Predicting the Next Pope's Name

Eight years ago, I registered Pope Benedict XVI's domain name three weeks before he was selected pope. Because of this achievement in pontification, I was invited to be on the Today Show, where Katie Couric called me the popesquatter in front of millions of people.

This made me as big a celebrity as the Virgin Mary viaduct stain -- but it only lasted 36 hours. Just when I started getting used to all the attention and began making plans to hire a publicist and have my teeth capped, a woman fell on the ice singing the National Anthem and sucked up all my fame.

Today at 11:30 a.m. Eastern, 115 Cardinals will lock themselves in the Sistine Chapel and won't come out until they've chosen a new pope. Any male Catholic is eligible -- I'm hoping to get one or two votes in the first round -- and when they have reached a two-thirds majority to select someone, he is asked whether he'll take the job. If he says "accepto," he immediately announces his new name.

In the hopes of continuing my reign as popesquatter, I have the following names as dot-com domains:

  • Clement XV
  • Innocent XIV
  • John Paul III
  • Leo XIV
  • Paul VII
  • Pius XIII

Five of these are because I couldn't bring myself to drop them after the last pope-a-palooza. I acquired the sixth, John Paul III, for $75 in 2009.

The Irish betting site Paddy Power has Leo as the favorite at 3-to-1, followed by Peter at 2-to-1, Gregory at 6-to-1 and Pius at 8-to-1.

Don't pray for me to win, because it could be considered tampering.

I wish I had Joseph I, but some other popesquatter wants $1,695 for it. I'm tempted to buy it, but that's too expensive when you factor in the cost of a divorce once my wife finds out.

I like Joseph as a longshot, even though it has never been used before. Because Jesus' dad was a carpenter, Pope Joseph I would have instant working-class cred.

I acquired John Paul III because the Vatican has a tradition of picking a pope who differs from the last one, a sentiment they express with the saying "always follow a fat pope with a skinny pope." Pope John Paul II was charismatic, talented and universally popular -- choosing his name is like picking Justin Timberlake to host Saturday Night Live.

A reporter for the French edition of Slate asked me how much it cost to own these domains. At $13 a year apiece over eight years for six pontiffs, I've paid $624. I never did the math before. Good lord that's a waste of money.

In keeping with tradition, if I win I will issue a list of demands.

Update: Francis?

My Life as a Religious Parable

Rick Brown, a preacher for ChristBridge Fellowship in Tomball, Texas, used me as the subject of a sermon printed in the local newspaper this week:

When Pope John Paul died Rogers Cadenhead quickly registered www.BenedictXVI.com thinking this might be the name chosen by the new pope. When Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope he did choose the name Pope Benedict XVI, causing many to question what the Vatican would do to get the rights to that domain name.

Cadenhead didn't ask the Vatican for money. Instead, in a humorous manner on his blog he suggested a few things he would trade for:

1. Three days, two nights at the Vatican hotel.

2. One of those hats (referring to the bishop's hat).

3. Complete absolution, no questions asked, for the third week of March 1987.

Wonder what Rogers did the third week of March in 1987? Me too. Most of us have at least a week we'd like total forgiveness for.

Since my 15 minutes of fame as the popesquatter in 2005, I've become a religious parable. A couple times a year I'm mentioned in sermons. I've turned up in churches, a syndicated radio broadcast and the book Facing Your Giants: A David and Goliath Story for Everyday People. In English, German and Spanish.

Rogers Cadenhead on Today ShowA few years ago, my sister-in-law Trish and her family were looking for a new church to join near Purdue in Indiana, so they went to a house of worship they'd never been to before. As they listened to the sermon, the pastor mentioned my name.

Like the Tomball preacher, the pastor told the story of benedictxvi.com and my request for absolution, inviting the congregation to ponder what I did that week which required papal indulgence.

Afterwards, Trish met the pastor and she sheepishly told him exactly what I'd done:

Her younger sister.

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 WhitmanForGovernor.com and MegWhitman2010.com.

