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America Online

AOL accused of domain name hijacking 150

Michael Fischer sent us an interesting story about AOL using trademark leverage on African-America OnLine Search, which had been registered in Sept of 1998 as aolsearch. AOL wanted to use it as the search location for their web site, although it does not seem to be currently in use. The {former} owner of the domain is accusing of Network Solutions of "an arrogant, indifferent attitude" to the problems surrounding the dispute.
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AOL accussed of domain name hijacking

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  • If she can get her domain back without a lawsuit, then she won't bring one up. If NSI refutes her claim (which is valid) she should sue NSI, not AOL. I don't see where AOL is really to blame in this unless they actually went to NSI and made some under-the-table deal. NSI is the one who transferred the domain name over without permission. AOL may have pressured them, but NSI is the only one with the capability of actually doing the deed. If this is typical (and I don't know if it is) then they should be stripped of their gov't contract and it should be assigned to a company that can do it right.

    Also...

    You agree that you will not
    reproduce, sell, transfer, or modify any of the data presented in response to your search request, or use of any such data for commercial purpose, without the prior express written permission of Network Solutions.

    Isn't this reproduction of results from his query? Did 'Daveo' get proper permissions before posting this? Just to clarify it a bit, that should be written: "You agree that you will not (reproduce, sell, transfer, or modify results) or (use results for a commercial purpose)..." meaning the commercial use is a separate clause from the rest. I think. As long as we're talking about lawsuits and NSI and all...
    ~Anguirel (lit. Living Star-Iron)
    "Veni; Vidi; Vi C++"

  • by CountZer0 ( 60549 ) on Thursday June 24, 1999 @07:09AM (#1835051) Homepage
    This Should do it:
    [rs.internic.net]


    Registrant:
    America Online, Inc (AOLSEARCH-DOM)
    22000 AOL Way
    Dulles, VA 20166
    US

    Domain Name: AOLSEARCH.COM

    Administrative Contact, Technical Contact, Zone Contact, Billing Contact:
    AOL Domain Administration (AD3852-ORG)
    domains@AOL.NET (703) 265-4670

    Record last updated on 13-May-99.
    Record created on 22-Jun-98.
    Database last updated on 23-Jun-99 08:35:41 EDT.

    Domain servers in listed order:

    DNS-01.NS.AOL.COM 198.81.17.232
    DNS-02.NS.AOL.COM 205.188.157.232


    You agree that you will not reproduce, sell, transfer, or
    modify any of the data presented in response to your search request, or
    use of any such data for commercial purpose, without the prior
    express written permission of Network Solutions.
    I used "blockquote" not "pre"... and put "br" after each line.
    Oh yeah, to put this back on topic...

    I believe that AOL will succeed in stealing aolsearch.com. (Actually, thay have already been successful, and I doubt that the origional owner will succeed in getting it back)

    Why? Because AOL is a trademark. AOLSearch is a natural and logical extension to that trademark. AOL has been around and has used the AOL brand for years. Any judge in this land will side with AOL. Especially since AOL is an internet company who provides search services. I was recently involved in another domain name despute. A client of mine registered tumbleweedsbar.com. This client owns a bar called Tumbleweeds. There is a company in Kentucky that owns a whole chain of restaurants called Tumbleweeds. Both are valid company names, as there is no Tumbleweeds here in Florida. Tumbleeds of Kentucky succesfully sued for the use of the domain name tumbleweedsbar.com. The judge sided with them because they had established the trademark tumbleweeds and also had bars in their restaurants. The Judge decreed that a natural confusion would result in my clients use of the domain name tumbleweedsbar.com. The law seems to place imphasis on customer perception. This is why Gateway can sue other computer companies who use cows in advertisements, but can't sue the dairy industry. There would be no customer confusion, as the two companies do completely different things. In the case of aolsearch.com, AOL has clearly offered search capabilities to its clients for as long as it has been in business, so customer confusion is highly likely to occur. In fact, I would be willing to bet that many of the hits to the OLD aolsearch.com site where by people trying to find an AOL search engine, not the African-American OnLine Search that they ended up finding. I personally believe that this was a case of deliberate deception on the case of African-American Online. I know that when I first heard the name aolsearch.com I INSTANTLY thought of AOL (American OnLine) not anything else. I believe that this was an attempt just like whitehouse.com to lure unsuspecting people to a site that did not contain the expected content.

    I do not agree with the method AOL used to obtain control of the domain name. This case should have gone to court. Network Solutions has placed themselves in a precarious position on this one, and I believe has opened themselves up for suit. I believe AOL has the right to control AOLSearch.com but I do not believe that it is up to NSI to mediate that right, nor to just hand over the domain when requested. NSI should maintain a stance of neutrality, and then abide by whatever the courts decide.

    -Count Zero-
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I am a former AOL employee, and hence the post as anonymous coward. To complain, mail Keith Jenkins (think he's second in command at AOL) at kjhelp@aol.com I figure a trillion or so hate mails are probably well deserved. Your domain could be next!!
  • Yup...everyone's an asshole, except me :)

  • Glad to see that this attempt to confuse and deceive users into mistakenly wandering into her site failed due to her own screw-up (giving an incorrect address). Cheers to NSI!>>>>>>


    No one would misconstrue a webguide devoted to Black empowerment and culture on the web to a private online BBS service called AOL.
    180 degrees apart from one another.

