Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Taking Cybersquatting seriously

Cybersquatting is a term that's been around for some time, and which first emerged when Apple Computer sued a teenager who registered the domain Apple.com before the company woke up to the importance of the Internet.

At the time, there were no rules governing the ownership of domain names that are identical to registered brand names and the result was a legal battle, which eventually ended in settlement as Apple decided it would be cheaper to pay this kid several thousand dollars and present him with a gift. As I recall, he was offered an iMac, but asked for a PS2 or XBox.

Shortly afterwards, in 1999, an Anti-cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act was signed into law in the US, and imposes a fine of up to $100,000 in damages for anyone who, with bad-faith intent to profit, "registers, traffics in or uses a domain name that is identical to, confusingly similar or dilutive of" an existing trademark.

Anyway, cybersquatting is now taking center stage again as Microsoft Corp. has filed three lawsuits against cybersquatters for online trademark infringement by people seeking profit from pay-per-click advertising.

Addresses Microsoft is aiming legal action against include the likes of xbox360.com, microsoftrebate.com, msnfinance.com", and although Microsoft hasn't mentioned it I would expect it includes www.IE7.com (Internet Explorer version 7) which has been registered by Firefox fans and the site says download Firefox instead!

Microsoft is even going after "typosquatters"- people who register Web addresses either with trademarked terms or with common misspellings in the hopes of luring Web surfers who mistype addresses into their sites.

Back here at home, one of the best known local examples of cybersquatting is www.royaljordanian.com, registered by a local tours operator, forcing Royal Jordanian to use www.rja.com and www.royaljordanianairlines.com.

To my knowledge, no action was taken, as there is no cybersquatting law in Jordan so far.

All that Royal Jordanian can do is try to negotiate a price to buy the domain from this travel agency! Even our country name, Jordan.com, is suffering from a cybersquatter who clearly states on the site that "we are not affiliated in any way with the country of Jordan."

On another note, soon we'll be hearing about cybersquatters using personal names as domains. For example, does famous Egyptian singer Amr Diab own amrdiab.com? No, some cybersquatter registered it first! So, he has settled for amrdiabworld.com. As for Lebanese singer Hayfa Wahbe, she registered hayfawehbe.com, but every other variation on her name- and there are many ... Haifa Wahbe, Haifa Wahbeh, Hayfa Wahbeh and others- are registered by fans and cybersquatters.

So, nowadays, one of the first things any Internet user must do is secure his/her own domain name. I've registered www.zeidnasser.com, and it opens up several possibilities for me such as moving my blog to that address in the future or simply blocking its use by anyone else, including some people who may turn that domain into a site of 'undesirable' content. It could be used as a practical joke to make fun of me, or just become a gambling site or worse- if you know what I mean!

This could happen to you too.Companies, organizations, individuals and even countries need to keep in mind the danger of cybersquatters and therefore must take the pre-caution of registering their relevant domain names.

Now, where's my credit card?

Zanasser@gmail.com
(Published in The Star newspaper)

12 Comments:

At 2:08 PM , Anonymous Tololy said...

Thank you for a very informative article.

 
At 2:29 PM , Blogger Zeid Nasser said...

Thanks Tololy for your kind remarks.

Keep visiting!

 
At 3:08 PM , Anonymous Roba said...

The Firefox fans thing on ie7.com is hilarious :)

 
At 3:30 PM , Blogger Emirates Mac said...

Interesting... do you have a source for the apple.com cybersquatting? I Google and can't find it but I'd like to read more on it.

 
At 4:28 PM , Anonymous 7ala said...

Interesting wallah , Thank you for the article Zeid , I have read it to the end bedon nafas :)

 
At 4:28 PM , Blogger Basem said...

Informative as usual Zeid, i did my bit and registered my family name's .net & .org variants and wasn't bothered with other extensions, though missed on the .com one which was registered by an UAE company trying to secure-in all variations of its arabic name!

FireFox users are fanatical, as the http://www.firefox.com address illustrate, a FireFox enthusiast gave away the domain to Mozilla.

Mozilla on the other hand placed an unmissable thank you note to the guy, and also shared the placeholder single page website with another company with the same name, no place for fuming corporate greed!

 
At 6:20 PM , Blogger Abu Shreek said...

Thanks for the multiple Haifa links.

 
At 7:32 PM , Blogger Zeid Nasser said...

Shukran Roba, 7ala, Basem and Abu Shreek.

As for Emirates Mac, well the source of the Apple.com story is my 'memory', I've been a weekly technology columnist for The Star newspaper since 1991.... and at Arabia.com (rest in peace) at the time (which means it could be on the net) and I wrote about this back when it happened and it was all over the news.

I'll try to dig it up for you sir!

 
At 10:02 PM , Blogger Emirates Mac said...

I'd really appreciate it Zeid ;-)

 
At 12:43 AM , Blogger Zeid Nasser said...

HERE IS THE PROOF.... actually, my memory didn't completely serve me well, as the domain in question here is appleimac.com...

Still, apple.com or appleimac.com, both are big news!

Here's the link from 1999. (I even got the year right in my article..)

CNET.

 
At 12:24 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the term 'squatting' doesn't really apply here (given the notoriety of the capitalist definition of squatting).
Squatting is the act of occupying an empty 'existing' real-estate somewhere in a city where dilapidation and negligence has forced the place to be neglected and 'misused'. Naturally it's the right of the sleep-walking owner to evict the so-called miscreants from his recently-appreciated property. This doesn't apply to the free-spirit/free-market of finders/keepers internet. The 'real-estate' doesn't exist. The people buying domain names show frontierism that should be rewarded by lazy grey-haired corporations who allowed a potentially profitable idea be snatched form under their noses.
Hail to the free-loaders. Without their adventurism the internet as a freedom platform wouldn't exist ..

 
At 6:10 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

the guy who registered appleimac was LEBANESE guy. hes very smart guy i know him through friends believe it or not

 

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