One of the best things about living in this country is that we have the ability to appeal to our elected officials in the hopes of having a proposed bill revised before it is written into law. The proposed Snowe Bill (S. 2661) has the potential to severely damage web-based small businesses (and any company that owns a website/domain name), and I am not going to stand idly. The Internet Commerce Association has information on contacting your local elected officials to express your concern about the bill, and I strongly recommend you do so if the bill will impact you. In addition to financially supporting the ICA, I have also emailed my senators, and I am going to send a letter via USPS as well.
Below is a copy of the letter I sent to my senator in New Hampshire, US Senator John E. Sununu. I fondly remember being introduced to his father (former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu), who was very concerned about small business growth in the state of New Hampshire. Like his father, Senator Sununu is also a proponent of small businesses in New Hampshire, and I hope the Senator will read up on my concerns and take action to alleviate them. This bill will impact anyone who owns a domain name or website if a larger company wants to take it from them. We need to make sure the bill does not pass in its current form.
Dear Senator Sununu,
I was born and raised in Nashua, New Hampshire, but currently reside in New York City. In 2006, I created a small business buying, developing and selling domain names, and my company (Top Notch Domains, LLC) is currently registered and located in New Hampshire. I do all of my banking in New Hampshire, and I hope to move back to the Nashua area once my fiancee finishes her graduate degree in New York. In November 2007, I was able to leave my job at American International Group (AIG) as a Senior Marketing Manager, to focus completely on my domain development and investment business. I am really living the American Dream.
Aside from always voting in local and national elections, I am relatively uninvolved in politics. However, I am writing to you today because a bill was recently proposed that in all likelihood will have dire consequences on the domain investment industry and my business, if it passes with the current language. Senator Snowe recently introduced a bill called the Anti-Phishing Consumer Protection Act (S. 2661) . While the name of the bill certainly sounds consumer friendly, the law itself opens the gateway for large corporations and/or various government agencies to seize control of domain names currently owned by small business owners like myself, which have absolutely nothing to do with phishing or other deceptive or fraudulent practices.
The two major targets of the bill, phishing and cybersquatting, are both already illegal in the US or against ICANN/WIPO policy. Over 85% of WIPO cases are won by the complainant, and 99% of all Lanham Act cases are won by the plaintiff, evidence that the systems in place are working. Additionally, most people who are committing these fraudulent acts live in Europe, Asia, and Africa, beyond the reach of the US justice system. I am very much in favor of eliminating phishing and cybersquatting, but I don’t think this bill will have any impact on these illegal practices.
The main concern I have is that the proposed S. 2661 bill would also make it unlawful for any person to use a domain name in connection with the display of a webpage or an advertisement on a webpage, if the domain name is identical or confusingly similar to the name or brand name of a government office, nonprofit organization, business or other entity. As the owner of the domain names Lowell.com and Salinas.com (among other generic domain names), I am very concerned that this could present the opportunity for potential litigation against these city domain names, even though owning them now is perfectly legal.
On my websites, I make it very clear that each is completely unconnected to the city government to ensure that consumers are aware that my websites are commercial ventures. My websites are informational guides to the cities, and I am very concerned that both of these cities could conceivably try to seize them, even though both city governments own their respective .gov extension. The language in this bill could put all my hard work and business plans in jeopardy. I have spent a considerable amount of time and money purchasing and developing these domain names into sustainable businesses, and I believe the language of the bill will enable others to put me out of business as the risk of owning these domain names would be too great.
Senator Sununu, I am asking you not to cosponsor S. 2661 or to vote in favor of it in its current form. I am asking that you oppose this legislation until its redundant, unbalanced, and unnecessary trademark-like provisions have been removed. The Internet Commerce Association, has put out a well-written paper on how this bill will impact my entire industry, and they are willing to work with you and Senator Snowe to revisit the language. I would sincerely appreciate your review of the ICA website and your efforts to improve the language of the pending Snowe bill. If the bill passes as is, I am afraid that I will lose my business. Please help.
ICA Position Paper: http://www.internetcommerce.org/Snowe_Bill_Threatens_Domain_Name_Registrants
Elliot J. Silver
Top Notch Domains, LLC