    The domain information in the WHOIS database for AOLSearch.com was 100% correct and verifiable.
    Screenshots were taken of the WHOIS database when it was last updated for AOLSearch July 28th, 1998 as proof.... Other domains are registered to the same address and prove irrefutably that the address of record was correct..In fact domain billing mail was received 2 days before NSI claims to have received returned mail. NSI refuses to show any proof they even sent mail or received it returned to them (they say they don't have to prove anything for themselves)
    To see more proof NSI abusing it's own policy, please go to http://www.webmasterfx.com/aolsearch.htm [webmasterfx.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The point is that Congress is trying to criminalize otherwise legitimate transactions. The basis for laws should be "provable harm". Who is harmed by me registering bigcorp.com, as long as I am not actually trying to fraudulently pass myself off as _being_ BigCorp? No one. A domain name is not a corporation, and owning a domain with the same name as a corporation is not automatically an infringement on their trademark. The Metropolitan Opera, Metropolitan Life Insurance, Metropolitan Auto Repair, and Metropolitan Catering can all exist without the existence of any of them being considered an infringement on the trademark of any other; we've long accepted that multiple entities can have the same name. Likewise with web sites.

    The possession of a domain name therefore not being automatically an infringement on an existing trademark, the ownership of a domain name representing an existing trademark is legitimate. If the ownership of the name is legitimate, the sale and transfer thereof must also be legitimate.

    IANAL, but if I were, this would be what I'd argue. :-)
  • So of course NSI is going to fold easily to AOL, esp. back in 1998.

    First, NSI had a monopoly then. What were people going to do, boycott?

    Second, AOL is a mucking huge company. So if I'm some small company, and NSI screws me, I could sue them, but they probably could afford dragging it out much longer than I could afford.

    However, AOL has a zip code full of lawyers who only purpose is to be thrown at people whom they don't like. NSI could weather the smaller companies lawsuit, no problem, but would be hurt badly from AOL's lawsuit.

    Lastly, AOL needs to protect the AOL trademark. AOLSearch has potential to dilute the trademark.

    It sucks. NSI sucks. AOL sucks. However, in the end, neither NSI nor AOL had a choice in the matter.
  • by DonkPunch ( 30957 ) on Thursday June 24, 1999 @07:18AM (#1835065) Homepage Journal
    Is cybersquatting really that evil? I've always thought of the domain name business as something similar to real estate. If I know a company wants to put a mall in the vacant lot across the street, it's a good idea for me to buy that lot before they do.

    I could see exceptions in cases where the name infringes on a trademark. In the real world, though, most of us who want to register a domain spend a long time trying to find names that aren't already taken. So AOL's "first" choice was taken -- boo hoo. Do what the rest of us who can't afford legal departments do -- pay up or pick a different name.

    I don't think that cybersquatting is a real _classy_ thing to do, but I'm uncomfortable with legislation against it. IMHO, lawyers and politicians have a history of Bad Ideas when it comes to technology. How clear will those laws be? Who wants to be dragged into court to defend their site because an advertising agency decided they should have your domain name?

    Finally, I don't think a cybersquatting law would matter in this case. The domain was actually in use. There does not appear to be any intent to infringe on the aol trademark. Does just using the letters 'a', 'o', and 'l' make you a trademark violator?
  • Why is it that I am not surprised by this? For quite some time I've seen Steve Case as a "Billy G. Wannabe". This is yet even more ammunition for my irritability and the fact that he 1) Bought Netscape, and 2) Teamed up with Sun should just help prove why Linus' creation has become so popular.

    Something's going to have to give here folks, this is beginning to get out of hand.
  • Of course AOL have used the name AOLsearch as the name for their internal web search engine for quite some time - at least two years. With that as prior usage, one does wonder who was doing some cybersquatting....

    S.

  • The Metropolitan Opera, Metropolitan Life Insurance, Metropolitan Auto Repair, and Metropolitan Catering can all exist without the existence of any of them being considered an infringement on the trademark of any other;

    The big difference here is that the four Metropolitan companies you mention are all engaged in different businesses. Trademark laws take in to account the customer's perception of a name, and also the activities of the entity using the name. Metropolitan Auto Repair could sue me (successfully) if I started a company in the same customer space called Metropolitan Car Service. The law makes it clear that if customer confusion would result, then the origional owner of the trademark can stop the use of a confusing derivation of the trademark. Important aspects are the "same customer space" ie: I can open up Metropolitan Car Service here in Florida (assuming there is not already a company similarly named here) but I could not do so in the same state as Metropolitan Auto Repair. Since the Internet crosses such geographic boundaries, and is essentially a SINGLE customer space, the laws will side with the oldest trademark holder who is ingaged in a similar business where customer confusion would result from the new usage of the trademark derivative.

    -Count Zero-
  • There is no excuse for AOL to be using its leverage against a private citizen. It is atrocious to think that Network Solutions has been behaving like a monopoly when its license from the NSF strictly forbids such behaviour. But this has always been so, hasn't it?

    I wonder if the commerce department and the NSF should revoke both NSI's license as the Domain Host and AOL's upcoming status as a Domain host Provider.
    Call it racism, sexism, money politics, or whatever; it still is wrong.
    Besides it does not matter that she used aolsearch.com as a site name. It was registered to her first, AOL has stolen it without consent. I suggest you write your Senator or Congressman.
  • > if you weren't white you might understand.

