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The Internet

Australia Bans Cybersquatting 55

Uncle Dazza writes "An Australian court has ruled cybersquatting illegal" But the scary part about the article is the comment about "Deceptively Similiar". I'm wondering what that would mean for a parody website with a deceptive URL. In the US, Parody has been held up in the courts, so this law may be interesting.
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Australia Bans Cybersquatting

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  • If you think cybersquatting is impolite, don't invite any cybersquatters to your parties.

    Otherwise, though, it's a bit extreme to support laws that restrict behavior you think is merely "impolite." Lawmaker meddling in the operation of the Internet is almost always a bad thing.

  • If the U.S. Senate's cybersquatting bill becomes law (the House has yet to approve it), you would be in danger of up to $100,000 in fines. The one area in which these cybersquatting laws have teeth is when someone knowingly registers a company's corporate name or product name, and Price Waterhouse Coopers almost certainly still has all legal rights to the old name.

    Since you registered it "for giggles," I'd dump the domain -- or at least do nothing improper with the domain and cave like a house of cards the moment Price Waterhouse Coopers becomes interested in the matter.

  • by DonkPunch ( 30957 ) on Sunday August 15, 1999 @08:41PM (#1745543) Homepage Journal
    First, I know the U.S. Constitution has nothing to do with Australia, so I'm already off-topic.

    I have a proposal I'd like to put forth, though:

    In order to discourage U.S. legislators from proposing or supporting unconstitutional laws, I suggest a "three strikes and you're out" program.

    It's a very simple system -- whenever legislation passes Congress and is signed into law, it is subject to judicial review. If the Supreme Court finds that a piece of legislation violates the Constitution, the legislators who sponsored the legislation get a "strike".

    If a legislator sponsors three bills which fail the court test, that legislator is out of office. His constitutients must elect a replacement to serve the rest of the term.

    The justification for this? Legislators take an oath of office to preserve and defend the Constitution. If they have tried three times to violate the Constitution, they have violated their oath of office. This just puts some meaning into the oath, IMO.

    If you REALLY want to shake things up, make this apply to legislators who VOTED for unconstitutional legislation.

    Any third-party candidates want to put this forward? I would be happy to lend my support.
  • Most of you are looking @ this in only one way - how it crimps your personal creativity or plan. What on the other hand are the ramifications for a company going out and registering tens of thousands of names under the aegis that they'd be given them anyway if any unwashed peon dared to register them in stead. You don't need in this case, to defend trademark, service mark or any other kind of infringement.
  • The laws of a nation seek ot control the inhabitants of said nation. In this case, the fine Australian people. If they're in Australia, and they are responsible for breaking a law, they're under Australian juridiction, regardless of where the crime is committed. It is similar facts of law which allow countries to prosecute people for offenses commited whilst overseas (specifically child sex offenses, but it could theorhetically be expanded to other things)
  • A geographically based system makes sense for some things, but not when you're selling/doing something that applies equally internationally. Or perhaps both companies are from Ankh-Morpork. Either way, we need a system based on something other than location.

    --

  • This ironic thing with such a ruling is that there
    is nothing stopping you from moving to South Africa or something and then go and squat the address there. Of course this sort of ruling could only effectively work on people trying to squat the .au addresses.
  • You're right that it could get a bit lengthy. Perhaps what would be best is such a system as an alternate (an extension, almost) to the existing domain name system. Without a somewhat long path, you will _never_ be able to get past name collisions. Never say never? Well I say _NEVER_. My proposal is to make truly distinctive paths a standard, instead of making you wade through search sites and such in a weak attempt to find stuff. Of course, like in a computer file system, the paths would be relative, so if you're already in a category then you would only need to add the final company name to get to the target. Ideally being at any of the sublevels you would be given a list of its subtrees, somewhat of a standardized version of doing a Yahoo search (but without the outdated information, and not indexing just 13% or whatever of the sites out there). Something like this not only should happen, it eventually will. Right now for a company I'm launching we've been desperate coming up with appropriate domain names for its divisions which haven't already been taken, but of course that's now impossible (most of the appropriate names we've found are only reserved, not actually in use... [Gomer Pyle accent:] surprise, surprise!). It's almost equivalent to having to search every phone directory to make sure we don't conflict _anywhere_. Pretty pathetic. I'll repeat it one more time: domain names have become worthless.
  • Just for the fun of it, check www.angrydog.com it's a truckers/bilers bar in Texas... LOL

    And the site is just plain ugly...
  • I feel this is a good thing... I think cybersquatting is an abuse of the domain registration system and something should be done about it. Whether this is the right answer has yet to be seen, but in the meantime at lest something is being tried.

