Frager Factor

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Dan's Domain Site: Some of the odder domain conflicts

Dan Tobias is the foremost expert on Domain Names. I learned so much from my visits there in the early 90s and rediscovered him again last night. I think you will enjoy this. Here's where Dan describes some of the odder domain conflicts, which don't fit into the neat categories elsewhere in the site.


Here's a really odd one. The katie.com case is a very interesting one -- in this case, the problem is not that somebody is challenging the domain owner (who is named Katie, and thus has a reasonable right to use the name on the Internet). Rather, the problem is that Penguin Books published a book by a (different) woman named Katie describing her experience being sexually abused by somebody she met (while still a minor) on an Internet chat room; and they named the book katie.com, obviously thinking they were being trendy and cutesy in this era where every drooling idiot seems to think tagging dot-com to everything is a really neat idea. The problem was that neither Penguin nor the book's author actually owned the domain -- it belongs to a woman in England who does not like the attention this has brought her, particularly because she operates an Internet chat site herself and doesn't like it to be associated with the image of pedophiles in chat rooms.

(The book author's actual site is at katiet.com.) That Katie has considered suing the publisher over this appropriation of her Internet address (but hasn't actually done so). Everybody out there who thinks it's cute to stick ".com" on the end of things for effect, without regard to whether they actually own the address in question, should take note.

Update: After several years of nothing much happening in this conflict, it's heated up again in 2004 as the book's author, publisher, and others associated with them are starting to create more products and services connected with it, which they wish to market under the katie.com name. The fact that they don't actually ownthis domain is hence becoming increasingly embarrassing to them. Unfortunately, rather than attempting a straightforward deal to acquire it, they're making threats to the domain owner, accusing her of cybersquatting (but she had the domain before the book existed!), threatening to sue her if she does anything to profit from the domain, and trying to pressure her into "donating" it to the other Katie. She's not going along with any of this. See discussion at GrepLaw and Slashdot.

Further Update: It looks like Penguin has given in... they've renamed the book to remove the conflict with the unrelated Web site.

Sometimes, lots of people can be the innocent victims of a domain conflict to which they're not even a party. AT&T, which acquired the ISP mediaone.net, told the hundreds of thousands of customers who have email or Web addresses using that domain that they had to change it to attbi.com, because some Midwestern ad agency was in an intellectual property dispute over the domain name which AT&T has no interest in fighting. So they just handed it over -- AT&T's marketing types would probably rather that they use a domain with attin it anyway (though attbi.com is a Stupid Unnecessary Domain Name TM when a logical subdomain ofatt.com or att.net would have worked fine), so it's just the customers who are screwed, and nobody cares about them! Just another reason why it makes sense to get your own domain so you don't have to rely on your ISP for stability of your email or Web address... (News article about this which I used to link to is no longer online.)

Some other odd conflicts...

  • hoopla.com hijacking -- somebody apparently forged the documents to transfer a domain (registered through Network Solutions, which has the dubious distinction of having the highest price and the worst service of any registrar) against its owner's will, and Network Solutions is now saying it's the domain owner's problem, not theirs.
  • Network Solutions Hijacks Domain -- the story of how a domain was deleted and allowed to be re-registered (as a porn site) when the registrant was thought (incorrectly) to have failed to pay the renewal fee.
  • On the other side of the "non-renewed-domain re-registration" issue, the current holder of lawyer.netregistered it after the domain was released due to alleged nonpayment by the previous owner. However, the prior registrar now claims the payment was received and the releasing of the domain was in error, and is trying to get the domain transferred back to the original owner. The current registrant is objecting. See the above site for more information (if its URL hasn't already been restored to the previous owner).
  • Network Solutions refused to register the domain shitakemushrooms.com, because its first four letters are "indecent". Network Solutions claimed its own First Amendment rights permit it to apply moral standards to the domains they allow to be published, but that's somewhat unclear given the fact that their (then) domain-registrar monopoly status was theirs as a result of a government grant. (Meanwhile, the domain bereshit.com was successfully registered, with a name that is the first word of the Book of Genesis in its original Hebrew, but would also trigger the Internic "indecency filter".)
  • Russ Smith claims that InterNIC "stole" his name from him. He came up with the idea for a service called "WWWhois", a web service that queries the various WhoIs servers to see who owns a domain name. However, he didn't register the domain name "wwwhois.com" himself. Next thing he knew, he found that InterNIC had registered the domain wwwhois.com for themselves, apparently getting the idea from Smith's site (as evidenced by the fact that InterNIC marketing people had contacted him about joining their affiliate program). Smith is mad about this and is thinking of suing, though I doubt he has a case unless he actually trademarked the name before InterNIC registered it. It probably just serves him right that he didn't register the name when he first got the idea.

Other Links

  • Cybersquatters Against Hate seeks to intentionally cybersquat domain names associated with names of hate groups, to stop the "haters" from using them themselves. This job is going to get harder as the number of TLDs increases! (This is also another in a long line of noncommercial projects that followed the lemmings and used an inappropriate .com address for its own domain...)
  • The Domain Preserve aims to "preserve" domains in their "natural environment" by getting people to register them before the speculators / cybersquatters / corporations can, and point them at their page.
  • Public Citizen has a page on Internet free speech that discusses domain conflicts.
  • Get Out of My Namespace -- article on naming conflict by James Gleick.


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