No matter what you personally think of Rick Schwartz, he is on spot with this recent blog post. Domain owners and investors hold valuable pieces of virtual property, and some people who didn’t have the foresight to buy domain names while they were relatively cheap have been attempting to tarnish the image of generic domain owners by publicly labeling this group as “cybersquatters.” What has caused domain names to increase in value has also caused domain owners to be the target of what Rick refers to as “cyber bullies.” Fortunately, I believe domain owners are better equipped to protect our domain names than those who lost large land claims out west, but we need to be vigilant and support organizations such as the Internet Commerce Association. I have pledged to become a member as soon as they take Paypal or AmEx!
According to the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, a law amended to the Lanham Act in 1999, 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.”
The term “cybersquatting” is clearly derived from the word “squatting,” which is loosely defined as people living in a property in which they have no right to live, frequently without the owner’s knowledge, and certainly without his approval. The owner in the case of cybersquatting is the trademark owner. When people refer to generic domain owners as cybersquatters, they are either slandering this group or they are ignorant about the topic they are addressing. Generic domain name owners pay for the right to use their domain name in any way they choose. If they want to develop their domain name into a huge brand like Hotels.com, they have every right to do so. If they wish to place relevant advertising links on their page, they have the right to do that, too! Just because a domain name isn’t developed, doesn’t mean someone else should have the rights to the name. It doesn’t work in the case of physical property, and it doesn’t work for cyber property either.
Domain names such as Devices.com are considered generic because a company can’t claim ownership of that particular word as there are far too many people who would conceivably have the rights to that term as well. Assuming the domain name is generic, nobody has the right to decide whether one particular company or person deserves to own that domain name over somebody with equal rights. “Cyber bullies” attempt to sully the image of generic domain name holders in a slanderous way, and whether it is intentional or just uninformed writing, ignorance is never a valid defense.
Kudos to Rick for writing his post, and kudos to Ron Jackson of DNJournal for including this in The Lowdown section of DNJournal.com.