Master of Your Own Domain Name

Lawyers of all stripes have learned by now about the importance of having a useful, professional law firm web site. Whether you’re targeting individuals about handling their personal injury lawsuits or family law disputes, or if you’re devoted to the narrowest and most obscure regulatory practice, a functional and professional digital footprint has become a mandatory cost of doing business.

So it comes as no surprise that a Texas lawyer staked out the Internet domain as the address for his PI and workers' comp practice. But along the way, Lubbock trial lawyer John Gibson and his firm, Gibson+Associates, have become embroiled in a First Amendment lawsuit over a little-known state code that prohibits the pairing of the words “Texas” and “Workers' Comp” when promoting a private business. The clause, which allows only the state to use of those specific words in combination, is designed to guard against deceptive practices.

Gibson has challenged the statute on constitutional grounds, claiming it conflicts with his First Amendment guarantee of free speech. Although Gibson came up short in federal district court, his case got new life in a recent reverse and remand order issued by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. The case is now back before a federal district judge, who will be asked to determine whether the Texas law as applied to Gibson’s domain name is constitutional and/or protected by the First Amendment.

Once again, the Internet has created a brave new world where laws and statues are playing catch-up with the unintended consequences of technology. But when it comes to balancing the First Amendment with potentially misleading advertising in new media environments, our courts have been doing that for a very long time.   

Posted: 12/10/2012 12:00:00 AM by Editor | with 0 comments

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About This Blog

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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