Phil Mickelson Hits Another Impressive Shot Out of the Rough

Courts in the U.S. and around the world have been working overtime to keep pace with a growing number of novel legal disputes created by the Internet. Unfortunately, people and businesses continue to fall prey to electronic mischief – including cybersquatting and online defamation – because few of us have the time and/or resources to go after the architects of mayhem on the World Wide Web.

Pro golfer Phil Mickelson does have the resources, however, and he recently did everyone a favor by using a portion of his considerable fortune to take a hardline stance against tawdry, anonymous online allegations against him.  In November, one or more people began using the pseudonyms “Fogroller” and “Longitude” on the Yahoo! Sports website to assert that Mickelson had fathered an illegitimate child and that his wife had an affair.

The pro golfer responded by filing a complaint against a Canadian Internet service provider, which has agreed to reveal the anonymous commenter’s identity, according to media reports. The broader implications of Mickelson’s action are unclear, but as his attorney told reporters: “If we can stop one person, then it’s one less person who can get away with this.”

Mickelson’s legal battle is just the latest example of a well-heeled sports star relying on the courts to help create new parameters for online conduct. Former Dallas resident and current professional basketball standout Chris Bosh famously won a 2009 federal court claim over the rights to the online domain bearing his name. A California judge awarded Bosh his domain and 800 additional domains that used the names of other pro sports stars. In turn, Bosh returned them to their rightful owners for free.

Sports heroes are sometimes criticized for making vast fortunes for merely playing a game, but the actions of both Mickelson and Bosh – and the persistence and creativity of their lawyers – may well end up making the Internet a better place for everyone.


Posted: 2/23/2012 6:07:23 AM by Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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