    I happen to be white, and even I understand enough to be at least mildly offended by this dork
    ---
  • "... why should they get first pick of all the toys, even after the other kids have claimed them? "

    it's called trademark law.

    and it's also how america works. the first lawsuit i can remember like this was the guy who registered mcdonalds.com and tried to sell it to the real mcdonalds. it's like ticket scalping in principle, and several states do have laws again ticket scalping (and i think all should). i hope we can all agree that if i had a company named 'ReallyBigToys', and had registered that as a trademark, and had registered 'reallybigtoys.com', and someone registered 'BUYreallybigtoys.com' or anything similar, that would clearly violate the system.

    i'm not saying the system is good. i'm not saying it's evil.

    in fact, i'm not saying anything at all, except aolsearch.com is clearly protected under copyright law, as sure as i can't label my home-bottled brews 'Budweiser' and try to sell them.

    but i will say this: aol had much more proper channels to go through to resolve this. hijacking just because you can is absolutely ridiculous, and as many people on this thread have stated, NSI should not be the deciding body. if the woman from the original aolsearch.com had paid her dues signifying the binding contract, NSI should be facing some kind of penalty for breaking that contract.

    i am sam i am.
  • Hi Cybele!
    I'm the Executive Director of Mail Abuse Prevention System LLC, and I know from this experience that Network Solutions has *never* revoked or transferred a domain registration for lacking "valid" contact information. As a matter of fact, I have reported invalid contact information to NSI on several occasions, as have others. NSI has not only refused to take action in such cases, they have stated that they have *no* intention of dealing with this issue. In other words, NSI adopted this "policy" only in order to justify the transfer of the aolsearch.com domain to AOL.
    I sincerely hope you will file a lawsuit against NSI over this incident. If you decide to do so please let me know and I will help gather information to show that (1) NSI has consistently refused to take action against those who have submitted invalid contact information, (2) NSI adopted this "new" policy only recently, and (3) NSI enforces its "policy" *very* selectively. My email address is nick@vix.com. Good luck! Nick
  • You miss the point... to the unknowing world at large, every website (and that is all a domain name is to them) starts with http://www. and ends with .com - I had the hardest time explaining to a relatively techno savvy lawyer friend why they didn't make better use of namespace by having prefixes other than http for website URI's

    The already proposed new TLD's (.shop etc.) may as well not be created either.

    As far as corporate bullies having over the little guy, isn't this supposed to be the land of the free, where anyone can aspire to be president (so long as they are over 30, a natural born citizen, oh and white, rich, male, straight, married, christian, right wing, .....)

    Democracy? ROFL. Relax guys. In Scotland we invented democracy for the little guy (well, country) and declarations of independence 370 years before you did, and we still have some rights of the upper classes enshrined in law ;-)






  • The {former} owner of the domain is accusing of Network Solutions of "an arrogant, indifferent attitude" to the problems surrounding the dispute.

    Isn't this they've behaved in EVERY domain name dispute?

  • I don't see why this is such a problem, AOL should be able to come up with something more original than "AOLSEARCH" don't they still have webcrawler anyway...who knows

    I guess nobody will be happy until IPv6 is widely available and network solutions looses their monopoly on domain registration.
  • Since when has Network Solutions needed a dispute in order to act with "an arrogant, indifferent attitude"?
  • I think by a little snooping you could find out that it was somebody trying to make money... From looking at the poor quality (way to long to look at the home page with a 56K modem)of the site (how many went to the site?) then looking at the OLDEST file on the site (1.html dated 11/17/98) doesn't hold up to the claims... Sept hummmm...
  • The site has SO MANY LARGE FILES on it that it would depend on the internet trafic...
  • by JEP ( 28735 )
    I really don't understand. Shouldn't it be aaolsearch? I mean, if you're going to use "O" and "L" in a word like "online", it makes no sense to use only one "a".

    Granted, I think if she registered for it first and had a legitimate interest in it (rather than domain name squatting), she should keep it.

    Still, this never should have happened.

    --

  • She is just trying to make money... The dates on her files DO not jive with the time she say's it happened...
  • by MrEd ( 60684 ) <tonedog.hailmail@net> on Thursday June 24, 1999 @06:23AM (#1835084)
    ... ALWAYS get an agreement in writing. A verbal agreement (over the phone, no less) is practically worthless legally. Remember - if you ever think you might get stomped on by a large corporation, get all the "assurances" in writing. That or else you'll be another bug on the road to more multimillion dollar profits.

    Hindsight is 20/20...

  • I can't get it from Work or home, but then thats not suprising - is it?

    Duh.

    * Paul Madley ...Student, Artist, Techie - Geek *
  • If the article is accurate, there is nothing the original webmaster can do. AOL is a huge business and can get what it wants done legally or not. I think that even though the author may have been first, she will not get that domain back.

    I would say that this is fuel for the "NSI is evil" fire but how often do we see the little guy get crushed by big business? Look at the alleged practices by Microsoft and Intel.

    I hope this can be resolved, after all the webmaster did not authorize the transfer. However I am skeptical that the system will actually work in this case.
    -Clump

  • ?) then looking at the OLDEST file on the site (1.html dated 11/17/98) doesn't hold up to the claims... Sept hummmm...>>>>>> AOLSearch was created 6/22/98, work commenced in Spet. 98 and th esite was deleted and transfered to Amercia Online 5/13/99......
  • One last time:

    AOLSearch.com
    Born June 22nd 1998
    Kidnapped May 13th 1999


  • Last week, a bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate designed to make cybersquatting a crime. Michigan Senator Spencer Abraham's Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act would bring fines of up to $300,000 against individuals who register someone else's trademarked domain name with the intent of selling it later.

    Shit... Whatever happened to free trade? Oh, I forgot...America.

  • If I may caution you, please try to avoid being reactionary. This was one article describing what happened and there are many sides. For one, the article was only telling the story from the "victim's" point of view. Plus, it is counterproductive to assume that it is racially motivated without any evidence.