    Now, about parody: Hopefully the right to put up a parody site with a name that's similar to the site you're parodying won't be infringed on. But it seems to me that if you're doing a parody site, it would be polite to put up somewhere (say, in small print at the top) something like "This is not the Microsoft homepage. This is a parody site. The real Microsoft homepage can be found here [microsoft.com]." Large enough to be visible, and at the top so that people will see it the first time through, but small enough to be unobtrusive and easily-ignorable once you've seen it once.

    You know, now I come to think about it, the main reason why I'm annoyed at cybersquatting is that I feel it's impolite. No, really -- despite the easy anonymity (well, pseudo-anonymity at least) the Internet can provide, I still feel like people really should be polite and respectful, even though they're not face-to-face. Call me an idealist or something, I don't know...
    -----

  • Cybersquatters are just as bad as spammers IMO. I'm all for making it illegal.
  • This microsoft-typo site re-directs you to www.linux.org ... :)

    www.microsfot.com [microsfot.com]
    www.linux.org [linux.org]
  • I am of two minds. I think that parody is OK. However I strongly object to people (for instance) going out, buying celebrity names, and then blackmailing the celebrity by threatening to do things like put up a porn site.

    As the saying goes, "Your freedom to extend your fist ends at my face." Cybersquatting does not deserve to be rewarded, but I think that reasonable people can draw the distinction between squatting and deliberate parody.

    Cheers,
    Ben Tilly
  • Depending on whether or not they distinguish between an obvious mispelling [Micorsoft.com] and believable variations such as those in the article, this could be a big problem. Disallowing all variations would cause far more problems (at least here in the U.S. -- Not familiar with Australian traditions) than just banning the believable ones.

    The namespace crunch is so great, especially in the short names, that probably half of the .com names might legitimately be considered "deceptively similar" to another.
  • This is what's going to happen: The Angry Dog Brewing Company of North Podunk will register angrydog.com. Next the Angry Dog Software Company of Wikadiki City will get mad and sue the Angry Dog Brewing Company. Since the Angry Dog Software Company has more money and lawyers, and because there's now a precedent for taking away domain names from their registrants, the Angry Dog Brewing Company will lose its domain name.

    Tough shit though, they should have become rich first if they wanted to do business. There's no room in this world for the little guy.

  • This is exactly what happened to Warner Brothers and the name Roadrunner [teledotcom.com].

  • Me being the dumb-ass I am didn't read the article properly before posting -- In this case it seem the Australian government is trying to extend it's domain name control out of the .au gTLD - OF course an easy way to avoid that one would think is to register them through an off-shore holding company of something, where the Australian courts have no control.

    Anyway...
  • I hate it when you go to a site (such as, say www.BLINK-182.com), and instead of getting what you expect, you get nothing. Why? Because (as a quick check at http://www.networksolutions.com/cgi-bin/whois/whoi s? shows) some idiot cybersquatter has decided that he can make a little money out of the name. Selling domain names is the most idiotic practice I have heard of, and it's pretty sad that people make money off the names as well.

  • screw the website, use the whois command. Any Real OS (i'm a converted Linux user, running freebsd 3.2-RELEASE now) has it included or with some basic net package. Use the whois command to easily see who REALLY owns that domain :P
  • There's another grey area I wonder about. What about web sites which consist of "Oops! You spelled that wrong! Click here to go to the real company" + an ad banner. If I remember right, there's at least one company for which this is their entire business model. They're not trying to mislead -- in fact, they could even be seen as providing a helpful service. Thoughts?

    --

  • The main issue I see is that there's a lot of namespace collision. Sure, your widget company may be named but Crummy Multi-Oriented Telescope Corp (reg trademark CMOT) but as "CMOT Dibbler's Meats-onna-Stick" I also have a quite reasonable claim to cmot.com. Things would be helped a lot if there were a multitude of TLDs, and companies were expected to register under the appropriate one. (cmot.sciequip and cmot.food, for example.)

    --

  • I personally don't see anything wrong with misspelt redirectors.
    1) It's a whole lot nicer than just getting an error message
    2) no one gets hurt, because no one is impersonating anyone.

