BOSTON (Reuters) - Massachusetts Republicans have launched a
pre-emptive strike against Democratic Attorney General Tom Reilly by
snapping up online Internet addresses that would have been obvious
picks for him if he decides to run for governor in 2006.
Reilly has not yet said whether he will challenge Republican Governor
Mitt Romney in 2006. But if Reilly does run, it will be hard for him
to use the Web sites reillyforgovernor.com, tomreillyforgovernor.com,
reillyforgovernor2006.com and reillyforgovernor06.com.
That's because the state Republican Party registered those domain
names last week, the Boston Herald newspaper reported on Monday.
"We intend to have some fun if he indeed is the candidate for
governor," Tim O'Brien, executive director of the state party, told
Reuters. He added that the party did not break any rules.
Reilly advisers said the Republicans' Internet maneuvering appeared
premature, given that the Democratic attorney general has not yet
announced his candidacy.
Susan Crawford, an expert in Internet law at New York's Cardozo Law
School, said the Republicans' move seemed to be a new twist on the
practice of cybersquatting, although O'Brien said it was "standard
procedure for political operatives."
A term that originated in the 1990s, when the Internet was catching
on, cybersquatting refers to the act of reserving a particular domain
name for the purpose of selling it at a higher price. Celebrities and
corporations have typically been victims of cybersquatting schemes.
Crawford said she could not recall another instance of one political
party registering domain names for a potential rival, although she
noted that before he ran for president in 2000, then-Gov. George
W. Bush of Texas complained of a parody site that used his name.
Crawford said Reilly still has several options available should he
decide to run for governor.
She noted the number of possible domains has expanded in recent years
with the advent of new Web suffixes like .info,/**/.biz and .us.
Reilly also could dispute the Republicans' move through arbitration,
Crawford said. However, the cost of doing so is likely to be far
greater than the $6 to $9 fee for registering a new domain name.
"He definitely has options, but he may not want to waste his money,"
she told Reuters.
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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: An observation on this matter: At one
point, a few years ago, the thing called 'cybersquatting' was supposed
to be against the law, at the worst, and against good taste at the
least. I can guarentee you, if *I* (or most any of you) chose to take
on the name of some company, or politician, etc as a web page, we
would get shot down promptly. I thought -- and there I go, trying
to think for myself again -- one of the missions of ICANN was to
prevent this sort of thing, and to obligate web page owners to play
by certain rules, including no cybersquatting. But when hot shot
politicians ignore all the rules on the net and do as they please,
what hope is there when a nothing, a nobody like myself complains that
the penis enlargement company ripped off a name -- in the .org domain
yet -- pertaining to internet history. Neither ICANN nor PIR has
answered my inquries about http://internet-history.org and retrieving
it back to me, the lawful owner. I don't think they are going to give
it back, and if I had the money (or lacking same, a pro-bono attorney)
to sue the cybersquatter I would. I can tell you that ICANN appears
to be just a bad joke on the net perpetrated by Esther Dyson, Vint
Cerf and some others who essentially have done nothing to date except
go on expensive vacation/conventions and run out of money frequently.
They certainly do not prevent cybersquatters. Let's see how they deal
with it/if they deal with it, now that some politicians are involved.