complaint is dismissed.”

And Amy Glenn, a spokeswoman at the school, told FoxNews.com that a settlement may be forthcoming.

“Since that time, our attorney heard from Mr. Gage and discussions began regarding a resolution,” Glenn wrote in an email a day before the suit was dropped. “We are waiting on final confirmation since this is in the hands of the attorneys, but are hopeful that a favorable resolution will be reached quickly so we can take ownership of this site.”

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