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How can 'the little guy' fight big corporations over domains?

By Mantrid in Internet
Sat Jan 27, 2001 at 12:59:20 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

I was browsing this afternoon and came across yet another instance of coporate bullying. The issue, which I found at brassknuckles (I've never been to that site before found it while following links from K5 to drop.org). It seems that Hasbro is harrasing someone who runs a small, free game site called dinobot.org. The kid is hoping to just sell the domain back to them for the cost of a new domain ($120). There's no way he can afford to fight any lawsuits.

What can be done?


I was thinking that maybe he could have his domain hosted out of country? Canada, for example may have slightly different rules (I'm not sure exactly what they are). Could he safely 'hide' his site up their. What about Europe?

What can be done about this sort of thing (which I feel is more or less harrasment)? I mean .org addresses are supposed to be non-profit anyways aren't they? It's not like he's registered dinobot.com or anything.

I can't believe how nuts some of these companies go, let alone a company that makes games and stuff for kids. Seems to me if they had any class they'd maybe even help him out with his site somehow. Anyways I just want to open up a discussion on this: what can be done to protect oneself from these tactics when dealing with domain names?

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How can 'the little guy' fight big corporations over domains? | 21 comments (20 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
Isn't .org supposed to be not-for-profit? (3.66 / 3) (#1)
by Drakantus on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 05:13:48 PM EST

By what right is Hasbro claiming rights to this domain name? Last time I checked, Hasbro was a for-profit company, and appropriatly should use the .com domain names.

Yes, but that's not enforced (4.50 / 2) (#6)
by Flavio on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 06:10:46 PM EST

.org is the recommendation for nonprofit organizations.

Notice that this is a recommendation and not a law. Slashdot is for profit and yet uses .org. Even if this were a law it would be difficult to decide what to think about Slashdot's case, for example. The site started as non-profit and later became for-profit. The domain slashdot.com is now property of Andover.net but it was created _before_ slashdot.org by someone totally unrelated to Rob Malda. What would Malda do? What if slashdot.com's owner refused to sell the domain?

Flavio

[ Parent ]
Re: Yes, but that's not enforced (4.00 / 1) (#15)
by elemental on Sun Jan 28, 2001 at 10:36:58 PM EST

Maybe you're thinking of slashdot.net who, incidentally, is still owned and operated by it's original owner. As far as I remember, slashdot.com was always pointed to slashdot.org, even before the Andover thing.

Secondly, being owned by a commercial organization does not necessarily make a site for-profit. Calling slashdot for-profit implies that the purpose of the site is to make money over and above the operating costs of the site itself (ie, profit). I highly doubt those banner ads pay that much.


--
I love my country but I fear my government.
--> Contact info on my web site --


[ Parent ]
Slashdot{.net, .com} (5.00 / 1) (#17)
by Flavio on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 07:16:23 AM EST

> Maybe you're thinking of slashdot.net who, incidentally, is still owned and operated by it's original owner

Yes, you're right. Thanks for pointing that out and sorry for the mistake.

> Secondly, being owned by a commercial organization does not necessarily make a site for-profit.

Of course not, but I don't have any doubt that Slashdot is for profit.

> I highly doubt those banner ads pay that much.

I believe they do. They probably could make more money if they offered more than geekish expensive things that we all usually have, thereby increasing their ads' value.

Flavio

[ Parent ]
several things (4.50 / 4) (#2)
by Arkady on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 05:23:26 PM EST

There are lots of things you can do, but first, here's one you suggested that you can't:

  • taking it out of the U.S. - the ICANN UDRP is used in all disputes in .com, .net and .org so the geographical location is unimportant

What you can do:

  • Write ICANN - They are the ones responsible for the broken dispute resolution system; write them to tell them to fix it.
  • Write the U.S. Dept. of Commerce - They're the one's who estblished ICANN and who are reponsible for their continued hegemony; let them know why you think it sucks.
  • Support The Electronic Frontier Foundation - The EFF is quite active in helping domain holders in these situations and in trying to get the rules changed so that these kinds of corporate abuses cease. As a non-profit legal group, they can use all the help you can give them.
  • Put contestable names in the machine name - The UDRP can only be applied to the Seconf-Level domain name. If you want to critisize a corporation, for example, don't register an SLD containing their name (i.e. warnerbrotherssucks.net); instead, use a generic SLD and put their name in the machine name part (i.e. warnerbrothers.trulysucks.net). I registered trulysucks.net for this very purpose, and I let people have names in it for free.
  • Use an alternative DNS system - The OpenNIC, which was formed here on K5 last summer, does not allow this sort of attack on name holders. Register a domain with us, and you can rest easy that no corporation can come take it away; OpenNIC is also a completely democratic operation, so you get to participate directly in decided how it's run. There are several other alternative DNS systems running, so we're not the only option. There are links to several others on our site.

