Domain laws

You might think that there are no regulations governing the use of the internet, but you would be wrong. The law was slow to get into gear as regards protecting copyrights, trademarks and domain names, but it is now up and running.

If you have a business and you want to drive traffic to it you will have used your business name in your domain name and probably your trademark will be prominent in your site too. You have probably bought your domain name and use it to attract clients or customers to your site so that you can sell your products and/or services online. You domain name needs to be protected as much as your office premises and any stock you carry.

There are two types of infringement of your domain name which can be very damaging to your business. First of all there is a crime called Cyber squatting which you should be on the look-out for. This comes in two forms; the first is when you approached by an individual or a company, offering to sell you a domain which bears your trademark or domain name. This is classed as a “bad faith intent to profit” situation, according to the Anti cyber squatting Consumer Protection Act. The name might be construed as being “substantially and confusingly similar” to your domain name and this can be successfully stopped by law. Usually a strongly worded solicitor’s letter is sufficient to stop such actions.

The second infringement which again can usually be stopped by a similarly worded solicitor’s letter is that of another website using a name similar to yours to attract visitors to a competitor’s site or to sell shoddy merchandise, using your trademark, to unsuspecting people who will equate your name with the inferior counterfeit goods they have purchased online.

How can you prevent these situations occurring? You can’t really, but you can take steps to nip such actions in the bud. When you have bought your domain, you should monitor the registration of any names that are similar to yours, for example those which incorporate your trademark or business name. You can also buy up any domain names that are close to yours, so that no one else can buy them and capitalize on your good name.

Nominate is a non-profit organization which maintains a register of “.co.uk” domain names. And ICANN maintains a register of “.com” domain names, so check these regularly. As for copyright, please note that everything that is on the internet is now protected by copyright laws unless it specifically gives permission for its use by others. Do not copy any content or photos or images unless you know for certain that you have permission to do so. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act put a lot of legal power behind copy protection systems and reduced the ‘fair use’ rights that had up until then prevailed. Check out your rights and make sure that you are not violating the copyrights of others.