Reed copes with cybersquatting

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It was a most unwelcome valentine: on February 14, the college was notified by an alumnus that someone had registered the domain name reedcollege.com and was using it to redirect users to a series of anti-abortion websites. Commandeering a trademark or tradename in cyberspace this way is referred to as “cybersquatting.”

The college’s official domain name — an address on the world wide web — is www.reed.edu (or www.reed.edu).

Members of the Reed community were obviously quite upset, concerned, and surprised that someone had appropriated the school’s name. It’s like identity theft,” said Harriet Watson, Reed’s director of public affairs. “It’s also been described by one court as ‘the internet version of a land grab.’”

Reed is not the first college or university to be victimized by a cybersquatter, but according to the American Council on Education this is the first known case of a college or university name being hijacked to promote a political agenda.

“We don’t condone this kind of thing, and it’s certainly not an activity of the organization,” said Paul Harmon of Oregon Right to Life, one of several pro-life groups to benefit from the redirected web traffic. “If we found out who did this we would cooperate with the authorities.”

The college chose to file a complaint under the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), one of two recently enacted legal remedies for victims of cybersquatting.

Under the UDRP administrative proceeding, the college must persuade an arbitration panel that the cybersquatter used as well as registered the domain name in bad faith. If the college prevails, the cybersquatter can be ordered to cancel or transfer the domain name. A decision is expected within 45 to 90 days.

The other piece of anti-cybersquatting legislation is the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. Seeking civil damages under this act, however, often involves a prolonged court case and significantly more expense. End of Article

 

2001

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