After launching its own streaming network and speculation surrounding a takeover, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) is now worth a reported $2.3 billion.
Like many large entertainment industry companies, WWE is an aggressive protector of its copyrights and for several years has been pursuing companies and site owners who dare to step over the line. Part of that strategy is to force fan sites to hand over their domains, should they include ‘WWE’ in their URL. For owners of sites which threaten their PPV and streaming sales, things aren’t much better.
During March 2013, Facebook said that WWE Intellectual Property Director Matthew Winterroth was behind the closure of a page operated by Wrestling-Network, a site offering links to WWE streams and shows. Wrestling-Network operator ‘BeBe’ was told by the social network that he would need to contact the lawyer directly to solve the dispute. BeBe decided to quit Facebook and moved to Twitter instead, but by the summer WWE had raised its head again, this time after PayPal disabled an account used for the site’s finances.
BeBe says that in October WWE sent a takedown notice to Cloudflare, who handed over the details of the site’s actual host. For a few months things went calm, but last week all that changed. PayPal closed the site’s new account which had been opened by a third-party, and Facebook shutdown Wrestling-Network’s new page and BeBe’s personal page while they were at it. At this point things took a turn for the unusual.
“My Facebook page was removed, care to share why?” BeBe wrote in an email to WWE last Saturday.
Without being given any further details (aside from BeBe’s email address which is enough to connect him with Wrestling-Network via a simple Google search), Winterroth wrote straight back suggesting there might have been some kind of mistake.
“What is your name, address and Facebook page that was potentially inadvertently removed and I’ll look into it,” the lawyer wrote.
“http://facebook.com/WrestlingNetworkHD,” BeBe responded.
Since Winterroth was the person named by Facebook as being responsible for the takedowns, it would be reasonable to presume that he already knew the circumstances behind the page’s disappearance, so suggesting at this point that there might have been some kind of error seems somewhat unusual. Nevertheless, Winterroth further underlined that notion in a rather unusual follow-up email.
“I just woke up and while I was checking my phone, I read the email and started laughing hysterically,” BeBe informs TF.
“I mean, I heard a long time ago about a case where in order to arrest them on US territory, some guys were attracted to the USA by undercover FBI agents who promised them money and girls, but a gift bag from WWE? Really? He could at least given me some WrestleMania tickets.”
BeBe says he politely declined the offer.
“Oh, that’s so generous of you, but no thanks,” he told Winterroth. “I just want my page back since I didn’t post any links to copyrighted materials like you claim.”
Exactly 20 minutes later, the WWE lawyer’s tone had changed.
“Thank you for your correspondence. We have shut down your Facebook page and also worked with PayPal to permanently suspend your payment processor account with them. We now have your address and whereabouts in Romania,” he explained.
“Should you not shut down the website and agree not to infringe WWE intellectual property in the future in an immediate fashion, WWE will continue to work with our counsel in Romania, as well as the relevant legal authorities, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs/Bucharest City Police and Romanian National Audiovisual Council on our ongoing criminal complaint against you.”
What followed were demands for BeBe to hand over his domain but with tempers beginning to fray, that seemed unlikely.
“[..] If you don’t know, Romania is not a state in the United States of America. Romania is a country in eastern Europe. Unless you figured it out by now, US law does not apply here and no Romanian law is being violated,” BeBe told the WWE in an Anakata-inspired response.
“Yes, this is why we are working closely with Romanian legal authorities on this matter, who have more knowledge of the current state of Romanian law that [sic] either you or I,” BeBe was informed. “Your website exists to infringe WWE intellectual property in a wholesale fashion, and such illegal use will not be tolerated.”
At this point, relations truly broke down.
“Ok, ok, I’m gonna go outside and wait for the SWAT team, or are you gonna send Seal Team 6? Well, whatever, in the meantime, you can go fuck yourself ‘Captain Skinny-Dick’,” BeBe told Winterroth.
“Oh, since you wanted my name and address, here it is: Mr. Fukhusen, 110 eatshitlane, 6800 Romania. Also, please stop with these legal threats Judge Judy, go back in your room and watch Suits and Law and Order.”
Signing off with a request for Winterroth to say “Hi” to WWE supremo Vince McMahon, BeBe severed his “negotiations” with WWE and has heard no more since.
Whether WWE will be tag-teaming with the Romanian police anytime soon will remain to be seen.