  • by Signal 11 ( 7608 ) on Sunday August 15, 1999 @05:51PM (#1745567)
    Didn't anybody tell the aussie's that only certain north american countries with 3 letter initials could order the rest of the online world around? :)

    Seriously now, what we need is a international movement to eliminate regulation of the internet. Otherwise one of two scenarios are going to result:

    1) the internet becomes hopelessly fractured into hundreds of mini-nets ala the Great Firewall of China.

    2) It becomes impossible to do anything online because some other country might have made it illegal. And quite frankly, e-commerce has it bad enough right now with national legislation, let alone the international problems that would arise by regulation of the internet. Witness the crypto jihad the US is on.

    Either way, we lose, and the internet in it's present form ceases to exist. I simply don't believe that there is a technical solution yet to stop legislators from passing stupid laws short of using shock collars everytime they vote stupidly.

    --
  • Enjoy Cocaine
    "I tried sniffing coke once, but the ice cubes got stuck up my nose"
    - Unknown (to me, at least)
  • All you need is GPS in a NIC. 8-)
    <andrew@33.36420S,151.37124E,125>
  • "and AngryDog.com for a multinational"



    but isnt the point of putting a company on the net to make it more multinational... if so, whoever registers AngryDog.com first, no matter what the company, should keep it and not have to worry about being sued for it.

    #----------------------------
    $mrp=~s/mrp/elite god/g;
  • by ljavelin ( 41345 ) on Sunday August 15, 1999 @05:57PM (#1745572)
    Hum, yes, Parody of trademarks has been upheld in the United States as "acceptable use". But a domain name in of itself is not parody.

    Can someone grab the domain name "micro-soft.com" and use it to sell computer software? Hum, sounds pretty questionable to me, because selling software isn't much of a parody (hey, that rhymes!)

    Can I grab the name "micro-soft.com" and make a paradoy site? Maybe I could get away with that. But then if I try to sell the domain name to Billy G. for $1000000, is it still that much of a paraody? Wouldn't the parody still work if it was "micropoop.com"?

    Although I agree that one has to be very careful about giving corporatations the right to misuse the rights of others, trademark laws exist and should be applied fairly to both individuals and corporations large and small.

    On another point, domain names were never suposed to be a commodity, and it's sad that some people have made and lost millions just by registering a stupid name.
  • The U.S. cybersquatting law recently passed by the Senate requires that the courts prove you registered a domain "in bad faith."

    Bad faith is a tough thing to prove in court.

    If you knowingly register a domain because it's the name of a company or a trademark, and route traffic to a competing company or to something like a porn site, you've gone a long way towards proving bad faith.

    If you register a domain for the purpose of parody and publish a parody site (as in my own Drudge Retort at http://www.drudge.com [drudge.com]), you're on strong legal ground in the U.S. The Senate's cybersquatting law even affirms the use of a domain for the purpose of parody or political comment (such as www.pepsibloodbath.com [pepsibloodbath.com]).

    Another way to get yourself in trouble is to register a domain that's identical (or similar) to a company's name or trademark, and contact that company to see if they're interested in buying it. That would look terrible in court -- some domain registrants in the UK lost all of their domains by contacting companies like Virgin to sell domain names they had acquired.

    Anyone who is concerned about this legislation in the U.S. should visit the Congress Web site at http://thomas.loc.gov [loc.gov] and search for bill number S.1255.RS, the "Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act of 1999." The bill is fairly limited in the kind of domain use that is being prohibited.

  • Just about every deadtree and TV advertisement of a major (and sometimes minor) company (in the U.S.) has a website ad somewhere on it. Usually, it takes the form of "catsandmore.com". The name is displayed for a second or two, and maybe pronounced also. I really don't see someone putting "alt.stores.pets.cats.catsandmore" in their ad, as trying to get the consumer to memorize the domain name would take up the entire ad time.

    ---
  • I wonder what the proposed IPv6 namespaces would be like? And whether this "selling domain names" crap could be brought to an end - let them buy their own with no marketing conflicts?

