Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Internet Government United States Politics Your Rights Online

Political Cybersquatting Or Free Speech? 347

Although plenty of people have purchased politically linked domain names as a form of protest in the past, now they're being used as part of organized campaigns. In Maryland's 8th district Congressional race, Republican candidate Charles R. Floyd purchased three domain names (VanHollen2004.com/net/org) that one might think would represent Democrat incumbent Rep. Chris Van Hollen. Instead, these sites carry criticism and a bit of mockery. Floyd says Van Hollen should've registered these domain names himself, and previously used the same tactic in the primary. Is this cybersquatting, or is it a fair expression of political speech?
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Political Cybersquatting Or Free Speech?

Comments Filter:
  • Follow the money (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jfarnold ( 320693 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @06:44AM (#10501948)
    Only the person with the most money will be able to hold the domain in any legal kerfuffle. Look at what happened to etoys.com.
    • by DigitumDei ( 578031 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @07:45AM (#10502339) Homepage Journal
      The point here is more that even if the guy does eventually lose the domain, the damage is already done.

      While one can argue free speech, this was morally dubious, and having enough money to fight it won't change that.
      • by The Only Druid ( 587299 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @07:55AM (#10502406)
        While I don't agree with it, I think there is an interesting argument that this isn't morally wrong (I dont say it isn't dubious, since obviousy it is debateable whether its right or wrong, i.e. dubious): look at it this way, politics is about pragmatics, at least in the campaigning. That's why Bush is talking about flip-flopping instead of jobs lost, and why Kerry is talking about Iraq instead of how he's actually going to fund his programs. Its been this way for quite some time. Isn't it possibly reasonable that a politician, entering the arena this far into the game, should anticipate such moves, and [as suggested] move preemptively?

        As a disclaimer, I said I don't agree with this argument, but I think it's interesting at least insofar as it poses sociological and moral questions about something we find deeply important to society as a whole, i.e. free speach.
        • Re:Follow the money (Score:5, Interesting)

          by DigitumDei ( 578031 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @08:15AM (#10502527) Homepage Journal
          I tend to disagree, free speech says you are free to voice your opinion. Does it state you are free to disguise it, or trick people into hearing/reading it?

          I agree this is VERY arguable, which is why I called it dubious rather than wrong in my previous post. I just think that to draw an analogy, this would be like an 19th century politician disguising himself as the opposition, getting up onto a soapbox and totally destroying the oppositions reputation and then ripping off the disguise at the end and say, "hey, by the way, its me, not him".

          Okay, maybe a bit extreme, but it is similar. :)

          Freedom of speech should be the freedom to express your views as you, not as your opponent. And putting a disclaimer on the site (which he has done) is not good enough in my opinion. He has already lead the person to the site under false pretences.
        • by Total_Wimp ( 564548 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @08:21AM (#10502568)
          I'm not sure about morality, but it's definately ethically wrong. The guy is luring people to the web site under false pretense and showing them content they didn't set out to see. He's purposely misleading them with the name.

          Regardless of what the law says, regardless of whether or not "other people are doing it" this is clearly unethical from a deception point of view. I know people have a tendency to overlook deception in campaigning (at least the deceptions perpetrated by their candidate) but that doesn't make it ethical.

          TW
          • by nwbvt ( 768631 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @09:35AM (#10503184)
            I hope you never visit the Onion [theonion.com], which is billed as "America's Finest News Source". People could be lured there under a false pretense, thinking they are recieving actual news.
            • Re:Follow the money (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Proteus ( 1926 )
              What if The Onion registered "new-yorktimes.com/net/org" and placed their satrical articles under the header "The New-York Times, newspaper of record"?

              And, what if all of their satire was designed to get people to become their customers instead of the real NYT?

              It's starting to get grey...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I really believe the next generation of search engines/browsers will make remembering URLs unnecessary, fixing the current problems with cybersquatting.

      As an analogy, when I was growing up, I could remember four or five dozen phone numbers of friends/family/whatnot. Now, I could list about three. I would speculate that my great-grandmother could do the same with mailing addresses, yet now my mom would be lost without using mail merge for her Christmas cards.

