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Governing the Internet wilderness


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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Anna Roe

By Anna Roe
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
October 28, 1999
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Though the Internet is known for ungoverned cyberspace that allows anything to go, Congress is now unjustly cracking down on it. Tuesday, the House passed legislation to cut down on cybersquatting, the process of buying popular domain names and words with the hopes of reselling them to companies and trademark holders for lots of money.

In regards to the move, which would protect big business, Representative James Rogan, a California Republican, said that, "Congress acted today out of the best interests of e-commerce as well as simple fairness."

And how did the United States Congress pass a law on the World Wide Web? How did they decide that they should step in and set the situation right over anyone else in the world? This law just seems like another way our government is trying to maintain global power.

While this bill apparently is going to decrease cybersquatting, because of the penalties of up to $100,000, it just seems redundant. Already, companies who feel that they have been wronged by cybersquatters are suing the squatters, and winning. Both Microsoft and Apple are among those companies who have sued and won.

Rightfully, a main concern civil libertarians have is that the legislation does not go far enough to protect individuals and small businesses. If this law doesn't outline the little people's rights, then what prevents any big company, with lots of money, from robbing an innocent person of their domain name?

Big companies who didn't have the foresight to buy a name are just mad now. They are probably even more mad that they didn't think of cybersquatting first, only they would have called that "a healthy monopoly."

Cybersquatters seem to have caught on to something that is just smart in theory, no matter how annoying it might be to the companies.

This Republican-sponsored bill will also ignore the policy that was recently formed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. ICANN was picked last year by the Clinton Administration to deal with the administration of the Internet's domain system. Their policy tries to reduce lawsuits by creating an international standard system.

Also, this bill represents the American government's way of operating. They tend to pass bills without thinking them through, and not considering that there might be a solution without Congress having to step in.

Already, big business is using claims of cybersquatting to victimize small children. A 12-year-old Pennsylvania boy, whose nickname was "Pokey" had a site at http://www.domainpokey.net that he had received from his father for a birthday present. On "Pokey's" site, he would post games, pictures of his puppy and other cute kid stuff. Then one day the evil holder of the trademark for Gumby and Pokey toys attempted to take "Pokey's" sight away. From here no one is sure what happened, but it probably had a messy ending. Does "Pokey" deserve to pay tens of thousands of dollars for his crime, as he would under the new bill?

Instead of creating a bill in which children and small businesses who just want to be online could end up feeling the corporate wrath, why not let everyone buy any domain name that they want? If the site stays inactive for a certain amount of time, shut it down, because it is most likely being used for squatters' purposes. If it is active, then it stays with the rightful owner and everyone is protected.

A lesson to be learned about this story and of this bill is to watch out. You could get in trouble with a large company, and that will result in losing your domain name and a large sum of money.

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