Here’s a question I’ve seen come up in conversation quite a bit – is buying and selling firstnamelastname.com domain names illegal? The answer is a bit complicated and could be summed up – sometimes. The reality is that most people won’t go after you, but a famous celebrity is more than likely to take you to court…
Well, it turns out that cybersquatting in the United States is illegal. You cannot own, acquire, or register a domain name of someone else’s name or brand and then try to sell it to them. According to the United States Federal law, the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, cybersquatting is “registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name confusingly similar to, or dilutive of, a trademark or personal name”. (Source – Bill Hartzer)
There are a number of cases where celebrities have fought to get their domains back and Sedo has an interesting article highlighting five of them. At the same time, there are common first and last name combinations like JohnSmith.com, what about those? Well, that’s a grey area. Given that there isn’t a really famous well known guy named John Smith, you might be okay as long as you’re not out there trying to sell it directly to John Smith.
Now I know some people might argue with me at this point. They might say, hey – John Smith is such a common name, whoever owns it should be able to approach whoever they want with the name, it’s not specific enough. My response to that is, maybe, but is it really worth the risk?
We live in a star crazed world, people around the world are infatuated with all kinds of celebrities. They are both big business and big interest. In domaining some delve into these domains and others stay far away.
Its like flipping a coin, heads you win and make a sale, tails you lose and its a UDRP. (Source – TLDInvestors.com)
All this being said, firstname .COMs and lastname .COMs are pretty much fair game. It’s going to be hard for someone to take John.com from you or Linton.com (yup my last name is taken), so you’re relatively safe with those FWIW. The only edge-case is with someone like Madonna because, well, it’s Madonna.
Do you own any firstnamelastname.com’s? I want to hear from you – comment and let your voice be heard!