Beverly Stayart And The Art Of Search Engine Optimization

Typically, when one is concerned about what links to one's name on internet search engines, and the quality of the links associated with that name, the solution is to generate better and different links.  In the case of a person who is not famous, such as Beverly "Bev" Stayart of Wisconsin, this is easily accomplished by starting a website under one's name.

Of course suing search engines such as Yahoo is another strategy to create new links, but that carries its own risks.

According to the Complaint filed in Beverly Stayart v. Yahoo, Inc., et. al., Bev Stayart is the author of numerous scholarly bulletin board posts on the heritage of the Saponi Indian Nation, as well as two poems published at a Danish website concerning the plight of baby seals in Canada.  Ms. Stayart was therefore appalled when she visited the Yahoo and Alta Vista search engines to find the name "Bev Stayart" linked to spam sites advertising Cialis, sites infected with malware, and sites that offer adult-oriented images.

Though I'd never heard of her, apparently "[t]he name 'Bev Stayart' has commercial value because of her humanitarian endeavors, positive and wholesome image, and the popularity of her scholarly posts on the Internet."  She also claims to be the only Bev Stayart who uses the internet, in the entire world.

I suppose I've been living under a rock all these years.

And so Beverly Stayart did what any positive, wholesome, popular humanitarian scholar would do under such circumstances: She sued Yahoo and Alta Vista for trademark infringement, invasion of privacy, and "disregard of Bev Stayart's rights."

The case presents a few difficulties.  Leaving aside the problem of proving that there are no other Beverly Stayarts in the entire world who use the internet, as technology lawyer Eric Goldman points out, federal law shielding websites from liability for third party content may preempt or bar all of Ms. Stayart's claims.  Nonetheless, I sympathize with Ms. Stayart's plight.  Since it evidently has not occurred to her that a personal weblog might have driven the offending search results into page 10 oblivion, I'll offer her my own.

Last 5 posts by Patrick Non-White


  1. Fred Otto says

    Dear Patrick:

    You might learn something if you took the time to read the entire Bev Stayart v. Yahoo et. al. instead of parroting Mr. Goldman. For a computer geek, I would think that you would have checked to see if there are more than one Bev Stayart on the U.S. internet. If you took the time you will find Bev B. Stayart and Bev Anne Stayart, who happen to be the same person in the white page directory. They are the only Bev Stayart that I have found, so do not get so overwhelmed with the facts before you make an ass of yourself by making a false assumption.

    So before you get too goofy, once Yahoo is given notice of the inappropriate pornography and or misuse of trademarks, Cialis and Viagra under the Lantham Act, which is an exception to the protection provided Yahoo under the Communications Act, you might be surprised that Yahoo did not do anything about blocking or removing the 3rd party misuse of registered trademarks Cialis and Viagra and associating those with Ms.Stayart name for over ten weeks.

    So it will be interesting to see your apology when the Wisconsin court ultimately finds against Yahoo.

    Also had you read the complaint, assuming you can read something besides a computer tech magazine, you would have found that Various, Inc. who Adult Friend Finder had put Bev Stayart's name in the title page and meta tag on the View Source for their page. Adult Friend Finder already has an injunction with the Federal Trade Commission for similar acitivities, so they may have a little explaining to do.

    Very truly yours,

    Fred Otto
    Intellectual Property Attorney
    and Computer Engineer

  2. says

    A "computer engineer" who calls someone a "computer geek" simply because they write on a blog, and who uses the term "on the U.S. internet?" An "intellectual property attorney" who uses phraseology like "has an injunction with the Federal Trade Commission"?

    How …. odd.

  3. Shkspr says

    So when "Bev Stayart" starts posting over at 4chan, we're still going to be operating on the assumption that it must be her, right?

    Someone's about a slow weekend at Something Awful away from REALLY regretting this lawsuit.

  4. Patrick says

    Having examined your Xing profile Frederick J. Otto, your statements about the "US internet" are rather surprising, because I'd expect a Computer Engineer and Intellectual Property Attorney…

    (funny, I'm an attorney myself, and I don't know a single fellow attorney who capitalizes the title when referring to himself)…

    to know that Yahoo is a worldwide search engine, which doesn't distinguish US from foreign nationals in its reach. In fact, the design of the engine would seem to make that impossible. Moreover, I'd expect someone as sophisticated as you are, who has "special competence in using economics and psychology in resolving disputes in … negotiating transactions" to appreciate that hurling childish insults over the internet exhibits less than masterful psychology.

    Moreover, one who understands the internet, and who "does not hesitate to go to court and litigate when necessary; a member of the federal trial bar" might have some understanding that litigation over one's name, particularly in the context of the internet, often backfires. The metaphor I'd use, insensitive as it is, is "punching a tar baby." As mentioned by commenter Shkspr, who is not, to my knowledge, a member of the federal trial bar, but who does understand the internet a little better than you seem to, Ms. Stayart is only a mention on Something Awful, or … God help her, Anonymous, from having a search engine profile far different from that which she enjoyed in January.

