Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Is Google Breaking The Law In Providing Ads On Typosquatting Domains?

from the blame-Google! dept

Lawsuits against Google come at a pretty regular pace, with some being more interesting than others. Often, companies blame Google for something someone else did, because Google has a lot more money and makes for a sexy target. That may be the case in the latest lawsuit, which is an attempt at a class action lawsuit against a group of "domainers" (firms that buy up domain names and simply dump ads on them) and Google -- because Google supplies the contextual ads for many of these sites. Google's AdSense for Domains program works pretty much like its regular AdSense offering, in that it provides contextual ads, based on the domain (rather than the search term). Effectively, Google simply processes the domain name as if it's a search term, and returns relevant ads. The idea of the suit is that this somehow gives Google control over the site, and therefore they should bear the liability for potential trademark infringement. That seems like a stretch. As Eric Goldman notes in the link above, it may also be difficult to turn this into a class action lawsuit, since trademark cases require specific facts proving that a trademark is valid and infringed, which you can't really do for everyone in the class. Either way, it's hard to see how Google can be blamed for a domain owner registering a typosquatted name, even if Google's ads appear on the site.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jul 2007 @ 4:12am

    Google not the only one

    I was talking to a guy just the other day who was planning to setup some typosquatting and run ads on them himself. I asked him if he was afraid of getting sued and he said that he already had that angle covered. His plan was to pay other people to actually register the domains in their names and then let him run the ads. By being one step removed, at least in name, he figured he couldn't get sued because he didn't actually own the name and the registrants couldn't get sued because they didn't actually put the ads up! In other words, everyone could just point fingers at each other and no one would get sued. I imagine if this suit against Google goes ahead though he might have to rethink his plan.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Jack Sombra, 2 Jul 2007 @ 5:17am

    If google is found ...

    if google is found to be breaking the law the registrar's are even more guilty as they supply the domains in the first place

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    JustMatt, 2 Jul 2007 @ 5:28am


    IANAL, but I think Jack is correct.

    Also, since when is it up to anyone, Google, Craigslist, the local newspaper, etc. to validate these things?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Zwxphtt, 2 Jul 2007 @ 7:56am

    I hate it

    but I patented that system where everyone sues Google so expect my lawsuit to be filed this pm.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Overcast, 2 Jul 2007 @ 8:27am

    So should advertisers pull billboards from 'undesirable' areas, so that they don't advertise in those areas and you see them when you take a wrong turn?

    Yes - that didn't make a whole lot of sense, but Google can't very well determine who uses what sites, can they?

    Who's to say a few people don't use those domains?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    William, 2 Jul 2007 @ 8:28am


    One time i mistyped an IP and the correct website was listed in the ads. I thought "This is great?" Really brilliant idea that makes things easier.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    mkam, 2 Jul 2007 @ 9:25am

    Re: Ads

    I agree. Think, that mistyped domain name could have lead you to a phishing site that was convincing enough to solicit some personal information. I would take typo squatter ads any day, no-script and adblock will get rid of them anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Michael, 2 Jul 2007 @ 9:48am

    A typosquater registered the .org version of my company's .com domain and dumped ads from our competitors on it. the name of the .com is our trademarked company name. even though it didnt meet any of the requirements of a well-optimized website as described by Google, it continued to climb in the search rankings until it was second only to us. it would have cost thousands to have the domain turned over to us, which has been successfully done numerous times to the typosquater. Instead I sent several emails to Google describing the situation, and it wasnt long before the .org domain stopped showing up in the search results. Google, by the way, was the only search engine that the offending domain showed up in.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    chris, 2 Jul 2007 @ 12:19pm

    I have always wondered why larger companies don't just register the three major versions of their addresses (com, org and net) just to cover their butts. It's not like it's a tremendous expense. You could certainly do this for typo domains as well... I've seen a few cases for this, and it makes tremendous sense to me.

    Now for a smaller business, like probably in Michael's case, it may not be feasible. But if possible, it's probably a good idea.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Mike, 2 Jul 2007 @ 5:25pm

    Does Google own some of these typosquatter domains

    It's clear that Google owns ( where many typosquatter domains are parked (or at least were parked when MSR did this research): 4 Now, is it possible that Google has "vertically integrated" the advertising stack and purchased some of the outfits that are registering & parking these typosquatter domains? I hope not, but given the byzantine maze of properties that Google does own, anything's possible...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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