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The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is using heavy-handed bullyboy tactics to get a small Canadian computer club to hand over its domain.

The BBC wants Big Blue and Cousins to relinquish its bbc.org domain at its own expense even though the Canadian club has legally owned the domain since 1995.

Lawyers representing the BBC sent an email to the computer club on 18 November. It received a formal letter from BBC lawyers at the weekend.

The club, which meets three times a week, is based on an industrial park in Victoria, British Columbia. With 450 members, it has been up and running for 15 years and teaches computer skills to older people keen to learn about IT.

Unlike some unscrupulous operators which register domains in the hope of selling them on at a profit, Big Blue and Cousins is a bona fide non-profit organisation that provides information and education to its members and promotes the use of computers.

According to one source, the BBC sent in their "lawyer goons" to try and scare Big Blue and Cousins out of its rightfully registered domain, and the BBC is threatening to drag the club through the courts if it doesn't get its way.

A spokesman for the BBC confirmed that it is in talks with Big Blue and Cousins but refused to discuss details.

In a prepared statement the BBC said: "The BBC has written to Big Blue and Cousins expressing its concern about this domain name.

"The use of the name is obviously confusing to online users who are keen to visit the BBC online site.

"The BBC has an obvious responsibility to licence fee payers and users of its online services to protect its trademarks and intellectual properties and take action whenever appropriate."

The president of Big Blue and Cousins, George Bowden, declined to discuss the matter until he has had a chance to meet his lawyers. Neither has he responded to the BBC's request for the domain.

"We're talking with our lawyers so we'll see what comes of it," he said.

Last summer the BBC acquired BBC.com for an unspecified sum. Speculation about how much public money was spent ranged from £20,000 to $30 million. ®

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