      I, personally, don't know exactly how we are goi
  • It's free speech. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Garg ( 35772 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @06:45AM (#10501951) Homepage
    And I would never vote for anyone who would do it.

    Garg
    • by AWhistler ( 597388 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @06:46AM (#10501964)
      As past lawsuits have shown, this is cyberquatting. However, I like your solution better.
    • Any politician who claims that his opponent "votes for terrorists" instantly loses any credibility with me.
      • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @07:50AM (#10502366) Journal

        Any politician who claims that his opponent "votes for terrorists" instantly loses any credibility with me.

        Too bad they usually win anyway [usatoday.com]. This is where I start to get disillusioned with American politics -- not when third parties [slashdot.org] are excluded from the debates. But when idiots like Karl Rove can run an advertisement accusing somebody like John McCain (five + years in the Hanoi Hilton) or Max Cleland (lost three limbs in Vietnam) of being unpatriotic... and it fucking works!

        Bah! It's sickening.

      • by surprise_audit ( 575743 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @11:31AM (#10504180)
        I generally reckon that any candidate who spends more time talking trash about his opponent than he does talking himself up, probably isn't worth listening to, or voting for. It's like they're saying, "He's a fucking idiot. Only other fucking idiots would vote for him", but they never really concentrate on their own good points. So I have to conclude that there aren't any good points worth mentioning...

        Which reminds me, I must get a fresh Union Jack to hang by my front door before the Polling Season starts. It's amazing how fast those local candidates and their supporters vanish when I tell them I'll vote for anyone who'd care to restart the War of Independence, seeing as how I pay taxes and yet am not allowed to vote...

    • by ajs ( 35943 ) <ajs@@@ajs...com> on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @07:12AM (#10502108) Homepage Journal
      It's not free speech. We do not allow for free speech in all cases when it comes to elections (we limit how many ads you can put on TV, for example).

      I would say that, in with the dozens of other election reforms that are needed, we should restrict the purchasing of domain names, search results, etc. which imply one candidate and promote another (or attack the promoted candidate).

      Free speech you may have, but this is the electoral equivalent of trademark infringement, and should be treated as such. The site is not a public service, it's an ad for a competing "product". What would we do if Tide (a brand of laundry soap) put out a box in the market labeled "Cheer.gov" (Cheer is another brand of the same product) with Tide in it? Same deal.
      • by abb3w ( 696381 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @09:22AM (#10503082) Journal
        I would say that, in with the dozens of other election reforms that are needed, we should restrict the purchasing of domain names, search results, etc. which imply one candidate and promote another (or attack the promoted candidate).

        I'd disagree with your specific restrictions. However, I'd suggest requiring that any such political site include a "Paid for by the Joe Blah for Senate Campaign" on each page, with a link to a web page version of the usual "I'm the candidate, and I approve this message". If put up by a PAC, use "Paid for by Citizens Against Jim Mumble", with a link to a page stating the group's charter, directorship, and business office. If put up by a private citizen, "Paid for by BillyBob Doe", linked to a page informing people that they are doing this as a private citizen, saying whether they are a registered voter, and if so, noting if they are registered in a precinct that will vote on this election.

    • by alexo ( 9335 )
      Free speech does not prevent anyone else to excercise their free speech rights as well.
      If you say something, your opponent can say the same, or the oposite, or something completely unrelated.

      However, when you register a domain name with your opponent's name in it, you are preventing them from using it.

      So, while the contents of the site fall under the definition of political mud-slinging propaganda, er, free speech, the act of registering the domains does not.

    • by SpecBear ( 769433 )
      But should this be protected speech? I think there's a good case to be made that this is cybersquatting.

      Floyd is using the name of his opponent in a manner that's likely to be confusing in order to achieve personal gain.

      Now, if he wants to use VanHollenSucks.com or NoMoreVanHollen.net, then I firmly believe he should be able to. But I don't think we should go about defending his right to deceive the voters.
  • by jhallum ( 31304 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @06:45AM (#10501952) Homepage
    What a despicable act. If I were in that area of the country, I wouldn't vote for that guy no matter what...he's definitely missing some morality genes someplace. Dummy.

