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Proactive Domain Name Purchases: How to Head off Domain Trolls

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on March 27, 2015 6:56 AM

As you may have heard, pop star Taylor Swift recently bought TaylorSwift.porn and TaylorSwift.adult. It's not a sign of a career change, though, it's simply good business. Swift and many others are taking proactive steps to snap up embarrassing domain names before anyone else can.

With the growing proliferation of Internet domains, websites have moved far beyond the .com's of yesteryear, making it easier than ever to create a demeaning or misleading URL. Should you follow Swift's lead and head off the domain trolls, before someone lays claim to YourName.Sucks?

Beyond Cybersquatting

In the past, people concerned about their Internet presence often focused on preventing cybersquatting or typosquatting. Cybersquatting occurs when someone buys a URL that would typically be associated with a company or personality. For example, opponents of genetic engineering created monsantoglobal.com, a site designed to look like it was run by the agrochemical and biotech company, and issued fake press releases. For several years, Gooogle.com (that's Google with an extra 'o'), brought poor typers to a website that infected their computer with malware.

But today's trickster and trolls have moved beyond such simple activities. New domains, such as .sucks, .gripe, and .pizza, are being rolled out constantly, and they can cost a fair amount of money to register. For someone who wants to have control over their online image, at least in the form of URLs, staying on top of every variation can require diligence and a lot of spare change.

When is Buying That Domain Worth It?

Firms, businesses and individuals with a prominent public image can benefit greatly from taking proactive steps to protect their online name. Those who don't act early can be left out in the cold. Take Jerry Falwell, the evangelical pastor, who was famously unable to convince the courts to give him control of Fallwell.com (with two initial l's), which had been registered by one of the preacher's critics. Similarly, TedCruz.com was registered not by the Republican Senator from Texas, but by an entirely different Cruz, who uses it to support immigration reform.

Whether purchasing a domain is worthwhile depends on the likelihood of confusion and the potential cost of missed opportunities. Registering a domain with your name or business in .com form is recommended should you want an internet presence. Similarly, if you are worried about being turned in to a .xxx site, go ahead and stave that off by picking it up yourself. But, there might not be reason to go overboard and buy up YourName.pizza, unless you're your new practice niche is pizza law.

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