Sunday, February 25, 2007


Our class last Wednesday mentioned a provoking term, coined during the domain name gold rush: cybersquatter. These people would "infringe" on the "territory" of other companies or individuals by staking out a claim of a certain domain name. They would buy or in anticipation of the site's eventual sale to their "rightful" namesake.

Now ordinarily we would call such foresight "wise," and perhaps in another era, such savvy individuals "investors." But modern intellectual property trends have shaped our understanding of ownership, trademarks, and the territoriality of the net. The law operates with the assumption that there is a rightful owner of a domain name, or more technically, the string of numbers that codes for a particular server.

Is it fair to allow the burger chain McDonald's to file for the name, plus any other variation of their choice? Is there a limit on trademark protection? Why have we foregone a frontier mentality in terms of the net? Or more important, why did we even conceive of the internet as territory to begin with?

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