    • This particular case is definately squatting but it raises the question "Can you buy domain names and use them for purposes other than what the domain name may lead most people to believe the content is?". I have several domain names that I have purchased for one reason or another and ended up using them for subjects that have nothing to do with the domain name. Is the only way to solve this issue through a judge? Do we let them determine intent? I personally don't like that idea.
      Why did this jerk (and so
    • I wouldn't vote for that guy no matter what...he's definitely missing some morality genes someplace.

      His opponent is already in Congress, so you know he lacks morals as well. Do you vote for a candidate you don't like, or a candidate you don't like? Sounds an awful lot like the Presidential race.
    • I have to completely disagree. Cybersquatting implies you obtained the domain for nothing more then direct profit of reselling that domain.

      What do YOU think the fine line is between appropriate use of a domain and inappropriate? As far as I am concerned, as long as you have a legitimate use for it (This doesnt include name fudging and redirection, like britanyspears.com), then it shouldn't be an issue.

      For instance, lets say way back when I wanted to register peanutbutterandjelly.com. It could be because I
    • How exactly is this a despicable act? All he is doing is informing the voters of his opponents voting record. Or are you impling that politicians should be able to hide from thier records?

    • He runs domains that accept email, have mx records, but have no working abuse address! This is in volation of RFC2142. (He's also violating RFC1123 5.2.17, but that's not quite as bad.)

      If he violates anything as important as this, he can't be trusted with anything smaller like Congress.

  • Definetely (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fozzmeister ( 160968 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @06:45AM (#10501954) Homepage
    The sites are about Van Hollen, so yeh, however if he hypes himself too much then it does become cyber squating, as he is using the domain name to mislead people alone.
    • The sites are about Van Hollen

      Dude, buzkill... I went there thinking the site was about Van Halen...
    • I can't believe this sort of thing is happening on the internets.
    • Re:Definetely (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ibag ( 101144 )
      Hypes himself? Such as:

      "Being in the minority party, he is useless and cannot deliver like Connie Morella in the past or Chuck Floyd in the future."

      Of course, most of the things don't mention Chuck Floyd at all, and instead is just bad propeganda using Van Hollen's voting record. Choice lines include:

      "Van Hollen did not oppose Sadam paying suicide bomber families $25,000 for murdering innocent citizens in Israel"

      "Van Hollen opposes identification and removal of illegal individuals"

      "$270,000 for con
  • Hard to say. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DrJonesAC2 ( 652108 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @06:45AM (#10501957)
    This is just wrong. But I can't really think of a fair way of going about fixing the problem. Do you force people to give up their domain names because they are misleading? Tough to say.
  • by osmethnee ( 717516 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @06:46AM (#10501962)
    It's clearly cybersquatting, but the real question is whether cybersquatting can/should be protected as freedom of speech.
    • There are limits to free speech though, when it interferes with other laws- hate speech, libel, slander, not shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater...

      so, cybersquatting is obviously a court-defined no-no, and just because it happens to be for political rather than (on the surface at least) economic motives, doesn't make it any more 'right'
  • Happens all the time (Score:2, Interesting)

    by guru_Stew ( 704380 )
    Why not? Companies do this to each other at any chance they get. People make money by registering domain names and selling them at inflated prices to companies you'd expect to own them. Still when I go to a site that's not what I'm expecting e.g. looing for a proxy server [squid.org] it bugs me. So it's probably turning voters against him.
    • by YouHaveSnail ( 202852 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @07:14AM (#10502125)
      People make money by registering domain names and selling them at inflated prices to companies you'd expect to own them.

      You've just defined cybersquatting.

      In this case, however, the goal doesn't seem to be to sell the domain at an inflated price, but instead to use it to get a point across. It does seem deceptive to register someone's name and then use it against them. I'm not sure it's all that unfair, however, as long as the party that owns the domain doesn't try to make the site there look like it belongs to the named party.

