Apparently Fines And Jail Time Not Enough To Deter Infamous Disappearing Typosquatter From Typosquatting Again

from the cnat-saty-aawy dept

PC World has a story about how the FTC has fined John Zuccarini $164,000 for typosquatting domains that kids are likely to visit and sending them to hardcore porn sites. Before I saw the name of the guy in question, I had thought it was probably worth writing up a post asking what kind of idiot points children to porn sites? It hardly seems good for business -- as the target audience isn't quite right and it's clearly likely to bring the feds down on you pretty quickly. However, once I realized it was John Zuccarini, it became even more worth posting, because we haven't had a chance to write about Mr. Zuccarini in years (probably because he was in jail for a while). Since many of you may not recognize the name (or missed the various stories about him from way back when), it's worth recapping.

Zuccarini's first claim to fame came in early 2001 when the press picked up on the fact that he had built up a huge typosquatting empire to prey on people who mistyped a domain name. If you went to one of his domains, it would pop up ads that would take over your screen that would be nearly impossible to close. However, what was much more interesting was that Zuccarini was a slippery sucker who was tough to find. After losing a few cases brought against him, he just started ignoring all lawsuits and judgments against him and basically went into hiding (while still making tons of money). In the rare instances where he showed up in court, he refused to give anyone a way to find him again. The transcript of him answering questions in court about where he lives is quite amusing:
Question: What is your current address?

Zuccarini: 957 Bristol Pike, Apartment D-6, Andalusia, Pennsylvania, 19020.

Q: Is that where you currently reside?

Zuccarini: Not necessarily.

Q: Where do you currently reside?

Zuccarini: I don't have - that's my legal address. I really don't have a permanent address at this time.

Q: Where do you currently reside?

Zuccarini: Right now, I am staying at the Millennium Hotel in New York.

Q: When you are not in New York for a deposition, where do you live? Where have you lived in the past two weeks?

Zuccarini: I have been living in various places.

Q. What are the various places that you have been living?

Zuccarini: Friends' places. You know, that type of thing. Different hotels.

Q. 957 Bristol Pike is not your residence?

Zuccarini: No, it's not. It's my legal address. I have a lease on the apartment and that's where I have - some things are sent there which I get.

Q: Do you live in Pennsylvania?

Zuccarini: I don't know. I don't have a permanent address so I can live anywhere. I don't live anywhere right now. I can't give you a permanent address.

Soon afterwards, he basically disappeared completely. The FTC ordered that his website all be shut down, though it's unclear if that ever happened. Not long after that, the FTC fined him about $2 million for typosquatting. It took until late 2003 until Zuccarini was finally tracked down and arrested for pointing kids to porn, leading to a quick guilty plea and three year jail sentence. Do the math and you realize he's back out again... and apparently went right back to his old tricks: typosquatting and pointing kids at porn sites. You would think he would have learned his lesson, but apparently not. To hear that the new fine is only for $164,000 seems a bit surprising. Given the earlier fines, conviction and jailtime, you would think that something more stringent might make sense. In the meantime, there's no word on whether or not Zuccarini even plans to acknowledge the fine. Given his past behavior, you might not want to bet on it.


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  1.  
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    RandomThoughts, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 5:48am

    If he was fined $2 million, I wonder how much he made on the other side. How much more did he actually make?

    Loved the answer "I don't know" when asked if he lived in PA.

     

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    Thomas, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 6:12am

    this is the problem with laws written by those in

    A low income, low class, person can find himself thrown in jail for years, decades, or even life for a few incidents of petty larceny or theft that did little more than feed him or his drug habit. The rich, the powerful, big businessmen, doctors, lawyers, politicians etc. can lie, cheat, scam, and steal tens to hundreds of millions of dollars from us or our government and only receive slaps on the wrist.

