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