That should be enough to get you started. ;-)

Cheers,
-robin


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


opennic (5.00 / 1) (#11)
by Delirium on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 10:42:00 PM EST

Perhaps I've mentioned this before, but why doesn't kuro5hin have an OpenNIC domain name? How are we supposed to convince average users to take the trouble to configure their computers to work with OpenNIC's root servers if all their browsing is still done through the normal ICANN servers? If even those of us who are technically competent and interested in these matters can't access our own community's sites (like this one) through OpenNIC I don't see any remote possibility of expanding to the general public...

[ Parent ]
kuro5hin.bbs? (none / 0) (#12)
by Arkady on Sat Jan 27, 2001 at 02:23:21 PM EST

I don't really know why not; Rusty was the first person to register a .null domain when we got started, though I think that was for himself and not K5, since it doesn't refer to K5 at all.

Among the TLDs we're running, K5 could certainly fit into the .bbs or .geek domains and, depending on how the ad stuff is managed, possibly .null as well (since .null doesn't allow commercial activity).

I'd say that kuro5hin.geek has a _very_ nice ring to it, but that'd just start up the old "I'm not a geek!" flamewar. ;-)

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Where are the OpenNIC sites? (none / 0) (#13)
by marimba on Sun Jan 28, 2001 at 10:16:59 AM EST

Is there a directory of OpenNIC websites? I'm set up to use their nameservers now, but I've never even seen a .null or a .parody show up on a search engine (of course, since they are only indexing ICANN sites). Where is Rusty's site?

[ Parent ]
no index yet (none / 0) (#14)
by Arkady on Sun Jan 28, 2001 at 03:00:03 PM EST

The idea's been raised a few times, but no one's put the effort into it yet.

Rusty doesn't have a site on his, as far as I know.

There's a site on www.dev.null, bit that's just a pointer to the site at www.devnull.net, so it probably doesn't count. ;-)

The most usage is in .oss, which has several registrations, but on the whole it's still quite a small set.

You can do a domain transfer (using named-xfer by hand) on the TLDs to see what's registered. We really should put a list of sites on the OpenNIC site.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Is OpenNIC still alive? (none / 0) (#16)
by pretzelgod on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 03:13:43 AM EST

A couple weeks ago, i tried registering as a user, but i never got any information after replying to the confirmation email. Same thing when i tried to join the mailing list. I emailed opennic@unrated.net to ask what was up, and never received a reply.

I have my nameserver setup to use OpenNIC domains now, and once i get my DSL line i'll be willing to server as a public DNS. But, the lack of response i've received doesn't make me feel too confident that this is going anywhere.

-- 
Ever heard of the School of the Americas?


[ Parent ]
yup (none / 0) (#18)
by Arkady on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 12:53:28 PM EST

Well, we're still running.

There is, I will admit, a rather dumb problem in the membership signup process, in that it doesn't send a final confirmation email after you've confirmed your email address. That's being fixed. ;-)

I don't recall getting any mail from anyone at the opennic@unrated.net address asking about whether a signup had succeeded, but my inbox gets about 200 messages/day right now, so I probably just missed it. If you'd send me a note with the address you used to sign up and tbe NIC handle the system gave you I'll verify it for you.

The mailing list has been quite low-traffic for the past week or two, so you may be subscribed, but not have received anything.

Sorry 'bout that.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
How's this for evil? (4.00 / 1) (#19)
by rusty on Wed Jan 31, 2001 at 12:36:17 AM EST

How about this to promote more use of alternative DNS systems. Register "kuro5hin.bbs", then, for one week, remove access to k5 from ICANN's domain system. Make it either Kuro5hin.bbs or nothing. I bet you'd see a whole bunch of new users. :-)

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
You what!? (none / 0) (#20)
by Arkady on Sun Feb 04, 2001 at 12:14:40 AM EST

You (and we) would get lynched!

That aside, though, I think an OpenNIC week among the sites that do have OpenNIC domain names is a great idea. Although it might work best as one OpenNIC day per month to set it up as a rehular thing.

What you could do is set it so folks coming in on the ICANN name end up in a different VirtualHost which conatins a page explaining what's up and linking to some resources and to the alternate named site.

That's _brilliant_!

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Simple. (4.00 / 4) (#3)
by Seumas on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 05:27:39 PM EST

Spread the word and find a lawyer to take the case on, pro-bono. Tell Hasbro they can kiss his ass and they'll have to prove the rights to .org domains, since they are a commercial entity.

For example:

pepsi.org is not owned by Pepsi.
miramax.org is not owned by Miramax.
starbucks.org is not owned by Starbucks.
sprint.org is not owned by Sprint.

I could go on forever.
--
I just read K5 for the articles.