    Doctor, lawyer, politician, businessman... if they're guilty of theft or fraud they should be forced to pay back 100% of what they scammed or stole. If that means taking everything except for the shirts off their back and forcing them to work, in their field of expertise or other, for the remainder of their lives while turning over every dime above minimum wage they make then that should be their sentence.

     

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    bagbang, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 6:12am

    i'd bet he made a lot more than 2 mill for him to start up again

     

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    Mike F.M, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 6:22am

    Interesting story

    The fines don't really seem to match.

    Maybe they have put it this low to attract him to pay it (unlike the $2m fine) so that they can then find out where he is living / going and keep an eye on him.

    It is infinately easier to keep track of someone if you follow them from the beginning than try to catch up with them half way through.

    He might see the fine as easier to pay and not risk further jail time than trying to avoid it. If they hit him with another $m fine, he would probably just keep on the run again

     

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    Dave B, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 6:29am

    forced doctor

    I would love to have a doctor, who is being forced to work, doing Brain surgery , or any other type of delicate medical procedure on me. He might make a mistake, out of either revenge or carelessness.. who could tell?. This Guy needs to see the thin end of a lash, or birch (IOM) followed up by a quick dog rap by a giant Hell Hound. PUt that on Youtube and smoke it

     

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    RandomThoughts, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 6:33am

    Jeff Citron (founder of Vonage) was fined $22 million dollars for voilating regulations. He made over $600 million dollars. No jail time.

    Hell, I would do that. Wouldn't you?

     

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    brwyatt, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 6:36am

    What exactly is the crime?

    What crime did he commit? Which law did he break? While typosquatting is really annoying, I can't think of any laws it would break (except trademark). As far as kids go.... pls, thats all too easy to "accidentally" find on Google. I hate when ppl use the phrase "for the children" just to get something they want, regardless of laws. (see: Congress, censorship). THAT is what bugs me about this. I hate typosquatting and especially hate porn typosquatting, but why can't our government work on more important issues? Hell, if they worked to create a web filter app that parents could download to protect their kids from porn and other things that would be fine. Thats not government censorship, thats paying attention to what the people want... parents want to block that content, others want to see it, this way everyone can get what they want. What has our government become?

     

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    TheDock22, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 6:42am

    Re: this is the problem with laws written by those

    I sense a little jealousy here that doctors, lawyers, politicians, and businessman make more money than you. That still doesn't give you the right to harass them.

    Beside, America wouldn't be as great as it is without them. If you hate them so much why don't you never work for a businessman, never see a doctor, never hire a lawyer, and never vote.

     

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    Citizen-Y, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 6:50am

    Re: What exactly is the crime?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 6:53am

    i like this guy.......and yeah what law did he break. Probably on that this site screams all day about

     

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    Casper, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 6:58am

    Re: this is the problem with laws written by those

    A low income, low class, person can find himself thrown in jail for years, decades, or even life for a few incidents of petty larceny or theft that did little more than feed him or his drug habit. The rich, the powerful, big businessmen, doctors, lawyers, politicians etc. can lie, cheat, scam, and steal tens to hundreds of millions of dollars from us or our government and only receive slaps on the wrist.

    Doctor, lawyer, politician, businessman... if they're guilty of theft or fraud they should be forced to pay back 100% of what they scammed or stole. If that means taking everything except for the shirts off their back and forcing them to work, in their field of expertise or other, for the remainder of their lives while turning over every dime above minimum wage they make then that should be their sentence.

    Basically what you are saying is that you want the legal system to be less fair? Is this correct? From your statement, it sounds like you would prefer that the higher income citizens not face the same fines and penalties and you would rather they receive a harsher sentence. Never mind the fact that most lower income offenders who are usually incarcerated for longer periods of time are more often multiple time offenders or that they have a much higher risk of committing the same crime repeatedly.

