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CyberSquatting And Copyright Infringement

Written by Justin G

Friday, March 28th, 2008

“Cybersquatting” has been something fairly common in the industry for a while. I’m sure even some of you that are reading this may buy and hold domains based on the fact that price and value goes up every year. Something however that has a lot of businesses and organizations on the defense is the fact that thousands of domains are registered every year with copyright names within or as a part of the domain registered.

The views on this issue are somewhat split. While some ‘squatters’ have registered domains to put defamatory content about a company, others have registered various domains and jacking up prices to ridiculous amounts in hopes of a company with that name wanting to buy it.

Let me give you one example of what I am talking about. Locally here in the Houston area where our corporate office is located, there is a car dealership that is very well known named Munday Chevrolet. You would think they own mundaychevrolet.com right? Wrong. They own munday-chevrolet.com, a second rate domain name for your company if you ask me.

If you go to mundaychevrolet.com you will find very brief text from the website owner saying why he would never buy a car from Munday Chevrolet. Previously the site was used for pornography. Thats got to be bad for business especially when you have to tell potential customers to add a dash in the middle of your name.

Lets take an even bigger name into consideration that caused a legal battle for years, nissan.com as opposed to nissanusa.com. The only problem here is that this is a bit complicated. What happens when your last name is truly Nissan? This guy is not trying to ‘cybersquat’ at all. He has a legitimate computer business he is running on this site. It’s unfortunate that Nissan motor company had a lawsuit filed against this guy. So where does the gray line run into black and white, making things clear as to what domain you should and shouldn’t be able to own without legal ramifications? (Read more about the Nissan case HERE.)

According to a group called the “World Intellectual Property Organization” that watches over ‘cybersquatting’ occurrences, it has been reported that the snatching up of domain names of popular celebrities names and corporations from the previous year is up 18%, and is continuing to rise. The industries that had the largest issues with this was biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. Closely following was financial institutions and banking.

The fact is, anyone can register a domain name, and people will continue to register domains that contain parts of or even full trademarked names. We could go on even further with domains that are typos as well, but I’m gonna leave it at that. Now its your turn to give us your thoughts. Where should the lines be drawn?

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  • GMan

    I think the Munday Chevrolet thing is hilarious! but generally speaking whether legal or not, it is unethical to intentionally register someone else’s name in an attempt to profit. Just my 2 cents. ;-)

  • Justin G

    Its unethical but that won’t stop people, especially when living in certain countries that don’t see it the same way because of different local laws.

  • Richard F

    Despite their suggestions to the contrary most, if not all domain registrars encourage this behavior. Every domain registrar I know offers bulk registration and has a convenient reseller marketplace. Some offer bulk pricing on domains. I think this encourages people to register every name they can think of or generate using software, and see who’s willing to pony up a few bucks.

    IANA has allowed this to happen for years and appears not to care.

  • brianm

    The Munday Chevy thing is absolutely hilarious!
    I bet you that the person that owns that name could get a free new car in trade for the domain name. If not a new car, they could ask for a ton of money. They could probably get it to. If not I bet the lawyers at the car dealership will try to sue them for the name.

  • Dave

    When will Windows Shared Plans be up!!!???

  • http://www.robocoder.ca Anthon

    We can all learn by stealing a page from the domain squatter playbook. Typo squatting? redhat.com has redaht.com.

    Domain names with dashes aren’t that bad. The names are inherently SEF, so they’re suited to stealth web sites.

  • Debbi

    A specific scenario:

    In Nashville there is an elderly legendary country music singer who still performs regularly, but the dear gent has no idea about today’s electronics.

    I’d noticed that it was not he who had ownership to hisownname.com and he said someone had stolen his name.

    Upon researching and contacting the person who had registered it a few years back, I learned that the registered owner (who resides in TX) had discovered several star’s domains a few years ago and registered them himself “for safe keeping.”

    When I asked him if my singer friend could have his rightful dot-com, this guy said sure, all he wanted was the money he had in to it, which, he said, was about $500.

    I couldn’t bring myself to mention it to the country singer, he being clueless about such things. Meanwhile, don’t you know that this guy in TX actually renewed the domain name again, even knowing the real owner should have his own name. Guess he doesn’t mind making the “investment.”

  • joey

    Thats… Life in the big city bud!

