Cybersquatters Wanted, Dead Or Alive
According to Webopedia, cybersquatting is the act of registering a popular Internet address--usually a company name--with the intent of selling it to its rightful owner.
Typosquatting is purchasing a domain name that is a variation on a popular domain name with the expectation that the site will get traffic off the original site because of a user's misspelling of the name. For example, registering the domain names webapedia.com or yahooo.com in the hopes that someone making a typo will get to that site unexpectedly.
Am I the only one that finds these tactics super-frustrating? Actually, I find typosquatting more frustrating. In an age where we spend the bulk of our days in front of a PC typing, we create many typos. I told you this story a while back, but I think it's important to bring up again. A few years ago, I was with my young sister (12) in front of the computer. She asked if she could download a new Britney Spears song (she was not allowed to download anything without supervision). I had no problem with that, so we decided to search for it on search engines. I told her where to go and what to type in. Lo and behold, she made a typo and BAM, ended up on a porn site. To my shock, there was a lot revealed on the screen. Sure there were black bars blocking out the necessary visuals. However, there was A LOT that my sister saw.
So you see, that's when this stuff really hit home for me. As an online advertiser/marketer, I also get revved up. As a few of you wrote, it is often recommended to purchase your domain(s) as they might be misspelled.
What can we do about this, you ask? Well, thankfully, there are organizations such as The World Intellectual Property Organization and some legislation out there. When you are looking for this organization, be sure to type in http://www.wipo.org, because ironically someone took wipo.com. I guess they even tried to sell it back for thousands of dollars!
Anyhow, WIPO outlines anti-cybersquatting tactics endorsed by ICANN. There are now trademark laws that prohibit use of domain names that were "wrongfully" purchased. For instance, a cybersquatter buys a name, doesn't put content on the URL, and tries to sell it. To date, many companies have fought and won such cases. Check out Rediff, for more information, including a link to a law firm Web site with a definition of the AntiCybersquatting Act.
Stars, famous people and large corporations are not the only ones being cybersquatted. It could happen to any of us. Wipo said its arbitration centre received 1, 456 cybersquatting cases last year, or 20 percent more than in 2004. Wipo's panels favored the complainant 84 percent last year. As you see, Wipo can work in your favor. However, the organization cannot force financial penalties. Complaints have to be turned over to the courts for that. Well, there are 60 million domain names today. As several of you posted on the Spin Board, many of them are not being used. It seems to me that this is a step in the right direction, but not a panacea.
What do you think? Post your thoughts, rants, and comments to the Spin Board.