      In this case, if Floyd is putting up a site that pretends to be Van Hollen's then that's deceptive, unfair, and probably slanderous. On the other hand, if www.vanhollen.com makes it clear that it's owned by Floyd, well that's at least less offensive and probably more reasonably "free speech."
  • by julesh ( 229690 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @06:47AM (#10501967)
    The site in question [vanhollen2004.com]

    I think people should look at this before commenting.
    • by beaverfever ( 584714 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @07:12AM (#10502110) Homepage
      This site has a lot of vague accusations without real facts and/or background to back them up. I'm not saying any of the content on this site is correct or incorrect, but you'd have to be pretty gullible to believe any of it presented as it is.

      Just by scanning it quickly I suspect some of it may be misleading. For example, saying he is anti-business could mean he has voted in favour of some environmental control (which by the standard of many is 'anti-business'). Also, the section listing items he has voted for doesn't mention that these vague, nasty sounding votes could have been for bigger, worthy bills with silly amendments buried in them, as happens all the time.

      The content of this site reminds me that in modern US politics candidates for office can say just about anything they want about an opponent and the onus of clarification or disproving any misleading or false accusations is on the accused.

      I can't say whether or not the practice of using the URL is valid or not, but I would consider the content of the site to be piss-poor at best, misleading at worst. Actually, the worst would be bald-faced lies, but I'm not going to start checking facts. Regardless, there is no shame in US politics today.
    • "I think people should look at this before commenting."

      I did. Chris Floyd is going to be a force to be reckoned with once he graduates from high school.

      I mean, the only excuse for the complete lack of information and 'you're poopy' argument style has to be maturity, right?

    • A man in a giant chicken suit supports Floyd, so I must too!
      Man, politicians really need to grow up.....
  • UK too... (Score:4, Informative)

    by REBloomfield ( 550182 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @06:47AM (#10501970)
    This was recently done in the UK, when the Labour Party purchased three URL's, involving the name of the leader of the Conservative party.

    Story [guardian.co.uk]

    Personally, I think our Government should be given a slap and made to hand the domains over. They've obviously done it as a form of political canvassing, and it's plain wrong.

    • I don't think so. As long as its clear that the sites aren't affiliated with the Conservative party or Mr. Howard (they've currently just got a holding page on them), I see no problem.
      • So if I go and buy www.microsoft.tk, and slap a banner up saying I'm not affiliated with Microsoft, that's okay then?
        • Microsoft is different - they hold a Trademark on the name.
          • True - but if I went to one of those Michael Howard sites, I would expect to see either a 404 or something official about Michael Howard. I don't expect to see the opposition party telling me what they think I should know about a candidate I support.
            • If I went to michaelhowardmp.org.uk, I would expect to find a page which contained information about Michael Howard MP, provided by a not-for-profit organisation with relevance in the UK (that being the basic idea of the .org.uk domain).

              I see no reason to expect it to be an official site.
        • So if I go and buy www.microsoft.tk, and slap a banner up saying I'm not affiliated with Microsoft, that's okay then?

          Yes. I don't believe anyone should have sole right to control what a name may or may not be used for. Particularly, people should not be able to prevent their name being used to identify pages which are critical of them.

          While Microsoft is a trademark, (morally speaking, I'm not talking about actual laws here) this only gives MS the right to prevent other people trying to use their name t
          • "While Microsoft is a trademark, (morally speaking, I'm not talking about actual laws here) this only gives MS the right to prevent other people trying to use their name to make a profit based on their reputation."

            So, if someone wanted to have a building, painted Yellow and Red and had a Big M On a pole stating McDonalds, this would be alright, as long it wasn't a place trying to make profit off of McDonalds, and simply trying to draw people in to tell them Meat is Murder and they are hiring underaged mexi
      • "I see no problem."

        I do. It was a PR blunder that suggested that the Labour party was petty enough to try a tactic like that in the first place. They lost points for that one in addition to getting Patricia Hewitt to apologise for Tony.

        "As long as its clear that the sites aren't affiliated with the Conservative party or Mr. Howard"

        If they had a _hint_ of that, they'd be slapped for it.

  • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <richardprice&gmail,com> on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @06:48AM (#10501971)
    fraudulant misrepresentation? Seriously, if I went to VanHollen2004.[com|net|org] I would expect to get something official for the 2004 campaign for Van Hollen, just the same as I would if i went to Bush2004.[com|net|org] or kerry2004.[com|net|org] (which both work). When you cant get ahead on your own merits, trash your competitors.
  • by DLR ( 18892 ) <dlrosenthal AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @06:48AM (#10501972) Journal
    I'd call it cybersquatting if he were trying to sell it back to Van Hollings for a profit, but as it is he's registered a domain and is free to say what he wants on it.

    Having said that, I'm not thrilled with the tone U.S. politics has taken over the past 20 years or so with all the mud slinging, and I think this is (potentialy) just another few feet down that same slipery slope. I say potentially because I haven't seen the pages that were put up yet. It could be "honest politics" where one candidate is merely pointing out the voting record of another. However in this day and age I am inclined to doubt it.

  • Sounds iffy... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rooijan ( 746599 )
    I'm not in the US, so maybe this is fine there, but to me this sounds very much like libel (at least what I understand libel to mean :)).

    If it was simply the case that the Republican registered the sites, on which disparaging comments are made about a political opponent that would just be the sleazy but unfortunately acceptable face of politics. But since he registered domains which might reasonably (by my definition of reasonable anyhow) be taken to be connected with the Democrat and such disparaging stat
    • Is this any different to registering www.microsoft.com (for example) and then writing Bill Gates hate-speech all over it?

      No. And if that domain were available, I would like to see your right to do so protected.
  • Option C (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jameth ( 664111 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @06:52AM (#10502001)
    Cybersquatting is a fair expression of political speech.
  • Unless we actually enforce policies on what each top level (and lower) domain is named and contains, this sort of behaviour is just the extreme case of a broken/misfeatured system.
  • A lack of class (Score:5, Interesting)

    by laetus ( 45131 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @06:54AM (#10502009)
    Personally, I think the cybersquatting shows a lack of class. I voted against Van Hollen in the last election, but I don't condone what his opponent is doing for one reason, in that you shouldn't work to silence your opponent in a political election in a republic.

    Floyd is wrong on this one, big time. By attempting to suppress Van Hollen's website and ideas, he's tarnishing his own reputation.
  • Free as in speech (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RealProgrammer ( 723725 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @06:56AM (#10502018) Homepage Journal
    and almost as in beer. He's paying his two cents for the domain name, then saying his piece. Now he even gets a free plug on /., which will even give him a Google bump.

    This is no more offensive than a TV ad, since I just press 'mute' if I don't want to hear it. In this case, I can just click away.

    There may be some secondary backlash when Floyd supporters or undecideds go to VanHollen2004.org and find Floyd's rhetoric.

    It doesn't harm anyone, since "LastName2004.org" is clearly political.
  • Disclaimer (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Pemdas ( 33265 ) * on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @06:59AM (#10502032) Journal
    So long as the holder of the domain makes it clear he is not affiliated with the compaign that the URL would imply, I don't see a problem with it. Looking over this site, I think it's sufficiently clear that it's not actually being run by the candidate being mocked.

    On the other hand, looking over this site and seeing how it's done make me dislike Floyd more than Van Hollen. But I'm not in that district, so...

    I don't see how this is significantly different than www.gwbush.com (currently defunct), although gwbush.com was a bit cleverer.
  • by Colonel Cholling ( 715787 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @07:02AM (#10502052)
    Karl Rove once spent a lot of time and money buying up anti-Bush domain names, [americanpolitics.com] then redirecting them to the Bush webpage.
  • However, I support the actions of the man who once registered "peta.org" and then set up a site entitled, "People Eating Tasty Animals." :) He'll always be an inspiration it me. Wish he had enlisted the help of the EFF or someone to defend his free speech rights on that one.

    PETA's actions offend and disturb me.
  • This site has some good poins to ne made about Cybersquatting and how it can viewd as a double standard

    http://unquietmind.com/cybersquat.html

    What is your take on this sites view of the issue?

