The sick world of knowledge behind cybersquatting

Dyslexic Yahoo, porn-monger Irish PM, Dell's new push

Cybersquatting is getting more and more interesting by the minute. Apart from the legitimate claims (which seem fewer and fewer these days), following the cases currently running through the WIPO tell you not only the sites where you can find criticism of big corporates but also where the self-same corporations are planning to expand into in the future.

Unfortunately, the current rules seem to dictate that the bigger the company you are, the more URLs you can claim as your own. This week's rundown involves Yahoo, Bertie Ahern (the Irish Republic's Prime Minister), Dell, the Wall Street Journal and many many more.

First up is Yahoo. Following fast on the footsteps of Reuters, which managed to take over all URLs that not only contained its name but also those that misspelled its name, Yahoo has embarked on a that's-sound-like-Yahoo-to-me crusade. Hence, it has already won control of ayhoo.com, yahow.com, yahwoo.com, yyahoo.com [the list goes on and on] and is now gunning for every possible combination of yahoo-hooligan.

The funny thing is that such is the positive message put out by WIPO, companies feel able to take not only obvious Web addresses but also those that bear any resemblance to them. Out of about 10 URLs, only one is actually spelt correctly (that being www.yahooligan). So we have yahoolagin, yahooligin, yahoologin, yaholligan and every other combination you can think up.

It will most likely win them all. Which leads us to a paranoid bit of thinking. Could it be that ICANN's absolute inability to do the job it was set up to do could have anything to do with big companies wanting to impose their trademark on the Internet? After all, a legal precedent is a legal precedent. Whatever new domains ICANN eventually kicks out, you can be sure that they will follow the same rules as have already been set up.

So, who's next? Bertie Ahern. We ran a story a while back in which www.bertieahern.com, as well as thetaoisech.com and bertieahernsucks.com (interestingly bertieahernsux.com is still available, but then we are dealing with Europe here) has been registered, packed with porn pictures and then offered to the Irish PM himself for the princely sum of £1 million.

We checked out the site soon after and it claimed to have received an offer by the Irish government for just that sum. Of course, it was nonsense but it obviously started the ball rolling. The people behind the sites then promptly offered the sites for free (well, they wanted the registration fee). The Irish government was having none of it and promptly went to the WIPO. The outcome won't be decided until September. What we have to ask here though is about public funds. The "cybersquatters" said clearly they only wanted $35 per site. But now the government has paid $2,500 to WIPO to sort the situation out. Point of principle is one thing but wasting public money is quite another.

What about Dell? Now, we don't know for sure that Dell doesn't sell Palms or PocketPCs, but last time we looked it didn't. Odd then that Dell has gone to WIPO for the ownership of dellpalm com, net and org. It also wants palmdell (com, net) and dellpocketpc (com,net) and dellwireless.net (plus some others). Useful indication, but does it deserve these URLs? There's no reason in the world why it shouldn't run all is products through a main site. You want a Dell PC/laptop/modem/sink? Go to www.dell.com. Does it now have the right to take anything that includes the word "dell"? Apparently so.

The Wall Street Journal is obviously looking to push its European product more. Or why would it have gone for wallstreetjournaleurope.com and thewallstreetjournaleurope.com (that's a 26-letter URL!) among others. Then there's Vivendi which, since its merger with Seagram, has had to go URL post-merger crazy. And letsbuyit.com - our favourite UK co-op has also gone the dyslexic route with lessbuyit.com and lestbuyit.com. Is there no end to this lunacy?

WIPO must be laughing its head off. ®

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Related links

WIPO decision for first trance of Yahoo claims
WIPO's main site - check it out in future

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