Would it be illegal or just rude?
January 2, 2012 4:24 PM   Subscribe

What are the legal/copyright/douchebag implications (if any) of registering a domain name that is already a username on a free blogging platform? Yeah, yeah, you're not a lawyer...

Just for curiosity's sake:

For instance, if someone wanted to register www.asdfjkl;.com to use for their personal website, but there's already a www.tumblr.com/asdfjkl; or www.asdfjkl;.wordpress.com?

My first thought is that it'd be best to ask the "owner" of that name if they'd mind, but then they'd probably want to "sell" it or get some kind of compensation for letting you use it.

The other thought I have is that there are so many millions of usernames floating around, there is bound to be some overlap.

If the blog or whatever is mostly inactive, I don't really see what the problem would be- but I'm curious to know if that person would have any reason to send a cease & desist, or sue, or just throw a hissy fit.
posted by nataliedanger to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Domain names are pretty much exclusively governed by the UDRP procedure1, 2. Whether they would win is, as always, up in the air, but there are a few rules of thumb:

-If they are not a trademark, nor are using the name for some commercial purpose (for example, their name could be a commercial enterprise if they're an authour; maybe not a politician), then they won't get protection.

-If you're using it for a non-commercial purpose, whether it's commentary on their site or just something different, you're probably fine. The more reasonable your choice of the word is (which is tied into the question about the word's uniqueness, obviously), the more fine you'd be.

That's the basic point, at least. Feel free to ask specific follow-ups; I just wrote a paper on the UDRP proceedings, so I've got at least some info.*

1: Specifically check section 4.
2: Technically the UDRP isn't binding, so they could sue under something like the ACPA, but it's pretty rare.

*I'm not a lawyer, I barely if at all know what I don't know - don't use anything I say for legal advice.

posted by Lemurrhea at 4:38 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Unless it's a trademark, it's fair game. If you do it intentionally, well, that's rude. But legally they have to prove that they "own" that work/name in a legal sense, which involves trademarks (and probably copyright too, but I'm not a lawyer).
posted by jpeacock at 4:39 PM on January 2, 2012

It's not illegal but it's really not cool. Some people become very angry about domain squatting. It's not something I would unless I had express permission from the person with the similar domain name, and not without good reason. But I can't think of any at the moment.
posted by xenophile at 4:46 PM on January 2, 2012

It's so cheap to register a domain, if he hasn't done it already, he's not going to. This goes double if he has been posting for more than six months.
posted by supercres at 4:51 PM on January 2, 2012

Best answer: The only possible issue would be trademark, but if that were relevant the domain would almost certainly be taken. So if you want it, register it.
posted by COD at 5:10 PM on January 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone -
To clarify, I'm not talking about domain squatting, but about what would happen if you thought of a great name for a personal website and found out that an inactive blog already uses it.
posted by nataliedanger at 5:39 PM on January 2, 2012

Eh, inactive blog and they didn't register the domain themselves? Screw 'em. Go for it.
posted by anildash at 6:12 PM on January 2, 2012 [8 favorites]

The only thing I'd worry about in that case is bad search engine mojo because they're created other content under the same name. Even though the blogs are stale and will search poorly, they could act up again.

But realistically, go ahead and go with it. There are too many people posting too many things on the 'net for this word/phrase/username to be particularly unique.*

* Unless, as mentioned, it's a trademark. You can always search the Trademark Office's archives here.
posted by Ookseer at 10:56 PM on January 2, 2012

There is bound to be some overlap. Snoozers are losers.
posted by dhartung at 11:37 PM on January 2, 2012

Register it. It's the wild west out there, and before you know it, some asshole registration company will grab it and offer to sell it to you for the low low price of $5000. (Don't ask)
posted by defcom1 at 6:20 AM on January 3, 2012

Again, for the record, just because it's not a registered trade-mark doesn't mean it's free and clear, so searching he Trademark Office won't solve your problem [especially if the authour isn't American].

That being said, and since I forgot to actually give an opinion on what you should do - anildash has it, plain and simple.
posted by Lemurrhea at 3:13 AM on January 4, 2012

« Older Do I have HSV 2 now?   |   What does the sign posted by the NYPD on my... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.