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:

Join-meg.biz, Join-meg.com, Join-meg.info, Join-meg.net, Join-meg.org, Join-meg.us, Joinmeg.biz, Joinmeg.com, Joinmeg.info, Joinmeg.net, Joinmeg.org, Joinmeg.us, Joinmeg2010.biz, Joinmeg2010.com, Joinmeg2010.info, Joinmeg2010.net, Joinmeg2010.org, Joinmeg2010.us, Joinmegwhitman.biz, Joinmegwhitman.com, Joinmegwhitman.info, Joinmegwhitman.net, Joinmegwhitman.org, Joinmegwhitman.us, Joinmegwhitman2010.biz, Joinmegwhitman2010.com, Joinmegwhitman2010.info, Joinmegwhitman2010.net, Joinmegwhitman2010.org, Joinmegwhitman2010.us, Margaretwhitman.net, Margaretwhitman.org, Margaretwhitman2010.biz, Margaretwhitman2010.com, Margaretwhitman2010.info, Margaretwhitman2010.net, Margaretwhitman2010.org, Margaretwhitman2010.us, Margaretwhitmanforgovernor.biz, Margaretwhitmanforgovernor.com, Margaretwhitmanforgovernor.info, Margaretwhitmanforgovernor.net, Margaretwhitmanforgovernor.org, Margaretwhitmanforgovernor.us, Margaretwhitmanforgovernor2010.biz, Margaretwhitmanforgovernor2010.com, Margaretwhitmanforgovernor2010.info, Margaretwhitmanforgovernor2010.net, Margaretwhitmanforgovernor2010.org, Margaretwhitmanforgovernor2010.us, Meg2010.biz, Meg2010.com, Meg2010.info, Meg2010.net, Meg2010.org, Meg2010.us, Megforcalifornia.biz, Megforcalifornia.com, Megforcalifornia.info, Megforcalifornia.net, Megforcalifornia.org, Megforcalifornia.us, Megforcalifornia2010.biz, Megforcalifornia2010.com, Megforcalifornia2010.info, Megforcalifornia2010.net, Megforcalifornia2010.org, Megforcalifornia2010.us, Megforgovernor.biz, Megforgovernor.com, Megforgovernor.info, Megforgovernor.net, Megforgovernor.org, Megforgovernor.us, Megforgovernor2010.biz, Megforgovernor2010.com, Megforgovernor2010.info, Megforgovernor2010.net, Megforgovernor2010.org, Megforgovernor2010.us, Megwhitman.com, Megwhitman.info, Megwhitman.net, Megwhitman.org, Megwhitman2010.biz, Megwhitman2010.com, Megwhitman2010.info, Megwhitman2010.net, Megwhitman2010.org, Megwhitman2010.us, Megwhitmanforcalifornia.biz, Megwhitmanforcalifornia.com, Megwhitmanforcalifornia.info, Megwhitmanforcalifornia.net, Megwhitmanforcalifornia.org, Megwhitmanforcalifornia.us, Megwhitmanforcalifornia2010.biz, Megwhitmanforcalifornia2010.com, Megwhitmanforcalifornia2010.info, Megwhitmanforcalifornia2010.net, Megwhitmanforcalifornia2010.org, Megwhitmanforcalifornia2010.us, Megwhitmanforgovernor.biz, Megwhitmanforgovernor.com, Megwhitmanforgovernor.info, Megwhitmanforgovernor.net, Megwhitmanforgovernor.org, Megwhitmanforgovernor.us, Megwhitmanforgovernor2010.biz, Megwhitmanforgovernor2010.com, Megwhitmanforgovernor2010.info, Megwhitmanforgovernor2010.net, Megwhitmanforgovernor2010.org, Megwhitmanforgovernor2010.us, Vote-meg.biz, Vote-meg.com, Vote-meg.info, Vote-meg.net, Vote-meg.org, Vote-meg.us, Votemeg.biz, Votemeg.com, Votemeg.info, Votemeg.net, Votemeg.org, Votemeg.us, Votemeg2010.biz, Votemeg2010.com, Votemeg2010.info, Votemeg2010.net, Votemeg2010.org, Votemeg2010.us, Votemegwhitman.biz, Votemegwhitman.com, Votemegwhitman.info, Votemegwhitman.net, Votemegwhitman.org, Votemegwhitman.us, Votemegwhitman2010.biz, Votemegwhitman2010.com, Votemegwhitman2010.info, Votemegwhitman2010.net, Votemegwhitman2010.org, Votemegwhitman2010.us, Whitman2010.biz, Whitman2010.com, Whitman2010.info, Whitman2010.net, Whitman2010.org, Whitman2010.us, Whitmanforgovernor.biz, Whitmanforgovernor.com, Whitmanforgovernor.info, Whitmanforgovernor.net, Whitmanforgovernor.org, Whitmanforgovernor.us, Whitmanforgovernor2010.biz, Whitmanforgovernor2010.com, Whitmanforgovernor2010.info, Whitmanforgovernor2010.net, Whitmanforgovernor2010.org, Whitmanforgovernor2010.us