    You can not tell one demographic that they only have to pay back what they can, while another demographic you tell they must pay 100% back. I won't deny that more affluent criminals do manage to get away with crimes and hiding resources more often then lower class and petty criminals, but that is an intelligence issue, not a legal system issue. Of course, I have no idea what case you are referring to in your second paragraph, but I think it is safe to say that you are just unhappy with the fact some people are more successful in the world then others.

     

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    Casper, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 7:10am

    Re: What exactly is the crime?

    What crime did he commit? Which law did he break? While typosquatting is really annoying, I can't think of any laws it would break (except trademark). As far as kids go.... pls, thats all too easy to "accidentally" find on Google. I hate when ppl use the phrase "for the children" just to get something they want, regardless of laws. (see: Congress, censorship). THAT is what bugs me about this. I hate typosquatting and especially hate porn typosquatting, but why can't our government work on more important issues? Hell, if they worked to create a web filter app that parents could download to protect their kids from porn and other things that would be fine. Thats not government censorship, thats paying attention to what the people want... parents want to block that content, others want to see it, this way everyone can get what they want. What has our government become?

    The legal system is not a baby sitter. They get involved when someone breaks the law, they do not baby sit peoples children so that they don't stumble into trouble. That is why they have parents.

    The crime in this situation is much like trademark infringement. People believe they are being taken to a site and in turn are bounced to a scam site or a porn site. I would liken it to the Folex watches people try to sell or any other knockoff items. It is illegal to deceive people to as what service you are offering or the authenticity of a product.

     

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    Paul, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 7:12am

    Re: Re: this is the problem with laws written by t

    You're missing his point. Someone steals something thats worth a lot less than millions of dollars or do something less offensive than directing children to porn, and they get harsher sentences then people like this. He's not saying he wants it less fair, he wants it more fair. He says everyone should pay back what they scammed. I'm assuming the two people who disagreed with the original poster fit into the categories described (businessmen, etc.) or are aspiring to be one of them. At no point did he ask for anything less then everybody get the same punishment. He said the worse the crime is, the worse the punishment should be. I find absolutely NOTHING unfair about that. Just because you're a businessmen or doctor does not mean you should get away with more.

     

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    Erik, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 7:37am

    Well I learned my lesson, when I get taken into court and asked direct questions, I'll just dodge them and duck them like this scumbag did.

    How was he not held in contempt of court? Why would he be allowed bail since he's obviously a flight risk?

    And why not go after the people bankrolling him? The ones paying him to redirect mistyped URLs? Cut off his funds and he's forced to go looking for more.

    But the tiny fine for his second conviction is ridiculous. Talk about a disincentive to change your ways. When he gets busted next time is the court going to pay him?

     

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    Chronno S. Trigger, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 7:53am

    Re: Re: What exactly is the crime?

    "It is illegal to deceive people to as what service you are offering or the authenticity of a product."

    That and soliciting pornography to minors.

     

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    SM, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 8:11am

    I don't understand what this guy's motives are? Is there some kind of moneymaking potential in redirecting children-frequented mistyped URLs to porn sites? Are young children spending a lot of money on porn or something?

    Even with adults, it doesn't seem to me that typosquatting would be lucrative in any way. I mean, do people on a regular basis mistype "feddex.com" or whatever, get redirected to a porn site, and then just say, "oh what the hell, I'll get out my credit card?"

     

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    chris (profile), Oct 18th, 2007 @ 8:40am

    Re: this is the problem with laws written by those

    duh, rich people are more important than poor people. the laws affect rich people differently because they can afford better lawyers, and in the case of extreme wealth, they can afford better laws.

    if poor people were important, they wouldn't be poor now would they?

     

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    JG, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 8:46am

    I think people are misunderstanding the larger picture here. Zuccarini has a service which lists thousands of misspellings of popular domains. A few of those happen to include popular children’s sites, like www.disney.com. He’s trying to make a buck by whatever method he can, not plotting to stuff porn into children’s browsers. Children getting misdirected is one of the consequences, but not the primary motivation.