    As indeed do you, now, where a search for ["Fred Otto" attorney ass] leads directly and first to this page.

  5. John says

    I had a next door neighbour and his parents christened him Myles. Their name was Long …. poor Myles Long.

    Or another one, we were working late into the night, testing a system before launch, trying to break it with a copied test database of real names. So, needless to say everything was thrown at it, some we won't repeat.

    But, one guy put in the name Fanny and up popped a Fanny Strain…. Is that Fanny Strain or is it just the way you are sitting.

    Doesn't have to be a person's name. A company in Ireland, the receptionists used to answer the phone with…. IPT until somebody said 'do you' and hung up. It is now answered by Irish Pensions Trust :)

    Anyway, my name is Jonny Crippledick, what a name…. only joking.

  6. Torborg Jones says

    A sarcastic thanks to Fred Otto. I'm a fellow Intellectual Property Attorney and user of the U.S. internet (though, sadly I am not a Computer Engineer). As such, I appreciate your diligent efforts to ensure that people generally continue to think poorly of attorneys.

  7. Lisa T. says

    This is terrible what they did to this woman! She was smart to file a lawsuit as the courts are the only way to get justice! I noticed that two other women on another blog about this case said they also have been abused on the Internet so this is not unusual. One of these bloggers said she wanted to sue the perpetrators and the other one said she is painstakingly writing to over 400 websites to ask each one to remove it. So far she has only been successful with 3 of them. She commented that the search engines are to blame for what happened to her. The courts are the only way to expose their wrongdoing and obtain justice. I wish the woman who did file suit the best of luck in court!

  8. mk says

    All the people attacking Bev Stayart and her lawsuit online seem to be employed by the computer industry in Silicon Valley.

  9. says

    REally, mk? On what basis do you say anyone here is employed by the computer industry in Silicon Valley?

  10. Jonathan says

    Should there be a mandatory retirement age for federal judges? The judge assigned to Beverly Stayart's lawsuit is 70 years old! In his decision, he made numerous, erroneous decisions of fact which were supposed to have been resolved by a jury.

  11. Patrick says

    Perhaps Ms. Stayart should appeal the judge's erroneous grant of summary judgment then Jonathan.

    I will note that in civil ligation one device for resolution of factual issues that would otherwise be resolved by jury is discovery, in which one forces one's opponent to concede or admit issues of fact.

    Were you involved in the case, and do you have access to the discovery files Jonathan?

  12. Brad says

    I just accessed the court's website through Pacer and found out the plaintiff has filed an appeal. Good for her!

  13. David says

    She lost her case. She was denied her request to refile. As it should be since this case against Yahoo was erroneous from the start.

  14. Doug says

    The Wisconsin State Bar has in past weighed in about her lawyer who is licensed in IL but seems to practice well within Wisconsin.

  15. larry says

    I noticed that PopeHat is censoring comments that do not fit its pre-conceived stereotypes and wishful thinking. Her case could not have been filed unless her attorney's credentials were accepted by the federal court in Milwaukee. It is also true that graduates of the University of Wisconsin and Marquette law schools are not required to pass the bar exam, which is required in every other state in the U.S. Someone previously submitted this comment, but it was deleted by the moderator. Since when does a truthful statement get deleted?

  16. says

    Larry, I'm not aware of any comments being censored. Popehat, you might have noticed, has moderated comments, meaning that a first comment doesn't get posted until a moderator approves it. Since moderators are actual human beings, sometimes it takes them a few hours — or even a day or more — to notice and address pending comments.

    Also, sometimes comments get caught in the spam filter. Since we get upwards of 100 spam comments in the filter per day, sometimes we don't catch those either.

    Generally we don't edit comments just because we disagree with them, nor because they're stupid. We do, on occasion, edit comments (1) by persistent trolls, (2) that try to post inappropriate links [commercial, porn, hate site, etc.] that we don't want here, or (3) that try to post the contact information of individuals to promote harassment.

    I'll look into it. Did you personally post a comment, perhaps under another name, larry? Because a quick search didn't reveal any other comments by a "larry." Now that I search, though, I see that someone from the very same Wisconsin IP address as you submitted a comment with some of the same content just 4 minutes before this one, but used the name "Kyle." Just wondering: are you Kyle, or larry? And are you really so impatient that you start accusing web sites of censorship if your comment isn't approved within four minutes? That's a little . . . needy, isn't it, "larry"?

    Looking into it, as I said. However, posting multiple comments under multiple alias would be one type of conduct that would lead us to consider deletion and IP blocking.

  17. Patrick says

    I deleted the comments, because I thought they added nothing to the discussion. It was some drivel about Stayart's lawyer, which I found irrelevant. Sorry Larry, whatever you were writing didn't interest me. The third time you wrote it, it actively irritated me.

    A better blogger than I automatically closes comments on posts that have reached a certain age. We don't do that, and probably won't, but it isn't a bad idea in some respects. It would cut our spam input.

    So sometimes I don't let comments through our gates. Sue me.