  • by kylemonger ( 686302 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @07:05AM (#10502066)
    Domain names aren't as important as they were in the 1990's. If you want to find something on the web, you go to a search engine now. I think that typing fooblab.com in the address bar and hoping for the best went out of style when porn sites starting parking redirect pages everywhere.
  • This guy should get an endorsement from Eddie and Alex. And his platform could be:
    For
    Unethical
    Cyber
    Kludges
  • by dschuetz ( 10924 ) <david AT dasnet DOT org> on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @07:13AM (#10502118)
    I mean, how far do we take this? Is van Hollen automatically entitled to *all* domains that might be remotely associated with his campaign? If van Hollen had himself purchased vanhollen2004.com, would we be having this conversation if the opponent has set up vanhollen-2004.com?

    The website is real. It's not a "buy me for megabucks!" squatter. It says right up front that it's not an official Chris van Hollen site. There's nothing misleading about it, except for the little trick of the name itself.

    Whether it's ethical, or "right," is another question entirely. But I'd rather these stupid tricks play out on the internet, where I can choose not to surf to a website, than on the streets, where all those damned (and illegal) campaign signs show up every year making it almost impossible to see around corners, if you're in a small car.
  • Mhm? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by richie2000 ( 159732 ) <rickard.olsson@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @07:13AM (#10502119) Homepage Journal
    Republican logic: A vote by Van Hollen against the Cuban travel ban is seen as a "vote against the citizens of the 8th District". Not to mention his votes against banning human cloning and claimed support for gay marriage. I think I speak for all thinking people when I say "WTF?". Are all citizens of the 8th district clone-hating, anti-gay and vehemently against anyone ever going to Cuba?

    Are they afraid they might succumd to the lure of Fidel unless there's a ban on travel there? "Gee, Martha, I was this close to going to Cuba today, but thanks to God and the republicans, I was turned away at the airport. Just imagine, I might have seen gay clones going on a wild rampage of the streets of Havana. The horror!"

    If that's the case, I hope he votes for a permanent travel ban for all citizens of the 8th district going anywhere, because quite frankly, we in the rest of the world don't want them to escape out of their little reservation.

    • Re:Mhm? (Score:3, Informative)

      by gclef ( 96311 )
      No, we're a fairly liberal bunch, actually (Maryland's pretty left-wing compared to much of the US)....it's just our reps (or candidates for the job) are occasionally asshats. I'm sure you can sympathise.
  • by aussie_a ( 778472 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @07:19AM (#10502154) Journal
    In Australia we don't have the right to free speech. Instead we have what we aren't allowed to do defined by laws, and anything else we're free to do. So Australia's libel laws may be a lot harsher then America's. But in Australia this would definitely be libel (in some states of Australia he could get away with it as it isn't libel if it's true, but this isn't the case in all states).

    As for cybersquatting, yes this definitely sounds like it. WIPO has the following criteria in determining if someone is cybersquatting.

    1. Is the domain name identical or confusingly similar to a trademark in which Complainant has rights?
    2. Does Respondent have no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name?
    3. Was the domain name registered and used in bad faith?
    4. Has the Complainant engaged in reverse domain name hijacking?
    I think the main point in this is #3. A quote from a similiar issue talking about issue 3 is...
    Complainant presented clear evidence that Respondent's activities fall under Paragraph 4(b)(iv) of the Policy, namely that by using the domain name, Respondent has intentionally intended to attract, for commercial gain, Internet users to its website by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant's mark as to the source, sponsorship, affiliation or endorsement of Respondent's website.

    The uncontroverted evidence shows that prior to notice of this dispute, Respondent's domain name resolved to a website referring solely to Complainant's competitor Shutterfly, and containing links to Shutterfly's website. That Respondent's website was directed toward Complainant's customers, and not generally to those seeking "free opinions" about high technology products, was clear from Respondent's prominent use of the phrase "Already have an Ofoto account? Give Shutterfly a try...". Respondent's website was devoid of any mention of an "Online Forum Of Free Opinions" until after Complainant contacted Respondent.
    (From here [wipo.int])

    Not exactly the same, but I think it has the same feel as this situation. I'd personally not be completely against this except for the quote "loyd says Van Hollen should've registered these domain names himself" that just makes me angry and (imo) is ridiculous. I use the same forum name on many forums (except this one) should I be forced to register it to stop someone from one day creating a hate-site about me?
    • But in Australia this would definitely be libel (in some states of Australia he could get away with it as it isn't libel if it's true, but this isn't the case in all states).

