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Politician Name Cybersquatting

Marty Schwimmer reports on another Politician Domain Name Case.

Apparently, the defendant in that case owns a collection of domain names that correlate to the names of local politicians. He claims that they are for dissemination of information about the candidates, but I’m not buying it.

From the San Bernardino County Sun:

County Supervisor Dennis Hansberger has sued to stop a Muscoy man from criticizing him through a Web site using the supervisor’s name.

Hansberger, who is running for re-election, won a temporary restraining order stopping William Fanning from profiting, promoting or selling the name, said Hansberger’s attorney, Tim Prince.

A preliminary hearing is set for Sept. 26. Hansberger seeks to win the rights to the domain name.

“The public’s access to information about Mr. Hansberger is being limited by these sites,” Prince said.

Fanning, 37, owns several cyberdomains that use Hansberger’s name, such as The Web sites contain critical remarks about the 3rd District supervisor, along with links to newspaper stories about him.

Fanning owns domain names for more than 80 politicians, including some candidates for president. Many of those sites have not been been set up, meaning Fanning owns them in name only for the time being. (source)

Normally, I am for anyone except the politician – and for unfettered political speech. However, in this case, the defendant could easily disseminate any information he wants about any politician he wants, and bask in the warm glow of the First Amendment as he does it.

But in this very limited circumstance, I don’t see there being a First Amendment right to keep that domain name. 15 USC s 1129 prohibits the registration of personal domain names with the specific intent to profit. A man should be able to own his own name on the internet. If Fanning wants to register, or, or, or, I don’t have a problem with that.

I’ve previously blogged about this personal names issue under the ACPA here, here, and here.

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