Attorney Wants .Pol Top-Level Domain for Politicians

Political law attorney Matthew T. Sanderson believes the Internet needs a new .pol top-level domain because of cybersquatters who grab domain names related to politicians. He cites Meg Whitman's difficulty acquiring domains related to her gubernatorial run in California:

Long before she began forming her campaign for governor of California, Meg Whitman got cybersquatted. Media speculation in early 2008 that the billionaire former chief executive of eBay would seek the state's highest office prompted a Santa Monica man to nab rights to several Web sites that evoke Whitman's name, including and

Whitman spent much of last year trying to get those sites back. Her early attempts to negotiate failed, and she lost an Internet arbitration because her extensive business and political activities did not make her name "commercial" enough to warrant protection. She then initiated costly and potentially fruitless litigation that, had events run their course, might have concluded after California's gubernatorial election. In the end, though, Whitman's substantial checkbook solved her problem. She settled with the cybersquatter out of court for an undisclosed sum.

Creating a new namespace for the use of politicians, many of whom don't keep their campaign-related domains after a race is over, would make some money for registrars but do little to discourage people from grabbing domain names related to political candidates. The .com namespace is still coveted no matter how many new top-level domains are introduced, so the ownership of BobDole.pol would not reduce the worth of BobDole.Com when Bob Dole decides that Bob Dole should run for president again in 2012.

Also, many domain names registered in the names of public figures are used for political speech, not cybersquatting. KarlRove.Com, BillKristol.Com and RodBlagojevich.Com are all examples.

Sanderson's proposal is premised on the notion that candidates like Whitman must control all variations of their domain name:

Worse, today's preventive and remedial measures are ill-suited to resolve the underlying issue. A candidate cannot buy in advance all possible site-name variations. Negotiation gives cybersquatters exactly what they want -- a chance to receive an exorbitant sum.

I hate to break this to him, but it's impossible to own all possible site-name variations related to a politician. Meg Whitman doesn't need WhitmanForGovernor.Com or MegWhitman2010.Com because she owns MegWhitman.Com, the only domain name related to her candidacy that would get any type-in traffic, and she's already one of the top results for her name in Google. The misguided impulse to acquire all variations has led the Whitman campaign to acquire at least 162 domain names:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Four of these domains were acquired after Whitman failed to get them in a UDRP domain-name arbitration. No matter how many domains she acquires from squatters, there will still be more. When I checked my registrar for Meg Whitman domains today, it helpfully informed me that, and are all still available, among countless others. She's trying to corner the market on an infinite resource.


Well, it's little more complicated than that, both practically and legally. As a legal matter, there's ways one's argument is strengthened if one makes a *reasonable effort* to protect a string - it doesn't have to be perfect or cover every possible case, but showing one does regard the matter seriously. So going after the most common tlds is not necessarily wasted effort even if there exists other tlds or string variants. Which segues into the practical matter than not all variants or strings are equally useful in practice even if domains are equal in theory.

"Meg Whitman doesn't need WhitmanForGovernor.Com or MegWhitman2010.Com because she owns MegWhitman.Com"

I beg to differ - what you seem to be basing most of your argument on is the weight of needing these domains to produce an effective campaign. She *does* need all of those domains to try to stop off-message content (everything from opponents to legitimate parody) from being easily accessible, and that's why she's cornering the market. If I want to parody meg's campaign and have to set it up at some godawful URL, it's less likely to catch on. And of course she's got the money to do it, so she is.

I think you greatly overestimate the value of a domain like No matter how many domains Whitman acquires, there will still be domains available that could be used to parody her or oppose her. She can't acquire them all.

Once you get beyond a really strong domain like MegWhitman.Com, the rest is worthless stuff that would get zero type-in traffic and only have value based on what's published there and how well it does in Google.

If her gubernatorial campaign gains traction, her opponents will find a catchy domain that sounds good in the media, just as her eBay detractors started FireMeg.Com. There's nothing she can do to stop that.

"If her gubernatorial campaign gains traction, her opponents will find a catchy domain that sounds good in the media, just as her eBay detractors started FireMeg.Com. There's nothing she can do to stop that."

Sure there is - buy up all the variants on those too. I think you greatly underestimate the wealth and paranoia of Meg Whitman :)

Law firms, over the years, have been somewhat reluctant to shell out for technology. I seem to remember Wang VS machines " once a staple for law firm billing and document chores " holding out in legal a bit longer than other industry sectors. The same cautious view has applied to services. But adversity is proving the mother of adoption. Law firms perhaps hit harder by the current downturn than previous recessions now look to outsourcing to trim costs. This has created an opening for MSPs and cloud-based offerings in the legal market.


Sanderson has a reasonable request. With so many people buying up domain names and trying to turn a quick buck, this is a slippery slope. A .pol domain level would not only prevent squatters from exploiting politicians in an attempt to turn a profit, but would clearly decipher the official from unofficial websites

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