    For all I know, this could be racially motivated. I know no more than others on this topic. However, it would seem more logical that this is a case of "big business" bullying the "little guy". Until we know all sides of the story, lets please not start anything racial.
    -Clump
  • by Kaa ( 21510 ) on Thursday June 24, 1999 @07:40AM (#1835094) Homepage
    Anyone stupid enough to register an domain name which is so similar to a big company deserves the grief.

    Well, yes and no. If you take the stance that the world works this way and there is nothing you can do about it, then yes, it's much better not to annoy big corporations and powerful entities in general. Such a position generally makes life easier, more comfortable and, most of the time, allows you to achieve more. The downside is that once in a while the big corporation/government/etc. will come and say "Bend over and spread your legs, now that's a good boy!" and that can be mighty unpleasant and sometimes even fatal.

    You can take the other stance as well and say that in principle there is no difference between a AOL and a mom-and-pop operation running out of a spare bedroom -- they both have the same rights, don't they? So if the big bad corporation want some priviledge, you slap it back and keep slapping until one of you (hint: in 99% of the cases it's not the big corp) keels over. The plus side is that you conscience is very happy and once in a while you'll change the world for the better. The minus side is that it's easy to dedicate your life to fighting a faceless bureaucratic monster with no results and your life or large chunks of it ends up being spend for nothing.

    As has been pointed out in some Usenet .sig, "You shall cooperate with Microsoft for the good of Microsoft and for your own survival". I guess it depends on how much do you want to survive...


    Kaa
  • Remember back in the day, when companies only registered one domain name, and built 'subdomains' based from them? foo.division1.company.com, bar.division2.company.com.. Now, it's more like www.division1company.com..

    These days, namespace pollution is rampant...
  • by sluke ( 26350 ) on Thursday June 24, 1999 @07:41AM (#1835096)
    Perhaps this is an instance in which the massive readership of Slashdot could do some good. I don't think that there is any chance that AOL is going to relinquish this domain any time soon, however perhaps a flood of emails asking informing AOL executives of the situation and asking that:

    A) AOL provide for the costs of registering a new domain for the African-Americans online search engine (perhaps aaolsearch.com) and

    B) AOL put up a web page on the now void aolsearch.com domain which links to the african americans online search page for some agreeable amount of time (I would suggest a year)

    I believe that if we send enough rationally worded emails that these two goals really are achievable. To a large company like AOL public image is really important and if they get 500 emails saying that this move has tarnished their public image they might just do something.


    *** ONE FINAL NOTE ***
    Flamers please don't participate. The rational statements of hundreds of voices can be easily discounted if a person recieves 5 emails telling them to eat sh*t etc. etc. It's time to give our community a positive image again, not vent our pent up adolescent aggression.
  • Of course AOL is doing this to save the price of PAYING for the domain, which they should be forced to do. Problem is they can keep Emanuelle in court a lot longer than she can afford to stay there.

    A friend of mine had his domain taken away by Internic. Internic (now Network Solutions) stated they will obey a court order, even from another country (in that case France), and transfer the site without consent from the current owner. Then the former owner has to fight it out in court. So all AOL has to do is muck up some argument and get any judge to rule for them, which can't be too hard.

    My advice to Emanuelle - try to get a good lawyer to take her case on contingency and make AOL pay a few million for the domain. Then put up her site under aaolsearch.com
  • I seriously doubt that race is the issue here. The bottom line of the incident is that the webmaster had the domain first, whether it was a case of cybersquatting or not, and NSI gave it away without her permission. The latter is the case, and it is no more or less right because of the color of a person's skin.
    -Clump
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Maybe she should get her domain name reserved in a radical African country and then let them use any AOL complaints as propaganda fodder (White Imperialist AOL Attacks Black Woman...)
  • Posted by Lord Kano-The Gangster Of Love:

    If you want to be anonymous, try going to hotmail, yahoo mail, deja or one of the other "free mail" web sites and set up a new account. Give them FALSE INFORMATION. In many states it's not illegal to give false information if there is no fraudulent intent.

    After all if they're forced to disclose account info they'll come looking for the person whom you made up. Granted logs of IP addresses can be tracked back to you, but there's always www.anonymizer.com ot get around that.

    LK
  • Many people would argue that the data isn't NSI's to control in the first place. Also, if this license appears only after you do a domain name lookup, then it may not be valid. For example:

    In reading this Slashdot post, you agree to send me US$5.00.

    Obviously this isn't legally enforceable, and I expect eventually NSI's "agreement" on whois results will be found similarly unenforceable.

  • If anything the free market is responsible for such a Bill. To think that you can have massive private entities, with all their power, and not have them influence other institutions such as Government is as unrealistic as Mao thinking he could propel China into the modern world by having everyone smelt steel in their back yard. This bill is obviously geared towards sheilding large corporations from those who would interfer with profit margines. Us cannon fodder. This is of course nothing new in the world, classic classical liberalism if you will, it just seems people can only keep track of a couple years at a time.
  • Since apparently the standard in trademark disputes is consumer confusion, I propose this poll:

    What is aolsearch.com?
    • AOL search engine
    • African-American Online search
    • a lawsuit waiting to happen
    • what's with all the orange lately?
  • I don't see how anyone could call this a case of Racism. Would AOL had done the same if the woman had been white? YES!!!

    I don't understand why people have to blame EVERYTHING on Racism! And just in case, I am also a minority...

    I personally see this as a simple legal case. The lady sues for breach of contract, and gets the domain back plus a nice monetary compensation. Even if she is accused of squatting, she hasn't been declared guilty, thus I don't see how she can't loose.

    Then if AOL wants its domain, then it can sue for cybersquatting or settle or whatever it wants. Although I feel that legally, they don't have a chance to win.

