As a fan of the former St. Louis Rams there’s an interesting case involving domain names that caught my attention.
The team is moving from St. Louis to Los Angeles and their old domain name of stlouisrams.com is obviously of little use. A fellow named Brian Busch registered losangelesrams.com and now wants to charge the team $650,000 to transfer it.
This brings me to the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act of 1999. Basically this act makes it legal for entities like the Rams to go to court and force Busch to relinquish the domain for no fee at all. The name of the act is, as usual for legislation in this day and age, a bit misleading. It should have been called the Anticybersquatting Corporation Protection Act of 1999.
The idea is that well-known trademarks cannot be used in bad faith. Thus if Busch doesn’t intend to create a website about the Rams or have a legitimate reason to use that domain, the team can simply take it from him. If Busch happened to be named Angel Ramos he might have a case but otherwise it is very likely the courts will rule against him should the Rams decided to pursue that domain.
All this is really just prelude. As a Libertarian and also an author I find this case extraordinarily interesting. I have written eight books and I plan to write many more. Lets take my most recent one, The Girl in Glass as an example. What if someone out there registered girlinglass.com with the sole purpose of extorting me for the domain should my novels ever become best sellers. This person has no connection to the books nor any real intent of creating a website based on the books. She or he just wants to sit on the name in the hopes of getting a payoff at some future point.
This is currently illegal. I could take them to court and most likely get the name for myself.
As a Libertarian I often think the government oversteps its bounds and creates laws that cause far more trouble than they’re worth. But this one hits me in my house. As a writer my gut reaction is the law makes sense. As a Libertarian my gut reaction is the government shouldn’t be involved.
I’m not an anarchist and I believe that government has a useful purpose in society and good laws are quite helpful in maintaining order. I’m certainly not a proponent of government oversight of everything and I think bad laws cause many problems.
There are examples of abuses on both sides of this situation. Microsoft sued and eventually forced a young man named Mike Rowe to relinquish mikerowesoft.com
Proctor and Gamble is pg.com because someone else owns proctorandgamble.com but they themselves have registered thousands of domains like deoderant.com to keep others away.
This is where creating laws to try and prevent things gets ugly and often time counterproductive. The laws often end up twisted and abused.
In the end I have to come down on the side of the person registering the domain. If they registered it, it’s their domain. If someone registers girlinglass.com and its many derivatives, then it’s up to me to find a substitute domain name. If one of my customers ends up on girlinglass.com instead of gig.book, I have to trust my customer enough to find their way to my site.
It’s an interesting case to be certain and I see arguments on both sides. Perhaps I could be swayed ….