Potential Concern on Piece of New Legislation
I wanted to share a concern I have with a potential piece of new litigation sponsored by Senator Olympia Snowe and cosponsored by Senators Bill Nelson and Ted Stevens. The Anti-Phishing Consumer Protection Act (APCPA), which is being publicly supported by the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse (CADNA), sounds like a consumer and business friendly Act, but I have a concern about an implication of some of the language that makes up the bill.
The goal of the bill is to protect consumers from “phishing,” defined as an “attempt to criminally and fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication.” While this is something we would all like to see stopped, I believe some language in the bill may be detrimental to generic domain owners.
According to CADNA’s press release, part of the APCPA aims to address the “practice of using deceptive Web site domain names, which appear confusingly similar to well-known businesses’ Web site addresses, and may be used to facilitate phishing attacks and deceptive spam attacks, or to divert consumers from their intended online destinations to Web sites peddling unrelated or objectionable goods and services, including those harmful to minors.”
I am concerned that this is a very broad interpretation that could be harmful to generic domain owners. Let’s use a geographic domain name as an example. If the city government owns the city name in the .org or the .gov, could they consider the independently-owned .com to be confusingly similar? This would be way to broad and could potentially be damaging to our generic domain names. How about a person’s first amendment right to freedom of speech? Could websites that parody or lampoon other famous website be in jeopardy under this piece of legislation?
Yes, I believe something should be done when Disney or SpongeBob typos are redirected to porn or adult material. I think it is abominable for children to be exposed to this type of material due to a slip of the finger. I also think it is wrong when typos of major unique brands are redirected to competitors (although I think major brands should protect their interests more carefully). While the intent of the bill may be good, I think it could be harmful to domain investors and webmasters.
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