US senator Orrin Hatch priced at $45k
It's difficult to imagine a dafter piece of cybersquatting than senatororrinhatch.com
Former Miami detective Joseph Culligan, now a cybersquatter hawking Web addresses that might prove desirable to a more legitimate owner, seems to have made a mistake in trying to get $45,000 for senatororrinhatch.com. Hatch is the co-sponsor of a bill to protect trademarked names being misused in this way, with fines of up to $100,000 for cybersquatters acting in bad faith. Hatch is also the chairman of the Senate judiciary committee (and a friend of Utah-based companies like Novell and Caldera) He reacted bluntly: "That is extortion," he said. Hatch also noted that "It is simply fraud, deception, and the bad-faith trading on the good will of others". Culligan claimed he was trying to make a point - that the names of American officials, landmarks and treasures should be protected, but whether he thought this wheeze up after the Hatch episode is not known. Curiously an organisation called Friend-to-Friend, run by Rob Moritz, buys site names of famous people and offers them free of charge - more than 70, so far. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has debated the issue but appears to have reached no conclusion. It is probable that any attempt to inhibit freedom of expression will run into first amendment problems, particularly if it is clear that a site name is either critical or adulatory of a named person, rather than an attempt at passing-off. A further problem is that the US has no jurisdiction outside its territory, and complete international agreement would be hard to achieve. Tactical bombing of offending sites by massive emailing could be one weapon, but ignoring them could be more effective. ® Register footnote: If you, at time of writing actually tried the site in question, you get to a parody ofRudy Giuliani's senate race site Freaky.