      Are you seriously saying that the truth of statements you make is not a valid defense to libel in parts of Australia?

      Remind me never to live there.
    • In Australia we don't have the right to free speech. Instead we have what we aren't allowed to do defined by laws, and anything else we're free to do.

      We used to have that in the United States, too. It was called the Tenth Amendment.
  • by Eil ( 82413 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @07:24AM (#10502195) Homepage Journal

    I just took a look at the site, completely expecting to see mudslinging on the same level as a television commercial, but was pleasantly surprised.

    While I doubt how much of the information is truthful, the page does inform you several times that it's not Van Hollen's official site and in fact they even link to his official site in the navigation menu.

    View it while you can, though, because as candidates start taking the Internet seriously as a campaign medium, you won't see to many "civil" sites like these left.
  • Is Whitehouse.org [whitehouse.org] cybersquatting or free speech?
  • New TLD(s)??? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by shubert1966 ( 739403 )
    Well, it probably is cybersquatting in the spirit of the law, but is it actually? The TLD has an integer included, not just the candidates name. Additionally, perhaps there are more than one person with that name. Of course, the content does disparage the candidate, which is a determining factor, but free speech is free speech. If the year was not included I'd say it was a 'slam dunk', but I guess this is just a free throw. Perhaps a new TLD (i know, i know) like ".anti" or ".con" - for people to express
  • by Exter-C ( 310390 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @07:39AM (#10502290) Homepage
    Its one thing to register the domain names in question. Its another thing to actually have traffic to those domain names. In this case hes had an abundance of free publicity and the search engines/slashdot affect would do the site a world of good. Generally this wouldnt have been the case with out the large press/publicity/scam campaign that is currently occuring.

    maybe I should register a few thousand political domain names.. then link them all to eachother.. create a post on slashdot mentioning it.. then change the content on the pages to something thats worth while.. then the search engines will redirect viagra requests.. oops i mean legit traffic to my site.
  • My understanding of cybersquatting is that, in order to fit that label, you must intentionally acquire a domain name that is obviously intended to (mis)represent someone else (individual or organization). In this case, a politician is knowingly purchasing domain names -- with public money, no less! -- that is specifically intended to (mis)represent opposing candidates.

    You will not catch me verbally supporting or voting for any candidate who uses my taxdollars to purchase someone else's domain name and use
  • by crashnbur ( 127738 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @07:50AM (#10502371)
    I keep reading a bunch of "definitions" of cybersquatting relying solely on the intent to sell a domain name back to its intended owner, but there's more to it than that according to US law:

    According to the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act [loc.gov], cybersquatting is registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name with bad-faith intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else.

    Yes, intent to profit has a lot to do with it, but bad-faith intent is all that's necessary for such activity to be considered cyber-squatting. Punishments are only much worse for those intending to profit from it. Besides, since when is profit limited to money? The additional attention via registering your political opponent's namesake domain name allows extra persuasion of voters, and that's a profit... or else, what is your definition of profit?
  • reverse effect (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drakyri ( 727902 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @08:20AM (#10502565)
    The site had the reverse effect on me - it was poorly constructed, including numerous typos.

    The accusations just seem silly - "Votes for: terrorists"?? If you really want to put together a site like that, you should at least substantiate the accusations.

    After reading through that crap, I went and looked at Van Hollen's real website, and was actually impressed with his biography and Congressional resume.

    The guy who registered the site has the right to do so, I think -- he's just being stupid and seeming petty to the voters.
  • Sad (Score:3, Funny)

    by Minwee ( 522556 ) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @08:30AM (#10502645) Homepage
    You would think that all political domain names would be held to the same high standards as georgewbush.org [georgewbush.org], whitehouse.org [whitehouse.org] and whitehouse.com [whitehouse.com].

