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    Perl Archive : TLC : General Interest : Domain Wars
    Guide Search entire directory 

    Date Published: 2000-04-01

    by Marnie Pehrson

    All's fair in love and war - right? If this is true, then there are wars being waged every day in cyberspace. There's been a lot of talk in Internet circles about Cybersquatting -- registering a domain name like when another company claims the right to use the name. Many times people register conflicting domains purely innocently -- not realizing someone else has a trademark on the name. Other times, companies register domains intentionally to play off the popularity of other sites. For example, a Greek book company registered to benefit from the popularity of As you might suspect, Amazon sued them over it.

    But, a rarely discussed reason for cybersquatting on other people's territory is competition and revenge. What better way to get back at an ex-partner or competitor than to register domains confusingly similar to theirs? Or to register domains that mimic your competitor's trademark or given name?

    You might wonder, ''Why in the world would someone risk a lawsuit for this type of competition or revenge?'' Good question. Your guess is as good as the next person's. But it happens every day. For example, one Webmaster I know, recently discovered that his former-partner and now arch-rival registered my associate's given name as a domain!

    But the battleground doesn't stop at cybersquatting, for many it extends into the practice of copying your competitor's layout and design. Many webmasters find that they no sooner put a new feature on their site than their competitor has added the same thing. Others discover that their entire layout and design have been copied.

    If you become embroiled in one of these battles, what can you do? The first step is to document what has happened. For example, if someone is copying your site, get screen shots of your site and theirs. You can do this using the Print Screen button on your keyboard and then using Edit and Paste to copy the screen capture into a graphics program. Also keep hard copies of all correspondence -- email or otherwise. Keep a log on what happens each step of the way, especially if the battle transforms from competition to harassment. With your documentation in hand, you have two options.

    Option 1: Fight it

    File a complaint with Internic at and/or ICANN at Internet Corp. For Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a non-profit group charged with overhauling some of the Internet's key management issues. They recently approved a procedure for handling disputes over top-level domain names -- Internet addresses ending with .org, .net, and .com. If you have proof, you can also notify their hosting provider. Many hosting providers have rules about these types of actions.

    Have your lawyer draft and send a letter insisting that the other party cease and desist use of your trademarked or copyrighted material or domain. Many people will back down when they receive a lawyer's letter. But if they are prepared for serious battle, they most likely were expecting you to do this and are ready to dig in their heels.

    It's a good idea to find a friend or relative who is a lawyer, because these things can get into long expensive legal battles if one side doesn't back down. As you may surmise, many of those instigating these domain wars are wealthy enough to afford lawyers and already have them on retainer or are married to a lawyer, have a friend or family member who is a lawyer, or barter legal services for Web services or advertising.

    Option 2: Ignore it

    As my lawyer once told me, ''Nobody wins in these disputes -- except the lawyers.'' This brings us to a final alternative -- ignore it, pity them. Dwell on the sad state of affairs it is when someone has nothing better to do with their life and money than to spend $70/pop buying domains, not to mention the legal expenses, just to tick other people off. Think of the toys they could buy for their children, the food they could buy for their families, or the poor people they could feed with the money they waste on purchasing domain names and fighting legal battles purely for spite! So the final alternative is to pity them and count your blessings.

    In the end, it's your call. Only you can decide whether it's best for you to ignore it or dig in and fight. But, no matter which option you choose, you can always take comfort in knowing that ''what goes around comes around.''  

    by Marnie Pehrson


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