    Felix
  • Never assume (racist) malice when simple corporate greed will suffice. How does this case differ from a case where the small site was not owned by minorities? Or is there some actual basis for the racist assumption?
  • I think you raised a good point, but I don't feel its in anyone's best interests to kneel to Big Business. After all, that is what Linux is all about.

    Imagine what we would have if people said "Yes, I have a mission-critical application that cannot crash but I will run it on this OS because I am not willing to fight." Imagine if people bowed and stepped aside to Big Business in the United States in the early part of the century. If it was not for a few people who fought faceless beuracracies, there might not be a United States.

    I understand that your post was not aimed at making us submit, but to show that stepping-aside can have benefits. Fighting for a just cause can have its benefits as well. Avoidance nullifies any sense of accomplishment and control. You may feel better to accept some money to suppress what you believe but that is nothing compared to the feeling of emptiness you will feel in the long run. If you fight for what you truly believe in you can't lose.
    -Clump
  • What does the Internet have to do with anything? Are you saying that it's ok for all those companies to have the same name in the phone book, but not to have the domains www.metropolitanauto.com, www.metropolitaninsurance.com, www.metropolitanopera.com, and www.metropolitancatering.com registered because they would cause confusion online? I think that is ridiculous. How is that different from www.aol.com and www.aolsearch.com?

    This person registered the domain and can do with it as she pleases. She did not want to sell it, so it can't be considered cybersquatting. AOL should just pick another domain like everyone else has to do. I seriously doubt anyone can confuse the site with AOL's site. Who goes to AOL's site other than AOL users anyway? They don't even have to enter the url. I don't see the problem here.


  • Are you saying that it's ok for all those companies to have the same name in the phone book,
    but not to have the domains www.metropolitanauto.com, www.metropolitaninsurance.com, www.metropolitanopera.com, and www.metropolitancatering.com registered because they would cause confusion online?

    No, that is not what I am saying. Those domain names do not infringe on trademarks. They are not confusing as they all relate to different markets. If I were to register metropolitanoperas.com or some other derivation thereof, I could expect to be sued by the legitimate owner of the Metropolitan Opera for the use of a confusing derivative of his properly trademarked material.

    -Count Zero-
  • If you look in the Wired News archives, there are some fascinating stories about the guy who originally had sex.com in 1994. Then some con man managed to persuade NSI that HE owned it. The lawsuit has been dragging on for a couple of years now, I think.
  • There is a difference between registering something as blatant as Burger King and registering an acronym that America OnLine uses as a substitute for their name. Her organization happens to have the word OnLine in it as well which is not surprising these days. Hence we have the O and the L. Now from the first part of the organization's name, we could either use the A or a double-A. I think that either way, AOL was going to be ticked off. From the name of her organization, I could come up with two.. well four different options.

    www.aolsearch.com

    www.aaolsearch.com

    www.aols.com

    www.aaols.com

    The first three are quite likely to annoy America OnLine. The last one is just not very appealing. She could have simply used the last one, but I don't see why she should have to. An acronym is an acronym. The letters will be the same, but the meaning is different. Is there any way someone visiting her site would confuse it with America OnLine's site? I doubt it. So where is the consumer confusion? I think AOL was out of line, plain and simple. You shouldn't be able to take someone's domain just because they use the same acronym as you.

  • Honestly - don't you think that the name "aolsearch" has been chosen specifically to drive traffic? If it was meant to be an acronym, "aaolsearch" would have been it. But even if that's the case, there's nothing wrong with it! First comes, first serves! There's "whitehouse.com", and the fed didn't take over that one either!

    I think the behavior of AOL and NSI is incredible arrogant, unseen! They totally contradict past behavior.

  • And aolsearch doesn't fit that? I think aolsearch is at very least at the level at which AOL could start litigation.

    It doesn't matter is AOL wins litigation against NSI or the other company. It just matters that they throw enough lawyers and keep it going long enough to kill the business.
  • Oh, I didn't think you were anti-American. Sorry if I led you to believe that.
  • Assuming she is not some web virtuoso her site was more then just a fluf site. It took a resonalbe amount of effort. Besides what's up with the (regex)*aol* bullshit. Under that thinking registering ww.inteligence.* or www.youngms.*! It's BS. And its at least wrong and at worst racism...


    "There is no spoon" - Neo, The Matrix
    "SPOOOOOOOOON!" - The Tick, The Tick
  • They'll still pay the registration and other fees. It's not a way of getting a domain for free...

    S.
  • Sure they had a choice!!! They could have paid the lady for the domain. She didn't do anything wrong in this case. She was using the domain for a practical purpose and it didn't dilute AOL's trademark. This sucks because AOL and NSI will get away with it. They are way wrong about this and should be stopped!!! David slew goliath.

  • Well, this doesn't square with my experience, which is that they aren't as a group any better or worse to work with than any other group (i.e. it depends on the person).
  • While I'm pissed that www.ben.com (my name)is being cybersquatted, I guess they can do it if they won't.

    Doesn't mean they shouldn't be cautious on crosswalks while I'm around, tho...
  • Network Solutions policy is to sit on old domains for 2 years before they are recirulated. In other words, if I registered deathtobillandhisminions.com (which I can't because it is 2 characters too long), and I decided not to renew my contract, Billy Boy couldn't take it over until after the 2 year wait period was over. Very interesting......

    Me
  • by Danse ( 1026 )

    Well, maybe that didn't sound right to her. Maybe she though AAOL sounded like "Alcoholics Anonymous OnLine" or some such thing. I just saw that www.aaol.com is already registered as well. The fact is that she used an acronym that is perfectly legit for the name of her organization. It doesn't stand for the same thing as America Online's acronym does, and I'm quite certain that nobody could confuse her site with America Online. That should have been the end of the story. Unfortunately, get enough money and lawyers together and any hope of justice is right out the window.

