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We have the solution to cybersquatting

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Internet technology has spawned an enormous amount of legal action, but the most bitter of it has frequently been to do with so-called cybersquatting.

Just as much as people want a certain URL, the party that owns it doesn't want to hand it over. We've had companies bullying legitimate individuals, famous people "defending their reputations", politicians having a humour bypass and every other manner of selfish act.

Those that had the nous to register Web addresses early have been turned from enterprising entrepreneurs into malicious cuckoos, and the term cybersquatting has become one of the most abused terms in the Internet dictionary.

Then, with the announcement that the World Intellectual Property Organisation would "study ways" of stopping people registering URLs to which they have "no legitimate claim", it looked as though the game was up: it's survival of the richest.

We pondered how it had all come to this and wondered how individual freedom and business necessity could be tied into one solution. Then, floating inside a carefully balanced solution of effluent and beer, the vulture brain suddenly realised the grand solution to all of this.

Now, the very basis of the cybersquatting argument is that people type in a URL expecting to find one thing and are instead faced with something completely different.

This is bad and wrong and damaging to business - the Internet is of such importance that people should be able to find a company without undue difficulty. Extending this, trademarks are expensive and carefully managed. Anyone using this as a basis of recognition is abusing the previous investment that has been put in by a different company, etc, etc, etc.

The solution is simple. Suppose we own www.vulture.com. Our logo is a vulture, it's instantly recognisable but not directly linked to who we are. Now huge company Vulture Inc. wants the URL, says people expect to find it there, they won't know to go to www.vultureinc.com instead.

So what happens? Vulture Inc goes to WIPO. It states its case and pays a fee. WIPO considers the argument and makes a decision whether people have a right to expect Vulture Inc to be found at our site. If it says no, tough. If it says yes, the WIPO informs The Reg that we are legally obliged to carry a link on our front page to Vulture Inc. This consists of a standard, instantly recognisable WIPO button and is placed top left. We add it to the site and hey presto everyone's happy.

This is a fair system, recognising both people's rights and the fee aspect should prevent an abuse of the system. Since the buttons will be common, they won't interfere with people's view of the page. Big companies will not have to carry any buttons because of their greater importance and for small companies, the minor inconvenience of a few buttons (perhaps a maximum of five, if that becomes necessary - extra fees to WIPO if there is argument) will be outweighed by the prime position it holds.

And that's it. What do you think?

Next week: How to give high-speed Net access to everyone man, woman and child on the planet. ®

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