RealTime IT News

Senator Proposes Ban On Cybersquatting

Following the lead of the international community to quash cybersquatters, Senator Spencer Abraham, a Michigan Republican, proposed a bill to outlaw the practice.

Abraham introduced the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act Friday, which would make it illegal to register someone else's trademarked domain name with the intent of selling it later. While at first a misdemeanor charge, repeat offenders would be charged with a felony and be fined up to $300,000 for each violation.

The proposal follows in the footsteps of the World Intellectual Property Organization, which in May outlined anti-cybersquatting tactics for use by the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers. ICANN has preliminarily endorsed WIPO's proposal, which would crack down on cybersquatters who want to register ".com," ".net" and ".org" domain names.

Abraham called cybersquatting "online extortion," and said that the practice needs to be outlawed.

"Online extortion in any form is unacceptable and outrageous," he said. ". . .anyone engaging in cybersquatting activity should be held accountable for their actions."

Co-sponsors of the bill are Senators Robert Torricelli (D-NJ), Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and John McCain (R-AZ).

Critics of the bill argue that it has the potential to make the problem worse. Michael Froomkin of the University of Miami Law School said the bill is "massive overkill."

"If you look at the court cases that have already been decided, cybersquatters always lose in court," he said.

Froomkin added that the bill adds ammunition for reverse domain name hijackers, who intimidate those with valid registrations into giving them up. People threatened with hefty fines or jail time would more likely give up a domain name they actually deserve, he said.

"It seems to me that this is going to exacerbateone of the existing problems."