    There ought to be a law. Won't somebody please think about thinking about the children?

  • I'm a candidate (Score:3, Informative)

    by gCGBD ( 532991 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @08:52AM (#10502818) Homepage
    I am a candidate for State Representative (Green Party) and the first thing I did when I decided to run was to register a bunch of domains to minimize chances of this happening to me.

    Unfortunately it is impossible to think of all the possibilities, and the more you think of the more it costs.

    There is some sort of tradeoff and risks you have to take in this sort of battle. The campaign doesn't really have a lot of time to worry about shutting these things down (with election deadlines looming), and certainly as a third party candidate we don't have any money.

    Also, web sites are still not terribly effective ways to market to most voters. For example, in the district I'm running in, there are 110,000 voters (plus who knows how many new ones?).

    My website draws maybe 100 hits on a good day.

    Even if I got that hit rate for an entire year, and even if we assumed they were all hits from people in my district, that would still leave over 95% of the voters who didn't bother to check it out.

    An even smaller percentage might hit anti-me campaign sites....

  • Precedent (Score:5, Informative)

    by michaelmalak ( 91262 ) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @08:56AM (#10502857) Homepage
    In another Maryland case involving Robin Ficker [washingtonpost.com], a federal judge ruled in favor of the cybersquatter. This is in contrast to the Falwell case [slashdot.org], where Falwell was successful against a cybersquatter merely because he had a trademark on his name. As I pointed out in my post [slashdot.org], this amounts to trademarking a religion, and thereby quashing speech critical of that religion.

    The courts have ruled: you may mock politicians, but not televangelists.

    • Re:Precedent (Score:3, Informative)

      Is "Apple.com" protected because it is a trademark? Maybe the answer is for all of us to trademark our names to give some more legal strength.

      I was really surprised Floyd did this after the experience with Ficker in the primary. He can't have thought he came out of that looking good. Legal? Yes. The right thing to do? Probably not. Its the kind of trick done by someone that doesn't have much positive to run on. Of course, a Republican in Montgomery County Maryland doesn't stand much of a chance any
  • by vandelais ( 164490 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @10:45AM (#10503760)
    I think it would be funnier if he linked to the Van Halen site.
    Maybe he's just a gigolo.

    I'm just a gigolo and everywhere I go
    People know the part I'm playin'
    Paid for every dance, sellin' each romance
    Ooh, what they're sayin?
    There will come a day, and youth will pass away
    What'll they say about me?
    When the end comes I know they'll say just a gigolo
    And life goes on without me

  • by DeVilla ( 4563 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @12:02PM (#10504494)
    The funny thing is that this question didn't come up when the site http://whitehouse.org/ opened or when http://bush2004.com (or .net or .org) opened. This just doesn't sound like an agrument on principle. I'm so used to seeing sites like this, that I've really stopped caring. It's the same as the X-sucks.com domains, but deceitfully subtle. This is just another case of the net not being the most reliable place to find information.

    The real answer in the case of campaigns is to set up a campaign site at local, state and federal levels that serves as a (very) small site or forwarding service to the candidates' official site. It should be a service provided to anyone on the ballot in a race. (Put third party rants below.) If you go any where else, you could get the candidate's site, a supporter's site, a basher site or even a beer company site.
  • by serutan ( 259622 ) <snoopdoug.geekazon@com> on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @01:07PM (#10505299) Homepage
    I call it just being an asshole.
  • by dananderson ( 1880 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2004 @02:37PM (#10506313) Homepage
    I have a webpage against my Congressman, U.S. Rep. "Duke" Cunningham. It's not very flattering, but it's true. See http://dukecunningham.org/ [dukecunningham.org]

    The domain used to belong to the Representative, but he (or his dormant campaign staff) forgot to renewal.

    You may not agree with it, but I have my rights and having a easy-to-remember domain name certaintly helps people find it. I make no representation that it's "Duke's" website.

We are not a clone.

Working...