InfoSpace Playing Domain Name Lotto

It’s no secret how I feel about the World Intellectual Property
Organization’s shameless arbitration authority. Early results from a bevy
of domain dispute resolutions point to signs of a slippery slope getting
worse by the minute. Making an already bad situation worse is WIPO’s
obvious favoritism toward big business over the “little guy.” It’s
fostering an environment of cheat and greed by deep-pocketed corporations
looking to play what I call the domain name lottery game.


Take InfoSpace for example. The Redmond-based
content portal site recently submitted a slew of domain dispute cases to
WIPO for review. Any domain containing the name infospace was fair game,
including wwwinfospaces, indiainfospace, and myinfospace. The company argued that
the domain name holders were all freeloading on its global brand by
registering the domains in bad faith and asked WIPO to transfer all of the
domains in question to InfoSpace’s possession.


Myinfospace.com was the only domain InfoSpace couldn’t get its grubby
little hands on because the domain was registered to a University professor
using the site to educate school children about outer space – a fact
InfoSpace was, in fact, aware of. It’s a sad statement, the sort of
activity WIPO is indirectly promoting, that a publicly-traded company is
attempting to steal an educational domain name from school children – a Web
site InfoSpace so eloquently described as “facially benign information
about astronomy and science fiction.” Pure class.


Word is spreading like wildfire through executive boardrooms all over the
world that WIPO is virtually in the business of hijacking domain names from
their original “little guy” owners and giving them lock, stock, and barrel
to complainant corporations. This growing trend has caused many high
profile Fortune 500 companies to submit multiple requests to that end,
figuring they’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.


The entire concept of forming a centralized agency charged with overseeing
domain disputes must have seemed like a grand idea at its inception. But
after finding 80% of the cases in favor of fat cat complainants since its
debut, the process is falling victim to rampant abuse from companies
“fishing” for domain names, to which WIPO is a willing participant. The
only way to prevent this sort of activity is to send every last one of
these cases to the courts with respective jurisdiction.


From where I’m sitting, there’s a pervasive anti-capitalist attitude on the
part of WIPO. Think of it. A capitalist is a person who buys in order to
sell for a profit. In a laissez-faire capitalist environment, an individual
pursues economic self-interest without being hampered by government
regulations, causing wealth to be created in the most efficient manner
possible, which ultimately raises the standard of living, increases the
economic opportunities, and makes available an ever growing supply of
products for everyone. Yet, in nearly all of the cases before WIPO, the
up-and-coming capitalist has taken it on the chin.


Who said brick-and-mortar companies that were slow to embrace the Internet
shouldn’t suffer more than those who were first-movers to embrace the new
media? While businesses normally compete with one another based on a set of
implied rules, WIPO has changed the rules of the game to allow many
companies to turn back the clock and gain an unfair competitive advantage
retroactively. The result is a multi-headed monster of mostly
U.S.-based corporations eager to take advantage of the slanted rule changes
without any fear of consequence.


Any questions or comments, love letters or hate mail? As always, feel
free to forward them to [email protected]

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