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What's In A Name?

Web addresses have become a big business and sometimes an unlawful business.

Cybersquatters have bought up Internet domain names like Harvard Law School.com and hillary2000.com in the hopes of making easy money by selling them back to their true namesakes.

Time magazine technology columnist Josh Quittner tells The Early Show how you can protect your good name.


There are several examples in which reputable companies had their names registered by cybersquatters across the globe.

A British cybersquatter paid almost nothing for an Internet domain name that includes the name of the Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. Now the cybersquatter wants to auction it off for about $3 million.

Also the National Football League is suing several Internet Web sites, NFLtoday.com, NFLtoday.net and NFLtoday.org.

It says those sites unfairly capitalize on the league's trademarks and copyrighted material, promote gambling, project favorites for each week's games and provide direct links to gambling sites. (The suit also noted that the full name "NFL Today" takes advantage of the name of the CBS television show broadcast with the same title.)

And Hillary Clinton paid $6,000 this year to buy hillary2000.com from a cybersquatter.

There is even a BryantGumbel.com that's been registered by iguanatechnologies.com. That Web site includes the following notice: "This Web site is not sponsored, endorsed or affiliated with any specific public personality."

Others buy domain names only to direct Internet surfers to pornography sites. If you were to look up Whitehouse.com, you would not find information about the president. (That's at whitehouse.gov.)

On Nov. 29 President Clinton signed into law an Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act of the Lanham Act to block individuals from cybersquatting on Internet domain names.

The law followed fierce lobbying by businesses and by Hollywood film stars who complained loudly about Web sites bearing their names and providing links to pornographic sites.

The new law allows trademark owners to recover statutory damages up to $100,000 after proving that their trademark name was registered by someone wanting to sell it back to them.

Just last month, Los Angeles-based Ecompanies paid a Houston entrepreneur a record $7.5 million for the rights to a domain name, business.com. But this was not a case of cybersquatting.

Here's one way to protect yourself: Registering is pretty easy. Do-it-yourselfers can visit register.com. You can check to see if a name is available and fill out a form at this same site. It'll cost you about $70 for two years.

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