     

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    Michael Whitetail, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 9:39am

    Re: Re: Re: What exactly is the crime?

    >>"It is illegal to deceive people to as what service you are >>offering or the authenticity of a product."

    >>That and soliciting pornography to minors.

    How are you deceiving people by registering a domain name? Even if it is a common misspelling of a known brand or company? YOU, the host, are not making the consumer mistype the address they want to goto. You are not hijacking their browser and forcing them to your URL. Your not even advertising the URL. So how can you deceive someone with a typodomain?

    As far as soliciting porn to kids, thats f'ing ludicrous!

    so·lic·it (sə-lĭs'ĭt) pronunciation

    v., -it·ed, -it·ing, -its.

    v.tr.

    1. To seek to obtain by persuasion, entreaty, or formal application: a candidate who solicited votes among the factory workers.
    2. To petition persistently; importune: solicited the neighbors for donations.
    3. To entice or incite to evil or illegal action.
    4. To approach or accost (a person) with an offer of sexual services.

    The nearest term that fits is number 4, but it *still* would require the typodomain to reach out and purposefully misdirect you to the domain. A website cannot be responsible for the people who try and access it! If they were, none of the billions of legitimate porn sites could remain up and running.

    While the guy *is* scum, I cannot see where any laws were broken, at least, none that I am aware of.

     

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    Gerry, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 9:49am

    Have to agree

    What is the point of redirecting children to pron sites. Are they looking to get you hooked at 5 so you will sink all your cash into porn later? I mean "sesamestreet.com" fo crying out loud.

    I want to see big bird, oops, that is a big bird!

    I just don't get it.

     

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    nipseyrussell, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 9:51am

    while redirecting children to pron makes no sense to me at all, i agree that typosquating should not be a crime in any reasonable society. because there is a McDonalds, i cant have the domain name MacDonalds or McDnlds? thats ludicrous. in any event, then make it illegal for the domain name registrar and not for me! how many typos must be in the URL before we decide its far enough away from the root to not be squatting?

     

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    Le Blue Dude, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 9:57am

    *rolls eyes*

    Caution: Rant. Apparently I am grumpy today.

    You know, let's not debate poor law vrs rich law. It's a dumb thing to debate. Though I'm for jail-time for theft and fraud... period (Though obviously "typo on my SSN would be a valid excuse for doing it once.). And I'm for corporate manslaughter laws.

    And anyone who says rich people are smarter then poor people. I must say, speaking as a member of the academic intelligentsia university educated middle class (I'm working on a physics degree). You're full of shit. I know a lot of working class people. I grew up in a working class neighborhood, and I hang out with working class, rich, and middle class people, especially in college. Here's what I've noticed.

    Some poor people are dumb. Some rich people are dumb. Some middle class people are dumb. Many poor people are poorly educated. Many middle class people are poorly educated. Many University Class (That's people like scientists, researchers, and professors, and their children) are well educated. Many rich people are (once again) poorly educated. Some poor people are smart. Some middle class people are smart. Some rich people are smart.

    In plain speak: How much money you have does not seem to be related much to intelligence. On the other hand, the poorer people I know tend to be better at word-play and wittiness, whereas the richer people I know tend to be a bit better at logic. Some people I know are quick on the uptake, but low on memory, and some the other way. Richer people tend to have slightly better memory.

    But that could well be a result of where I live. Perhaps if I lived elsewhere the set up would be different. It's really a relatively small demographic, and I do tend to be more likely to befriend smart, or nice, people then stupid or mean people, so it's not exactly scientific.

    But I don't get how everyone is so fucking polarized about everything. I mean, people, politics is about more then slogans. Actually, like, read studies, gather information, for and from both sides people. Then think through it and choose for yourself. Quit going "rar! Rar! RAR! RARRRRRR!" and shouting inane slogans like "For the environment" or "For the free marker" or "Right to Life" or "Woman's choice" or "Vote for X" or any number of slogans that make me go "Is there any intelligent thought here?"

