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US outlaws cybersquatting

Ban to be enforced through little-known Satellite Viewers Bill

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Cybersquatting looks almost certain to be banned following the passing by the US House of Representatives of a Satellite Viewers Bill which had attached to it a cybersquatting bill. This bill is unrelated to one that was bogged down in a House-Senate conference, although the terms are very similar. Where a trademark is infringed in a domain name, the trademark holder would be able to seek up to $100,000 in damages against the cybersquatter. The most vociferous advocate was the Motion Picture Association. Senator Orrin Hatch, who was incensed when he was offered a domain name including his name, was a leading supporter of including the protection of the names of individuals. No damages would be payable in such cases, but a legal action is likely to succeed. International cybersquatting will remain a problem despite the quaint expectation that the legislation will allow action in the country where a domain name is registered, as though US law applied outside the US. However, the protection should solve most of the problems. It is probable that there will be some strong-arming against genuine sites that have coveted names, if there is the slightest possibility of an infringement. Many small US domain name holders are expected to be threatened by intimidating lawyers, and some would no doubt surrender the name rather than bear the cost of defending an action. ®

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