Reading through Kimberly Chapman’s front-page article on the less-than-perfect Domain Name System may have many of you thinking about the whys and wherefores of corporate trademark privileges vs. democratic freedom on the Web.

Those of you closer to the bean-counters in your organization likely feel that a company’s marketing identity is sacred, not to be infringed upon by the competition or any dubious opportunist in the market. So it probably goads you to no end when you hear that a corporate trademark has no leverage when it comes to securing an appropriate Web domain name to reflect that identity.

A case in point: Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Devil Rays needed to drop the “s” in their domain name because a fleet-footed cyberpesk registered the expansion team’s name (complete with the “s”) before it did. In the end, through some strategic marketing, the Devil Rays organization managed to get the word out to its fans to go to www.devilray.com for the latest team news.

Those of you on the other extreme end of the spectrum may have felt an impulse to applaud said-cyberpesk. After all, the Internet is democratic and why should anyone, especially a multimillion company, be given more rights than everybody else when it comes to choosing a domain name, you might say.

Well, to be honest, up until recently I tended to side with the Internet freedom fighters. Now I’m not sure that I do.

Our Web editor Antonietta Palleschi received an e-mail the other day from an irate Web surfer who had come across a URL in a story published by our sister publication ComputerWorld Canada (all LTI publications are archived on our joint Web site, www.lti.on.ca). According to this reader, the URL not only didn’t take him to where the story said it would, it actually went to an X-rated bestiality site.

In verifying whether or not this was true, we discovered that the published URL was, in fact, correct and the reader must have mistyped it, leaving out one letter — an “l” in this case. Of course, in order to find this out we needed to replicate the reader’s error, which took us to the rather unpleasant site he had already found.

I won’t specify the URL in question — either the correct one or the mistyped version — because I have no desire to advertise the whereabouts of the latter.

But in the end, a mere typing error has driven a point home for me. In the digital world, where a company’s URL is its marketing identity, perhaps trademarked companies should be given preferential treatment. As explained in Chapman’s story, the Patent and Trademark Institute of Canada is proposing that this been done under a new domain name registration system still to be set up.

This wouldn’t avoid situations such as the one involving the accidental misspelling of a Web site, but it would let companies register their properly spelled trademarks as domain names, something the Devil Rays missed out on.

What are your thoughts about the Domain Name System? E-mail your comments to [email protected]

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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