    Politics would work better if the masses actually bothered to get involved, instead of allowing themselves to be brainwashed. I mean, logic, rationality, and enlightened self-interest should be what carry the day. If they were government wouldn't even be necessary though, or would be much less so. But instead it's "Who you would rather go drinking with" and "Who's slogans are catchiest." I mean, please, can we at least vote for "Who's best for the job, in terms of ability?" I'd rather have a competent leader who I disliked personally, and disagreed with politically then an incompetent leader that I liked or agreed with.


    Um... wow... that's a rant. I think I might be grumpy today.

    Anyone who goes Too Long Didn't Read, I get to spank.

     

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    Le Blue Dude, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 10:06am

    About the prior

    Though, I mean, someone you disagreed with enough politically should still be shot down, unless he's got plenty going on the other guy. But competence is an issue. Politics is about compromise. Not about "Stand my ground for EVAH so nothing gets done!"

    I mean, I don't want to elect Napoleon or Ceaser, unless their opponent(s) were, like, retarded. But some people I disagreed with made good leaders anyway.

     

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    Casper, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 10:06am

    Re: Re: Re: this is the problem with laws written

    You're missing his point. Someone steals something thats worth a lot less than millions of dollars or do something less offensive than directing children to porn, and they get harsher sentences then people like this. He's not saying he wants it less fair, he wants it more fair. He says everyone should pay back what they scammed. I'm assuming the two people who disagreed with the original poster fit into the categories described (businessmen, etc.) or are aspiring to be one of them. At no point did he ask for anything less then everybody get the same punishment. He said the worse the crime is, the worse the punishment should be. I find absolutely NOTHING unfair about that. Just because you're a businessmen or doctor does not mean you should get away with more.

    Since when is a $2,000,000 fine getting off easier then a shop lifter that gets community service? His crime is more like trademark infringement, so the lower form of it would be more like those guys you see peddling knock off watches and jewelery. If they are arrested, most just get a fine and parole. This guy got 3 years in jail, $2,000,000 in fines, and he is still at it. That would suggest that, just as with petty criminals, he isn't going to stop without being incarcerated. Unfortunately, under the current laws, what he is doing is not a scalable offense. The more he does it, it doesn't increase in penalty unless a judge does some interesting maneuvering.

    Stealing is not the same as false advertising and redirecting. It's like spam, it's annoying and expensive, but it doesn't warrant death. He is not directly harming people in a sense that the legal system can do much more to him.

     

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    Casper, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 10:09am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: What exactly is the crime?

    How are you deceiving people by registering a domain name? Even if it is a common misspelling of a known brand or company? YOU, the host, are not making the consumer mistype the address they want to goto. You are not hijacking their browser and forcing them to your URL. Your not even advertising the URL. So how can you deceive someone with a typodomain?

    It is deception because no where in the domain name does it hint that it would take you to a site dedicated to another topic. The person "thinks" they are going to see a search engine when they type "www.gooogle.com", not a porn site. No where in the law does it say they have to be "forcing" the person to commit the action, simply deceiving them into believing they are doing something they are not. It's the same reason I can't start a knock off company names Nikee and sell them along side real Nike's.

     

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    iphone, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 10:56am

    the millenium

    it was basically destroyed in 9/11 so maybe he was looking for a new place to live...

    basically his problem was ignoring the courts, if you get a good lawyer and show up you will probably never do jail time, ignore everthing and they will eventually order you locked up because its easy...people have raped and killed and got off with less...personally i like the guy as im lazy and dislexic and was typing goooogle to find porn anyway. if you dont want your kids to find porn you better take away their internet cause it will find them anyway.

     

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    TheDock22, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 10:57am

    Re: Re: Re: this is the problem with laws written

    You're missing his point. Someone steals something thats worth a lot less than millions of dollars or do something less offensive than directing children to porn, and they get harsher sentences then people like this.

