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Wikipedia: 14 June 2006

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14 June 2006 VERSION

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The website falls within the generic definition of a “gripe” site. As might be deduced from the domain name, the content of the website is focused on Royal Dutch Shell.

The Internet provides a low cost platform for anyone, even of modest means, to reach a global audience. It is the high-tech equivalent of having a soap box at “Speakers Corner” in London’s Hyde Park – that long-established bastion of free speech.

The web gives ordinary mortals fortune enough to live in open societies the opportunity to publicly criticise the rich and powerful, including multinational corporations on what are known in the USA as “sucks” or “gripe” websites.

There have been important recent developments in case law regarding gripe websites. One such decision in August 2005 by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (the WIPO), was in respect of a website which operates under the domain name of which is the precise top level (dotcom) domain name of the global oil giant Royal Dutch Shell Plc. Due to an oversight, the management of the Royal Dutch Shell Group had not registered the dotcom name for the new company which resulted from the unification in 2005 of The “Shell” Transport and Trading Company Plc and Royal Dutch Petroleum Company Limited.

The domain name was instead obtained by Alfred Donovan, a long term critic of the Royal Dutch Shell Group. He discovered a loophole which allows an online critic to legally use a dotcom domain name identical to a target company’s trademark. The loophole requires that the gripe site must be non-commercial with no subscriptions and no advertising involved. To avoid being branded as a “cybersquatter”, the gripe site/domain name must also be active, with no attempt made to sell the domain name, especially to the company holding rights to the corresponding trademark/company name.

The success of a sucks/gripe website depends on the subject and content and whether it is of continuing interest – otherwise the website is likely to be a one hit wonder. Once a visitor has been exposed to the basic content, why bother to visit again? The website has taken the genre forward by building the content around a news based format focused on the activities of a targeted company (in his case Royal Dutch Shell). As a result, the content on the site is topical and changes several times every day. It also includes leaked Shell internal documents and commentary by Shell insiders.

Shell International Petroleum Company Limited, acting for the Royal Dutch Shell Group, also attempted to obtain via the WIPO proceedings, two other Donovan owned Shell related domain names: and (both domain names pointed at a single gripe website)

Together with its associated Donovan operated websites, [1] and, over 9,000 web pages of information about Royal Dutch Shell are freely available (and searchable). The fact that thousands of web pages are published via multiple websites, which are all focused on the same target company, maximises penetration of the web via search results generated on Internet search engines.

The Donovan gripe sites are the subject of multiple High Court Injunctions and Restraining Orders collectively obtained by eight Royal Dutch Shell Group companies in respect of articles posted under the name of a Shell whistleblower, a Malaysian geologist and former Shell employee, Dr John Huong. The Shell litigation is directed against Dr Huong.

This page was last edited on 14 June 2006, at 21:24 (UTC).

This website and sisters,,,, and, are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia segment.

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