Twitter Squatters Take Over Where Domain Squatters Left Off: Resolution Policy Needed?
from the conflict-resolution-in-140-characters dept
In 1994, reporter Joshua Quittner famously registered the domain name mcdonalds.com, and wrote a whole article about how so many top brand names were available for registering by anyone who wanted them. Reading the article sounds pretty amazing in retrospect. The one and only domain name registrar at the time, InterNIC had a grand total of 2.5 people reviewing each and every application and trying to avoid “obvious” conflicts — except that didn’t seem to work. As Quittner points out, Sprint had registered MCI.com. There was eventually a bit of a battle over mcdonalds.com, and once people finally realized this was a big deal, a process, the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) process was created.
Of course, these days, there are many more ways that your brands interact online than just by your domain name. Erik Heels, an internet-savvy lawyer (and regular Techdirt reader) has gone through Twitter and discovered that of the top 100 global brands, only 7 have their main brand registered as a Twitter ID. Most of the others have Twittersquatters who have already taken the name. Heels, himself, grabbed the Twitter ID for Moet & Chandon and even made it look slightly “real.” And, of course, it goes beyond just Twitter as well, where usernames at plenty of other services are increasingly important as well.
Many of these services have ad hoc processes by which they will “resolve” a dispute over a name, but Heels worries about how that will work. In the case of Twitter, basically the company just reserves the right to do what it thinks is right. But, that could obviously lead to some questionable situations — and eventually even some lawsuits (remember the cease and desist sent by Burger King using Twitter? Why are the fast food burger joints at the center of all of these disputes?). Heels proposes extending the UDRP into a much more complete system for Uniform Username Dispute Resolution Policy or UURP. This way there’s a clear process for anyone who disputes the use of a username in any particular service. It certainly seems like an idea worth discussing.