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 whitmanforgovernor.mobi, megwhitman.tv and megwhitman2010.me are all still available, among countless others. She's trying to corner the market on an infinite resource.

Fixing Page Not Found Errors on FeedBurner MyBrand Domains

Google has begun integrating FeedBurner, the service for publishing, tracking and promoting RSS feeds, into the rest of the Don't Be Evil Empire. As part of the move, FeedBurner users who are employing the MyBrand feature must make a change to the name service for their domain names.

MyBrand makes it possible to host your feeds on FeedBurner without losing any subscribers if you decide later to quit the service. I'm using it to host four feeds, including SportsFilter's RSS feed, on my own domains.

MyBrand domains used to point to feeds.feedburner.com, but they must be changed to a new subdomain of feedproxy.ghs.google.com. Each FeedBurner user is assigned a different subdomain. For SportsFilter, I updated it by revising one line in the BIND zone file for sportsfilter.com:

feeds IN CNAME subdomain.feedproxy.ghs.google.com.

The subdomain portion is based on your Google account.

This is supposed to be all that's required to make the move. Unfortunately, a giant honking bug in FeedBurner broke three of my four MyBrand domains this morning. Users received a 404 "Page Not Found" error when they tried to access my feeds. I found a workaround on Google's FeedBurner help site that explains how to fix the problem:

  • Log in to FeedBurner with your Google account.
  • Open the MyBrand page.
  • Remove the broken domain name and click Save.
  • Add the domain name back again and click Save.

Today's Bible Lesson: Don't Barter with God

On the June 1 Back to the Bible radio show, which airs on 1,200 religious stations around the world, host Woodrow Kroll told listeners how I could seek forgiveness from God:

Jesus wants to take the burden of your guilt away. I read this little story. I just thought I had to pass it on to you. The question was asked, "How much would the Vatican pay for the pope's name?" Now that's not a theoretical question. A fellow by the name of Rogers Cadenhead, who is an admitted domain hoarder, bought the domain www.benedictxvi before Pope John Paul died. What he thought was, I'll get the domain name. When the pope dies, if Benedict becomes the next pope, I'll own the name; they'll have to buy the name from me.

Now he knew that this was a good deal, because the name www.popebenedictxvi sold on e-bay for $ 16,000. So he thought his was in like flint, except Cadenhead said this. He was a good Roman Catholic and he said, "I don't want the money. I'm not going to anger 1.1 billion Catholics and my grandmother," he quipped.

So he wasn't interested in really selling the name. But there was something he wanted. So he told the Vatican, "I will give the name to you, and here are three things I want. Number one, I want one of those hats." I have no idea what what he's talking about -- maybe the pope's hat. "And number two," he says, "I want a free night's stay at the Vatican Hotel." Ridiculous things. But number three was really important. He said, "I want complete absolution -- no questions asked -- for the third week of March 1987".

Now I don't know what went on the third week of March 1987, but it appears to me something went on pretty big in his life that he needed absolution for. See, what he is saying is this: "If I could buy forgiveness, it would be worth any price I had to pay." And what I'm saying is this. You can't buy forgiveness, but you can confess your sin and get forgiveness free.