  • http://www.bozebo.com bozebo

    i think it should be illegal.. i know its a bit hrd to regulate and would annoy some ppl.. but hey, its nasty – just like stealing, assault etc. other illegal things

  • ClearpointTech

    Cybersquatting IS illegal. The trick is meeting the requirement of proof of intention on the defendant side. Add to the cost of legal action, and it’s almost impossible for small business and individuals.

    Here’s a good writeup on the anti-cybersquatting laws and remedies:

    http://www.bitlaw.com/internet/domain.html

  • tom

    I think cybersquatting has really gotten out of hand. A small time entrepeneur like myself independently thinks of a great name but find someone else has only registered it in the hope of getting rich off of it. Not proper names or brand names, just regular word combos. Most real sites these days are broken in one way or another and the rest are squatters. Munday Chevrolet has a good case if they want to take the guy to court. They have the right to the domain name because Munday is the real name of someone connected with the company and they have a history. The squatter isn’t contributing anything. He’d be better off filing on a complaints board. Google will pick it up and people will find it.

  • Zishan

    I know people will disagree, but I think one way to cut-down on cyber squatters is actually to raise the price of registering a domain. $8/9 is too little.

    This way you only get a domain if you really need it. And simply hosting it for ads won’t be worth it. Plus the extra money can fund taking action against cyber-squatters. Anyone with me?

  • Dave

    Last year I had some serious issues with my Kia and their warranty work (our car was in the dealership from May to September, except for a few days). I bought two websites that both had the word Kia with the intention of using it as my ace in the hole and threaten to build a “gripe site”.

    I learned a few things. Most importantly, if you are using someone else’s trademarked name, NEVER try to make money on it (even ad words, don’t offer to sell the name, no links to affiliate programs, no advertisements, etc). Doing so makes your site a commercial enterprise and is covered by different laws.

    If you keep your site a gripe site, and don’t try to profit from it in any way, then you probably will be covered via the First Amendment of the Constitution. According to the lawyers that I talked to, there is a big (huge) difference. Included among the differences, is that some courts will award damages (money) to you if someone tries to take away your rights. See Crown Pontiac v. Ballock.

    Public Citizen has a complete history and some tips for others. citizen.org

  • http://labanjohnson.com Laban Johnson

    People should have sense enough to register their own domain names. Duh. Domains names are a commodity like anything else. Sorry!

  • Michael Goldberg

    I think ICANN should have some guidelines, that if a domain registrar doesn’t meet, they should have to transfer the domain to its respective inquirer.

    In cases like nissan.com, with all due respect, the larger company should pay the smaller company based on projected earnings for the smaller company for X amount of years (say 20) and added incentive. This way everything can be respectable; the larger company get what it wants, and the smaller company is adequately compensated and unable to capitalize on the popularity of the larger company to market its products/services.

    If the domain registrar is not affiliated with any business or organization of the domain name, they should just have to hand it over (without being compensated).

    When trying to think of a name for my design business, I found it very frustrating, that a lot of really cool business names that appealed to me, weren’t available as .com

  • http://www.griffindesign.net.au Rachelle Griffin

    I think that the case nissan vs nissan is just absolutely ridiculous, Nissan Motors is a bully.

    At the end of the day with domain names, it is first in best dressed.

    Why on earth did Nissan Motors allow anyone to get in before them and purchase the key domain name? I mean seriously, how much money and how many employees do they have??

    They should have been more on the ball and not missed the boat…too bad so sad…

    Personally if you are going to start a business, before deciding on its name, the first thing i would do is check if the URL was available, if it wasnt then i would be rethinking the name.

  • Thea

    It is really too bad, that cybersquatting is legal and companies that obtained their trademark after the squatter bought the domain can’t do anything to get the domain. It should fall under a law similar to the trademark law- when you do not use the URL with intent, you should not be allowed to keep it.

  • sam

    I hate cybersquatters.

    They should be killed.

    Seriously, 99.99% of domain names are these retarded search results that SUCK. HOW ARE THEY MAKING MONEY. They are stifling actual business… so now we have these equally retarded Web 2.0 names.

    Fuck squatters. Limit people and corporations to 20 domains or something.

  • http://www.cybersquatting.com Wanda Zamboni

    It’s incredible what big business cybersquatting is, and how adroit skilled cybersquatters are at tasting and dropping unprofitable domain names. Pick any major company, and you can find tens of good cybersquatted domain names in minutes. Sometimes these domains attract tens of thousands of visitors a month.

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