  • Was "AOLsearch" trademarked? AOL is just a three letter acronym. Are we not allowed to use those three letters to stand for anything else anymore? Her organization had a legit reason for using the letters and for registering that domain. She didn't want to give it up. It should have remained hers and AOL should have come up with another domain name to register. If they were determined to take it from her whether she liked it or not, then they could have at least had the decency to compensate her for it.

  • America Online is a name. AOL is just an acronym to represent that name. Trademarking an acronym is just plain stupid. Those letters could mean anything. Just because your company decides that they mean one thing doesn't mean someone else shouldn't be able to use those letters to mean something else. This is all getting really ridiculous. I think AOL should be slapped down for this. If they want her domain they should pay for it. I don't care how well known they were. Three letters in a row does not mean a damn thing except what the company says it means in relation to them. If you take that acronym in relation to something else, it means something totally different.

  • Why can't they just make www.aol.com/search -- that seems to make a lot more sense to me. Why do they need a seperate domain name for this??
  • by hey! ( 33014 )
    My advice to my clients (which they pig-headedly never seem to take) is to choose domain names that are easy to say over the phone. I happen to stutter and mumble, so people who know me would probably mistake "aaolsearch.com" for "a*aolsearch.com" or "ah, ah, 'olsearch.com'".

    Really, I think that companies should be discouraged from taking more than one top level domain, unless that top level domain is essentially a separate business. But there's probably no way to prevent this.

    I've thought a good approach to cybersquatting and general domain name would be to charge on a exponential scale for the number of domains. It would work like this: let N be the number of domains registered to a company.
    Charge something like 10^n dollars for each domain (you could fiddle with the exponent and base a bit -- maybe use some formula like x + y^z). Every time you added a domain, you'd have to pay the new price for the new domain, plus the difference for all the old domains you held.

    So the total cost to register domains would be n10^n.

    N TOTAL
    1: $10
    2: $200
    3: $3,000
    4: $40,000
    5: $500,000

    Should a company make another company give up their domain, it would have to pick up the domain itself. Not so bad if you have one two or three domains already, but that fifth domain would be doozy.

  • According to a whois query, aolsearch.com is indeed now registered to America Online, Inc.

    Looks like maybe both AOL and NSI need a bit of a slap, and I for one hope they get it.

    Stopping "cybersquatting" is one thing, but effectively stealing a domain name that is in use for a legitiamte site just isn't on.

    Tim
  • Does anyone remember the Lawsuit [toysrgus.com] that Toys R Us brought on them?

    Things are really getting out of hand here!
  • The previous story was about Netscape revamping their search engine to use Google technology. Why does AOL also need a new "Inktomi powered" search engine? They own Netscape...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 24, 1999 @06:34AM (#1835153)
    Microsoft should sue AOL since AOL has seemingly stolen intellectual rights on how to do business from Microsoft.

  • One has to wonder if this is racially motivated or just greed... Could be either, there is plenty of both for all.

    Yep. Back in the AOL board room, a lacky breaks in clutching a hardcopy and announcing breathlessly "Look! 'aolsearch.com' has already been registered!" The AOL directors grumble in disapproval. One speaks out...

    "Well... what does it stand for?"

    "African-America OnLine Search", replies the lacky.

    "Oh. Well, well. That will never do. If it stood for something like Alutian Ostrich Loom Search, I could understand. But that... oh no..."

    There is a rumbling noise of aggreement from the collective body of the AOL 'Man' and their racially-motivated, big corporate power-pushing plan is put into action...

    Of course it's greed!

    AOL users. Far be it for me to paint with too broad a brush here... but those who manage to achieve greater complexity than a single mouse button are still game for AOL marketing. Words like "yahoo" (much less "google") are just too mind-blowing. "aolsearch" is going to be a hot commodity. Of course AOL wants it and doesn't give a damn who else had it before hand (after all, AOL is the Internet).


  • Yes, I'm tired of "courts" and their "laws" made by "congress" trampling on my rights. Fizgig's Coca-Cola, Fizgig's PentiumII, and Fizgig's PizzaHut businesses have all been trampled by "trademark" "laws".


    Free trade is important. Laws protecting intellectual property (including trademarks) are also important.
  • They are not confusing as they all relate to different markets.

    Oh, I see... so you're saying that she's in the same market as AOL? She's an ISP then? I don't see how anyone could confuse "African-American Online Search" with "America Online". Just because they happen to have a lot of letters in common and can be represented by the same acronym doesn't make it an infringement. Do you seriously believe that someone could mistake her website for the AOL website? I don't.

    When I shoot in the dark looking for a website, I find all sorts of sites that I wasn't looking for. Does that mean they are all infringing on each other? No. Just because they have names that could logically be associated with the company I'm looking for doesn't mean they are infringing any more than she is by using her domain.

  • This is just one reason why we shuold encourage the freedom of anonymity. I have a feeling that those people who say that you must "stand behind your words" have never held an unpopular idea in their lives and/or their jobs involve crushing dissent. 'tis a shame.
  • So if I registered bigredapples.com Apple would sue me. What about microdicksthataresoft.com (not too long either)? Would Bill try to rape me in court? What about SlashYourTsAndDotYourIs.com? Would /. sue me for copyright infringement? They'd all be laughed out of court if they tried that shit. It would have to literally invade one of their copyrighted product name, very, very strongly.