    3 years in jail and a $2 million dollar fine? Name someone who has stolen something worth less than this guys' business and gotten a worse punishment.

    He's not saying he wants it less fair, he wants it more fair. He says everyone should pay back what they scammed.
    Not really, he was assuming every lawyer, doctor, businessman, and politician is corrupt and regularly scams people on a day to day basis which is not true. Just because these people are good at their jobs and make a lot of money does not mean they are breaking the law. There are some bad apples in the group as a whole, but not ALL of them are out to squeeze as much money out a person as they can. That was my problems with the post.

     

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    TheDock22, Oct 18th, 2007 @ 11:00am

    Re: Re: Re: this is the problem with laws written

    I'm assuming the two people who disagreed with the original poster fit into the categories described (businessmen, etc.) or are aspiring to be one of them.

    Oh, and completely wrong yet again just like 90% of your post. I am in the technology service industry and do not aspire to be a lawyer, doctor, businessman (or woman as the case may be) or politician. I would rather show up for work, do my job, get paid, and leave even if I do not make hundreds of thousands of dollars.

     

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    BTR1701, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 5:55am

    Re: Contempt

    > How was he not held in contempt of court?

    Maybe because he was telling the truth. He probably doesn't reside anywhere permanently. He probably does stay with friends and in hotels. You can't be held in contempt for answering truthfully and there's no law that says you must maintain a permanent residence.

     

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    SailorRipley, Oct 19th, 2007 @ 1:24pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: What exactly is the crime?

    I'm not arguing about the law saying "deceiving them into believing they are doing something they are not", I honestly don't know and don't feel like checking. Because it's not relevant: let's say it's illegal to deceive someone into believing they are doing something they are not...how exactly is he doing that?

    He registers a domain, for example www.sesamestreett.com

    He's not making anybody type in sesamestreett, nor is he in any way making them believe they will end up on the sesame website by typing www.sesamestreett.com, the people (kids) are assuming that, which clearly is an incorrect assumption, but still one they make out of their own free will, and it's in no way induced or influenced by this guy.

    Plus, shouldn't everybody who has typodomains be automatically convicted as well? isn't the same deception going on, regardless of the actual content on the typodomains. Cuz in the end, whethet it's a kid or an adult being redirected to a porn site or a non-sexual site, the same deception om making them believe the are doing something they are not would be going on (although I contest this deception in my previous paragraph)

    And sure as hell can you start a knock off company, (even call it Nikee), as long as your product(s) and logos etc... are different enough as to not create (brand)confusion for consumers

     

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    John, Oct 23rd, 2007 @ 2:31pm

    Justice?

    So this guy, who runs a porn empire, gets 3 years in jail and a $2 million fine but the teacher who accidentally showed porn to class of kids due to pop-ups windows and poor IT support could have received up to 40 years in prison?
    This may what the law says is correct, but is it justice?

    Second, aren't there some kind of tools (such as Firefox extensions) that will auto-correct your typo? So if you type in sesamestreett.com, the browser will think you mean sesamestreet.com and take you to the correct URL instead of the porn site?

    And how come this continues to be an issue? Why hasn't someone figured out how to solve this when the porn operators first set up whitehouse.com? (The real White House site is whitehouse.gov.)

    And to the previous poster- I would be willing to bet that Nike would never allow a "nikee.com" site (that site doesn't exist, by the way). As soon as you set up the URL, I'm sure Nike would be all over you for product confusion and such.
    Now, if the site was all about how you loved Nike's sneakers and clothing, then of course they would allow it... but that's about all you would be able to do with the site.

     

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    Haywood, Oct 30th, 2007 @ 5:20am

    Re: About the prior

    "Stand my ground for EVAH so nothing gets done!"

    Actually, that is my preference. Do we really need the government to do anything? The best times we've had in this country were when congress was deadlocked for years.

     

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