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RealTime IT News

House Passes Cybersquatting Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to outlaw cybersquatting this week, which proved to be a major victory for industry groups that have been working to protect trademarks online.

The Net legislation was attached to the Satellite Viewers Act, a bill designed to boost satellite television's ability to compete with cable TV, which passed the House by a vote of 408 to 8.

Although the future of the cybersquatting bill seemed more certain as part of the satellite bill, the Senate wavered about the compromise.

The Internet domain name protection language would allow trademark holders as well as politicians and athletes -- groups that increasingly have been the targets of so-called cybersquatters -- to take civil action against people who have registered celebrity names or trademarks as Internet addresses with hopes of reselling them at a profit.

Trademark holders would be able to take the cybersquatters to court in the country where the domain name was registered. They could seek up to $100,000 in damages against people who registered the name with the intent of reselling it, infringing on the trademark or confusing consumers about who is running the Web site.

These rules were sought by the Motion Picture Association of America and other trade groups representing trademark holders, who say their members have spent millions of dollars buying the rights to domain names, which cost only $70 to register.

Cybersquatters routinely register movie titles, company names or the names of products, then demand large sums of money to turn them over to trademark holders.

Opponents of the ruling say the proposals could impose on Internet free speech and give trademark holders the upper hand in disputes with smaller companies that may have a claim to the same name or word that a larger company has as a registered trademark.