    Me
  • I think they should have made it so nobody with less than say.... 100 employees/members/whatever could have their own .com .org .net domain. There could be a seperate tld like .home for personal home pages and that kind of junk. Then a domain name would actually mean something.
  • Just watch for "People's Republic of America Online - NSI Division".. apparently the idea of democracy only applies to the ones in charge.

    I'd like to see an organized effort on the part of those who know WTF they are doing on the net to take control, forceably if need be, of the 'net. Give control to FSF or something, but under the express knowledge that if they fuck it up we'll take it back again. The net was NEVER intended for computer-know-nots (of the kind who don't bother to find out jack shit about this Internet thing they bought witht heir Gateway PC). It was intended for people with at least minimal intelligence, enough to learn how it works in general terms if nothing else.
    "The meek shall inherit the earth" comes to mind, but not physically meek (I aint no studly perfection of manhood ;) but the mentally meek in this case. AOL and their cronies included. M$ as well, but to a lesser extent *duck* than others..
    I could go on about this for an hour.. in fact I think I might. But don't worry.. not here. If I get motivated I'll make a simple series of pages of all my ideas on this.. mebbe even a simple public feedback forum, emphasis on simple. I aint no /. afterall.. ;)
  • Well, that would work, but AOHell and M$ would still use the names.. you'd just be screwing yourself out of it in reality. If however you could zap all the DNS computers out there they would have no choice.. but that invites M$ to make a proprietary version, so that's out too. :(
  • Hmm, if the 'Court Order' rule were really obeyed, she could sue AOL in small claims court for the costs incurred by AOL snatching her sit name from her, with one equitable solution being returning the name to her.

    Assuming AOL ignores the supoena to show up in some small out of state small claims court, she would win by default. And armed with said judgement, forces NSI to transfer the name back to her.

    It would be most amusing.

  • Personally, if I had to guess the name of AOL's search, I'd first try search.aol.com. Of course, if they used that, they wouldn't have to ask
    anybody or raise any uproar.
  • > In reading this Slashdot post, you agree to send me US$5.00

    Heh, that's *MY* new .sig line...
  • This is Cybele Roberts Emanuelle, AOLSearch's original creator...
    Thanks to all of you for writing great, intelligent posts about this lunacy....
    To clarify some things:
    AOLSearch.com is the name for African-American Online Search because #1: African-American is a hyphenated word..Not words, word....One word...#2: AAOLSearch.com seems like it'd be for Alcoholics Anonymous Online Search. #3: AAOLSearch.com would be a tongue tripper....My oldest domain site WebmasterFX is not easy to understand when spoken and I've learned the hard way not to confuse people with the domain names I create now...
    Next order of business,
    Regarding trademark infringement, there are 16 categories for trademarks, not one. Since there is just one little ole dot com available, it confuses things greatly.
    That's why it will be a lot fairer for the average joe when new domain extensions are finally added...Also, AOL does not currently have a trademark for AOLSearch as far as I know.
    And according to NSI's policy trademark infringement is only for an identical, letter for letter trademark dispute. Not just because a domain name "contains" part of a trademark.
    Regarding NSI's guilt in covering up things royally, that's a given. I've racked up a huge phone bill calling their Virginia headquaters. ( they don't have a 1-800 number) The runaround they gave me there would make your head spin. They have better cover-up and manuevering tactics than the CIA . But most of you already seem to know that ......
    Regarding America Online's culpability, they have had AOLSearch in the works for a good while..Which is surprising, AOLSearch is a very lame, unoriginal name for their multi million dollar search engine to be named..It's not cool sounding like hotbot or yahoo.
    And this isn't something they just dreamed up yesterday. In fact for those of you who have AOL 4.0 you will have noticed an annoying little pop up box sitting for weeks now in the lower right hand of your welcome screen that says "AOL Search preview"
    So they've planning to develop a site that they didn't own...That alone makes them seem suspect and capable of doing anything to get the domain....Additionally, NSI officials have been very defensive of AOL in tone and protective of AOL's rights......Which is odd considering that AOL is set up to be a domain registar too and would be NSI's biggest upcoming competitor. Perhaps they're both sleeping with the enemy and may join forces soon....Wouldn't surprise me after this.
    Anyway, if you are truly incensed at it all, feel free to write me and I'll let you know who you can write to further to get some action (justice) going !
    wirednetfx@aol.com or investigation@post.com




  • I'd better clarify myself quickly.. I'm already in one flame war because of my anti-american views.

    I feel that the USA has great ideals, as did the USSR. You can see the parrallel.

    And I'd be the last to say that the rest of the world is perfect.

    Even my own corner (New Zealand) has its distinct problems.

    ....hmm...I'm way off topic aren't I? Better stop.
  • there is always one person who throws in the racial theory... why must everything be about race/religion/sex???
  • NSI is wrong for moving an id without written approval of both parties. She is wrong because her site name can easily be construed as being part of AOL. It also does not break down from the site's long name as one would think it would.

    So sure her site may be okay, but her domain name should change. Now, should AOL give her some cash? No.

    Anyone stupid enough to register an domain name which is so similar to a big company deserves the grief. The only case that would deserve support is a big company changing a product or service just so they can justify taking the name.
  • Maybe it's because African-American is hypenated, or maybe she just wanted the url to be easier to type. Regardless of the reason, it was still a perfectly reasonable choice of domain names for what the site is, IMHO. I don't really think that the usage of only one 'a' is that out of line.

  • Since AOL want to call it 'AOL search', aolsearch.com actually makes a lot of sense. Of course, that doesn't mean they should be allowed to steal someone else's domain name.

