cyber: computer network
squatter: one that settles on property without right or title
Cybersquatting means using somebody's name and creating a website for one's benefit. For example, if a random person, Joe, made a website called www.michaeljordan.com, pretending to be Jordan, etc, he would make unwarranted profits, and have an unfair advantage over his online colleagues in terms of revenue from advertising. Hence, for obvious ethical reasons, there are anti-cybersquatting laws in effect. The law was introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch, on the grounds that it is unethical for people to obtain domain names that are identical to a trademark. This legislation gave the victim the power to sue violators of this task. While this protected a lot of individuals from taking advantage of celebrities and industries, it also created a minor problem.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for fans of sports teams and celebrities to express their affinity towards their respective interests. For example, while it may not be ethical to start a website saying one owns the New York Yankees, but it is perfectly ethical to make a personal webpage saying that one is an avid fan of the Yankees. Creating legislation that will account for this ‘grey area’ has proven to be a daunting task.
Also, the act is structured in such a way that makes it too broad. For example, legitimate protest sites would become criminal. In other words, nobody could make a website saying www.googleishorrible.com. Although they are mentioning the name of the company, they are voicing their opinion in relation to why they don’t like that particular company, and that, by no means, is unethical.
Furthermore, the problem of country-specific and area-specific prefixes has also given a rise to cybersquatting around the world. Cybersquatters around the world have begun to use the suffixes at the end to promote their businesses. For example, although www.amazon.com might be taken as a domain name, www.amazon.uk (which is a United Kingdom) specific website is allowed to be used. It should not be legal for people to use the popularity of amazon to promote their own business. A well documented case of this particular phenomenon can be seen in detail here
In conclusion, as we see the internet boom continue, we will see people putting more faith into the information they obtain via the internet. As that faith intensifies, the need for online protection of property will increase. Thus, it is imperative that we stay informed about this topic and try to push more robust legislation that will make the internet a more pleasant environment for trademark owners, both companies and individuals.