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WIPO madness round-up

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Okay, we're back into the special world of WIPO and domain name disputes. We left the first two of these alone when they "made the news" because, quite frankly, we were sick of it. But then we had a reader write in who made an interesting case study, so we reopened the files.

Number One: Famous person fun Madonna - you know, the pop tart - wants, unsurprisingly, madonna.com. It's owned by a bloke called Dan Parisi, who ran it as a porn site (he also owns that gem whitehouse.com - also porn). But of course, the 40-year-old Material Girl has been tipped as being entitled to take the domain off Parisi.

She is also, apparently, more important than that other Madonna - you know, the one with the child that's in all those old pictures and keeps cropping up in the Catholic faith. Which really puts a different slant on John Lennon's famous remark that The Beatles were more influential than Jesus. We say: crap decision (although to be fair, the crap decision hasn't been made yet).

Number Two: Company omnipotence We've had companies winning the right to URLs that feature their company name spelt wrongly, and so the next logical conclusion is that anything that actually contains their name can be owned by them as well (ain't this great?). And so now, URLs made up of the format [company name]sucks.com are the legal property of that site. Why? Don't ask stupid questions, they just are. The two immediate UK examples are NatWest and Direct Line. They now own natwestsucks.com and directlinesucks.com respectively.

This is a really good and fair way of running the domain name system. Presumably, any company can now also own (free of charge) the suffixes "isshit", "isbollocks", "aintasgreatasitsaysitis" and "pants".

Number Three: The other side of the coin We've been sent the rundown of a reader's dispute which shows just how ridiculous this whole thing has become. While we have been slating WIPO for pandering to companies and ICANN for being a pansy, we've forgotten what may happen when a legitimate company is hassled by a bigger company - and wins!

The example we have is of www.eurotrash.com. The site Eurotrash is an Internet consultancy and is owned by Scotsman Jan Duffy-King. However, Eurotrash is also a popular TV series in the UK, fronted by Frenchman Antoine de Caunes (features lots of nudity and wacky goings-on in Europe). Eurotrash reckoned eurotrash.com was its property. Jan begged to differ. And so became a nasty spat, ending up at WIPO, where - for once - the board was right, called the action "misconceived" and dismissed it.

So Jan still has eurotrash.com, but as he pointed out to us, he had simply registered a domain, spent a few years building a business around it and then had to spend in the region of $40,000 to defend it against a bigger, richer company.

And so?
We think this has all gone far enough. Domain names have become such big business that the only way to secure a fair and transparent system - where the small man is as valued as the big company - is to pull it into the legal system. That, after all, is exactly what the legal system was set up to do.

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