    As for IPv6, that's a completely different issue from domain name registrations; there will still only be one 'aolsearch.com' after IPv6 becomes the standard and IPv4 has died. However, the new TLD's might help a bit. We can but hope.
    --

  • Perhaps this will teach daveo to make use of the 'preview' button next time...
  • Racism is generally not profitable in the long run -- even most PHB types figure this out sooner or later. The only color that AOL is worried about is green.

  • AOLSearch.com is the name for African-American Online Search because #1: African-American is a hyphenated word..Not words, word....One word...#2: AAOLSearch.com seems like it'd be for Alcoholics Anonymous Online Search. #3: AAOLSearch.com would be a tongue tripper....My oldest domain site WebmasterFX is not easy to understand when spoken and I've learned the hard way not to confuse people with the domain names I create now..

    Well, I think you missed part of my post. Online is one word. Not words, word....One word. ;^)

    AAOL = Alcoholics Anon Online? Nah, I doubt it. People should be getting there by hearing what it is first and getting the URL after that, not vice versa. Who is going to pull up "aolsearch" out of the air thinking its about African-Americans. You KNOW 99% of the people will hear "aolsearch" and think American Online! You've already got a confusing name.

    As far as being a tonguetwister, well I don't doubt that. But I don't expect people to remember URLs unless they're written on paper or on the web somewhere anyway.

    All that said, I don't like big companies trying to strongarm little companies (or anyone else) around. I also hate domain name squatting, but that's obviously not what you are doing. So I wish you luck. Oh, and you might want to post your message as a reply to the main article rather than as a reply to my reply. More people might see it that would just skip my thread.

    --

  • 1. The planet contains more than 5 Billion people, most of whom do not have access to computers.

    2. Another similar situation concerns id.com, which is owned by a publisher of Next Software. They post a link to id (creator of quake and all games great) as a courtesy

    3. Taken to the obvious conclusion, any domain starting with ms should belong to microsoft. Since "most" people would think msearch or mssearch is a microsoft search engine. And so on for other companies with abbreviations.

    Interestingly enough, ms.com belongs to Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. They will never be evicted.

    4. Linux is a trademark of Linus, should he be allowed to confiscate all the domains with Linux ?

    5. What is the purpose of Network Solutions ? They should make an effort to prevent acts of cybersquatting. A check of registered trademarks should be implemented, or some similar precaution.
    But if a name is given it should not be taken away.

    6. I know the internet is American, but the rules governing domains should be implemented FOR EVERYONE.

    I think she was thrown out because AOL is rich.
  • Well, I have an .org address, and on my site I offer my shareware for sale, but believe me it hasn't made me any profit! How should this be interpreted under your proposed law? Am I really just a dot com in disguise?
  • Now you have me worried about my domain. I've received the same demand letter from AOL, but so far no word about my response.
  • Let's not forget, as one of the five test registars AOL may have direct access to the interNIC database.
  • She got the domain by accident since the people who granted it were clueless..

    There aren't any humans involved in domain registration and the only criterion the registration 'bot appears to use is whether or not the domain is already in use. aolsearch.com wasn't in use when she applied for it, therefore she got it -- first come, first serve.

  • Don't forget:
    I hate Jar Jar
    I really hate Jar Jar

    and:
    Die Jar Jar, die
  • I don't really suspect AOL of plotting against black America, but (although there's no way of proving this) it wouldn't surprise me if NSI took this woman a little less seriously because of her race. It's like what has been shown with 911 calls - the bias is subtle, but it's there.
  • by RimRod ( 57834 ) on Thursday June 24, 1999 @07:01AM (#1835197)
    1) Just cybersquat down over there, the doctor will be right with you.

    2) Next week in gym class, we'll be doing cybersquat-thrusts.

    3) Cybersquatting will be on page 171 on the upcoming edition of the Kama Sutra.

    4) You don't know cybersquat, kid!

    5) Was that your dog cybersquatting on my lawn earlier? I hope you're planning to clean that up.

    6) I don't know. Maybe the universe cybersquatted, maybe God changed his mind...all I know is that we got a second chance.

    7) FREE FREE FREE SEX VIDEO OF PAMELA AND TOMMY CYBERSQUATTING!!!
  • by Phoenix ( 2762 ) on Thursday June 24, 1999 @07:06AM (#1835199)
    It is worth the hassle of registering a domain name anymore? There have been cases of Commercial sites sueing owners of .org sites. .org, Not-for profit as I was left to believe, so a business could not use such. There have been cybersquatting cases where the business had won...even if the business didn't even exist when the site was put up. It's just not worth it to have a personal webpage anymore unless you do a www.isp_name.com/~username/index.html.

    There needs to be three things.

    1. Add more site designations. .per for personal websites. .xxx for porn sites. .spam for anysite that is going to be posting unsolicited e-mail (god I'd love to put a .spam filter in my e-mail). Things like that. Names that are seperate from each other, and cannot be crossed.

    2. Laws that enforce #1 above. Laws that prevent things like a company who holds a trademark on a word like "Sylvan" from suing a person who has a personal website dedicated to his Role-Playing game based on a setting in a elven or "Sylvan" setting

    3. We need to stop companies from putting trademarks on words in the english language. Take AOL for example. They tried to sue for the phrase "You've got mail". How do describe the concept of having mail, without using any of these world You've, got, and mail? Short of "a piece of corispondance has arrived via the postal service for one [insert name here]". Pretty darn awkward isn't it. How long before we can't talk to a neighbor with out having to put a nickle in a jar, per word uttered, and having to send it to the people who hold the trademarks?

    Well, that was my two credits worth...let's see, I owe about $15.05

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