WB does that too (4.40 / 5) (#4)
by ContinuousPark on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 05:30:11 PM EST

The Register has several stories on Time Warner harrassing children with Harry Potter websites. One of the latest is here

I wonder what's J.K Rowling's opinion on these sort of situations.

WIPO (4.50 / 4) (#7)
by supine on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 07:01:59 PM EST

As someone else pointed out this kind of thing is handled by WIPO. I had to look into the rules because someone was threatening me over a domain I have. Basically the challenger has to prove one of 3 things to win the name.

1) That the name was registered with the intention of depriving the challenger of it.

2) That the owner tried to pass themselves off as the challenger.

3) It infringes a trade mark and they were profiting from the site.

It doesn't sound like any of these apply. However, WIPO doesn't always appear to follow its own rules. There is an excellent analysis of the WIPO arbitration process called Rough Justice.

hth
marty


--
"No GUI for you! Use lynx!!!, Come back, One year!" -- /avant
not WIPO (4.50 / 2) (#8)
by Arkady on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 07:17:07 PM EST

The rules are not WIPO's, nor is WIPO a U.N. body, as seems to be a misconception these days. WIPO is independant, though it seems to have convinced the U.N to endorse it's activities by accepting it as a "specialized agency of the United Nations system of organizations" (brought to you by the WIPO homepage).

The rules are made by ICANN, under contract from the U.S. Department of Commerce. WIPO, the "World Intellectual Property Organization", was established by an independant treay and, though the U.S. media often confuses them, is not part of the United Nations.

WIPO's involvement is as an ICANN arbitrator and, since ICANN's UDRP allows the plaintiff to choose the arbitrator and WIPO has demonstrated themselves to be plaintif-friendly, a significant percentage of complaints do go through them.

It's important to know the actual structure involved. ;-)

Cheers,
-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
dinobot (4.00 / 2) (#9)
by delmoi on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 07:58:19 PM EST

I think dinobot is probably a registered trademark of Hasbro. It sucks though, there are like 26 'classes' for trademarks, yet only 3 widely used TLDs. So even though this kid isn't selling dinobot toys, he still gets screwed. Quite lame, and WIPO almost always sides with the person trying to take the name
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
The Register (none / 0) (#10)
by titus-g on Fri Jan 26, 2001 at 10:21:56 PM EST

Are always keen to follow this kinda stuff up. Try and get Kieran interested kieren.mccarthy@theregister.co.uk ,if ever I get a pit bull I might name it after him, he doesn't let go....

Although. Do NOT mention my nick, he might know who I am :)

--"Essentially madness is like charity, it begins at home" --
[ Parent ]

Get the message out (none / 0) (#21)
by nicktamm on Mon Feb 05, 2001 at 03:07:47 AM EST

I must agree that getting out the word on the attempted takeover is the best tatic. Seemingly everyone loves a David vs. Goliath story, so you should have no problems finding someone to pick up your story. I guess the watershed comes when you have made more bad PR for the large company than having an unoffical website which someone might erronously go to.

Just out of curiousity, how many people do you think really give up looking for pepsi.com (to steal someone's earlier example) after going to pepsi.org by accident? Enough to actually cost Pepsi any sales? The only problem I can see Pepsi having with "pepsi.org" would be if the .org existed solely to criticise Pepsi. I'm not saying Pepsi would be justified to then seek the pepsi.org domain name in that case, merely that it would be in their best interest to do so.

Situations that fall into the "Well, it looks sort of like our name, so we figure we will get some lawyers to get it for us" category always make the company look greedy if/when the story breaks of their attempted takeover, which would suggest that perhaps it isn't the best of ideas attempting domain name takeovers in such cases.

I imagine that the argument raised by companies most often would be the need to protect their trademarks or lose them, but doesn't that only apply to products of the same type? I don't see how something such as a web site with the domain of pepsi.org could be brought up in a court as proof that Pepsi has become like Kleenex et al.

Personally, I'm more worried about how to protect a domain name from a company which comes much later than the registration of the domain name (a la etoy.com/etoys.com). What, short of trademarking a domain name yourself, can you do to protect your domain name from future corporations coming along with an "official trademark" filed 5 years after your domain, and demanding that you give them your domain? Can you hold up a 'whois' output in court to prove that you have had the name for 5 years (or whatever)? And more importantly, how can you convince a corporation that it is a guaranteed victory for you, therefore never involving any pricey lawyers?

On a somewhat related note, does anyone else get a selection between YAHOO.COM.IS.TRYING.TO.STEAL.YAHOO.VU.HOW.ACIDULOUS.COM and YAHOO.COM when they do a 'whois yahoo.com'? It certainly struck me as an interesting though limited way to spread a message about a case such as this.
Nick Tamm nick-k5@echorequest.net http://www.nicktamm.org

How can 'the little guy' fight big corporations over domains? | 21 comments (20 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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