Cybersquatter defends his squatting rights

"I believe I am operating under the spirit of free enterprise"


Salon Staff
June 15, 2000 11:18PM (UTC)

Squatting for dollars
BY TERRY J. ALLEN (06/12/00)

In her recent article, Terry J. Allen repeatedly refers me by the new word "cybersquatter." Although she does somewhat misinterpret an e-mail I sent to the Jan Backus, D-Vt., campaign for Senate, I acknowledge that it could be easily be misunderstood. Also, I strongly object to Allen repeating without further comment the objections of the Sen. James Jeffords, R-Vt., campaign regarding my use of the URL Jeffords2000.org. Regarding cybersquatting, I believe the term refers to someone holding on to a domain that is either already trademarked or one for which a trademark is not required (e.g., Gap.com or Salon.com). However, can anyone say that a political campaign officially "owns" the phrase Candidate2000 without having trademarked it? I'm not a lawyer but I think the public should own it.

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The e-mail I sent to the Jan Backus campaign did say, "Hello, I'm the dirty rat who registered the URLs ..." However, I believed that once the Backus campaign realized that I was offering the domains to them without trying to make any profit from them that this introduction would not perceived as hostile. "Hello, I'm the dirty rat who would like to give you something for free" is how I believed it would be interpreted.

Finally, I strongly object to every word Allen wrote regarding the Jeffords campaign's anger at the use of Jeffords2000.org. Allen depicts the campaign as on the verge of suing me for an unnamed federal law that I believe is the Trademark Amendments Act of 1999. A relevant section of it reads: "(d)(1)(A) A person shall be liable in a civil action by the owner of a mark, including a personal name which is protected as a mark under this section, if, without regard to the goods or services of the parties, that person -- "(i) has a bad faith intent to profit from that mark, including a personal name which is protected as a mark under this section..."

Which leads me to the following points: 1) Jeffords2000 is not the name of the senator from Vermont. 2) Jeffords2000 is not the official name of the Jim Jeffords reelection campaign unless they have trademarked it. This phrase is certainly not prominently displayed on their Web site. The campaign can just as easily be known as "Jeffords2000: The Year We Hit Paydirt." 3. The Trademark Amendments Act of 1999 must be unconstitutional. This is because it says that celebrities have more rights than ordinary people. For example, ICANN recently ruled that the owner of the Internet domain JuliaRoberts.com has to give it to Julia Roberts, the $20 million-a-film actress. Let's assume she had not officially trademarked her name and that this law was utilized in the decision. What gives her the right to be the definitive owner of JuliaRoberts.com out of all the similarly named people on Earth? This question includes the extraordinary but legal possibility that a man or woman changes his or her name to Julia Roberts after registering the URL. A law that gives preference to an individual by their celebrity status belongs in the Middle Ages.

Finally, I'd like tell the Jeffords team or any other political campaign that is upset with my utilization of a URL and a Web site that I believe I am operating under the spirit of free enterprise and the long tradition of political parody in the U.S. If you can tell me what constitutionally valid law I am violating I will cease my activities immediately.

-- Scott Loughrey


Salon Staff

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