    ~Tim
    --
  • I've said it before, I'll say it again: the current domain name system has become practically worthless. We need a replacement system which is more like a yellow pages, or better yet, like Yahoo, where you browse through multiple levels to get to what you wanted. With a properly designed structure, there would be more than one way to get to a company (e.g. a software company could be found under categories of programming, under software sales, etc.). Of course the category names would need to be kept short (an abbreviated version, plus a spelled out version in each language to make it easier to follow). The only real tricky part would be differentiating between companies who do about the same thing and have the same name (I'm in such a company; the owner of the name is in an unrelated industry). Maybe something that differentiates them by location in such cases?
    Needless to say, a critical part would be to make it prohibited to grab a name for resale, to take a trademarked name, to have a deceptive name, or to intentionally place something in an inappropriate category (make them sign a contract that has a _huge_ fine if they break the rules).

    It might look like, for a bad example: "com.soft.os.intel-compatible.microsoft" (root at the top to differentiate from the current system)

    Hopefully _somebody_ in a position to pull it off (standards org?) is preparing for something like this.
  • "I tried sniffing coke once, but the ice cubes got stuck up my nose"
    - Unknown (to me, at least)


    Sound like Steven Wright, but that's just off the top of my head...
  • The article talks about .com domains. .com domains are theoretically international. What if the defendants wanted to set up a software house in Upper Volta called "Melbourne IT". Why should the Australian courts have anything to say? Ok, the defendants live in Australia, but so what the domain isn't registered in Oz. Will the courts complain if I own a company in Upper Volta called Melbourne IT? By what right?
  • Having dealt a bit with domain registration in Australia, this is hardly surprising to me. They are a little up-tight it would seem, at least compared to .com and .nz - There are many restrictions on who can have what domains in Australia, most notably the requirement that the applicant have an ACN (Australian Company Number) or ABRN (Australian Business Registration Number, I think) and that the name must be directly related to the company (i.e. the company's name or an accronym of it). Also, each commercial entity can have only one domain name, so much for covering misspellings etc... Also, you can't have a domain name that is the same as (or derived from) an Australian place name (this includes suburbs etc). Oh yes, and generic terms, which is, I assume, the rule that is responsible for there being no 'internet.com.au'...

    Although the first-come-first-served basis employed in many other places is somewhat open to abuse, it also seems to beter serve it's market.

    See INA's policy here [ina.com.au]

    Over-all, Australia has some very limiting Internet policies.
  • What, Discworld doesn't have it's own country code you can use? ;> In Australia, you can only register a domain name if you have a sufficiently similar registered business name. Which means that recently a lot of companies have stopped "trading as" a company, and actually registered that name so they can get a website with a valid address.
  • Oooh look, a NSI related company at au.com [au.com] - where you're supposed to buy a yourname.au.com domain!

    It helps ensure your domain coverage, wow, peachy keen.
  • mind you, that would give you enough info to launch missiles at the site if you don't like it. hang on, when can we implement this? dave
  • Just for giggles I registered cooperslybrand.com [cooperslybrand.com] (which is of course PriceWaterhouseCoopers [pwcglobal.com] now) just to see if many people still use it (they do). I'd probably give it up if I received a formal letter but if I had the money would that be worth fighting?


  • Personally I thought it was hilarious that, for the past few months, www.starwars.co.uk was registered to someone random and just had the Apache "successfully installed" screen on it. But I suppose that counts less as piracy than as ripping the piss out of Beardy Lucas and his Legendary Bank Balance.

    Anyway, though: isn't all of this already covered by e.g. trade descriptions acts, that, if you're passing yourself off as another business (and it can be shown to the satisfaction of a court that you are) then you're breaking the law? In which case that sort of cybersquatting was already illegal.

    The original point was, I think, that someone was pretending to be Melbourne IT, or whatever, to get customers. Just because a website doesn't have exactly what it says in the name is no reason to be put in jail; you need to be further misleading customers to the detriment of other businesses and your profit.

    (Disclaimer: IANAL, and I'm only speaking from an English perspective here.)
  • The thing people forget about countries making laws like this is that they're intended for Australians to be punished by. Sure, it might not control a webserver in Tazikistahn, but it can levy penalties on someone living in Australia who breaks Australian law with this site.

  • ...spoken like someone that's never mis-typed a domain name and gotten redirected to a hardcore porn site when his boss is nearby... thus getting the bitching from the boss *AND* a draconian IT department.

    But I got a better job anyway, so..

    -LjM
  • I hate it when you go to a site (such as, say www.BLINK-182.com), and instead of getting what you expect, you get nothing. Why?

    Why? Because you plucked a host name from somewhere the sun doesn't shine.

    If people used search engines, directories, and word of mouth to find web sites, instead of typing www.somethingiwanttolookat.com, domain squatting would not seem so attractive.

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