What Peter shows us in this passage is, Jesus is anxious to forgive us, even when we don't really come clean with Him -- when we answer "Do you love Me?" with "Uh, I like You pretty much." Jesus is merciful and kind and willing to forgive. And if He can forgive Peter of what Peter did to Him, He can surely forgive you.

domains · religion · 2007/06/06 · 16 COMMENTS · Link

Using GoDaddy's Domain Back Order Service

I recently got the domain name watchingthewatchers.com in a drop when the previous owner let it expire. Since Watching the Watchers has been published at the same name in .org since 2004, we've been losing traffic from people who mistakenly tried the .com and ended up at a parked domain.

To get the domain, I set up an account on GoDaddy and used its domain monitoring and back order service. You can monitor 100 domains for $5.99 and receive email when they're put on hold for non-payment or their status changes in other ways.

You can backorder a specific domain for $18.99 or five domains for $94.95. This doesn't guarantee you'll get them, because GoDaddy's competing with other domain-drop services and registrars, but if it fails you can reassign your order to another domain at no cost. Based on a few times I tried it out, it appears that GoDaddy loses more often than it wins when the domain's hotly contested. For this particular domain, I felt like I had a good chance because the old owner used GoDaddy as his registrar.

GoDaddy only will sell a backorder for a domain to one customer, so if you wait for the monitoring service to tell you its on hold, you might be too late.

The only disadvantage to using the service is that it increases the likelihood you'll accumulate more dumb domains you had no rational reason to register, which has been an issue for me. I also got sins.biz using GoDaddy's drop service, but all of the decent ecommerce possibilities for that domain are illegal in the U.S. outside of a few counties in Nevada.

Eliot Spitzer Files UDRP to Take EliotSpitzer.Com

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer appears to have begun legal proceedings to take the domain names eliotspitzer.com and eliotspitzer.org away from Eric Keller, a New Jersey online candy retailer who registered them in 2001.

A Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) arbitration began today regarding the domains at the National Arbitration Forum. Arbitrators will decide whether the domains were registered and used in bad faith, whether Keller has legitimate rights in the names, and whether Spitzer has used his name as a trademark in commerce. He must prevail on all three to take the domains.

The domains are parked today, but archived web pages from the Internet Wayback Machine indicate that eliotspitzer.com was used for several years to direct traffic to eBulkCandy.com LLC, a candy retailer based in Trenton, N.J.

eBulkCandy, which also operates stores at JordanAlmonds.Com and HometownCandy.Com, has been the subject of numerous consumer complaints with the Better Business Bureau and the complaint site Rip Off Report.

On Dec. 5, Keller was indicted by the Department of Justice on 10 counts of mail fraud for allegedly bilking UPS out of charges for candy shipments:

From September 22, 2001 through February 2005, Keller created a series of bogus UPS shipping accounts for the purpose of shipping candy to ebulkcandy customers, and failed to pay UPS for the shipping. The indictment alleges that at the time Keller opened the UPS accounts, he had no intention of paying UPS for shipping services. According to the charges, defendant Eric Keller defrauded UPS of approximately $154,581.

He faces up to 200 years imprisonment and a $2.5 million fine.

In 2003, Keller was sued in Illinois by Brach's Confections for cybersquatting and trademark infringement over nine domains that incorporated Brach's into their names: brach.us, brachcandy.com, brachs.net, brachs.org, brachscandies.com, brachscandy.net, brachsconfections.com, brachsoutlet.com and brachswholesale.com.

One filing related to the suit alleged that Keller dodged a process server:

... Keller repeatedly tried to avoid service, ranging from refusing mail service to refusing to accept service through a car window when confronted by a process server. In the last instance, the process server left the two sets of summons and complaint for Keller ... by the car containing the defendant on May 16, 2003. When the process server returned a short while later both Keller and the summonses and complaints had left the side of the car.

Victory Declared in the Battle for Wargames.Com

Wargames.ComThe National Arbitration Forum just released its decision in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. v. World Readable c/o R.L. Cadenhead, the domain-name dispute in which the film studio tried to take Wargames.Com away from me because it owns a trademark related to the 1983 film WarGames and the upcoming sequel WarGames 2: The Dead Code.

A three-member panel of arbitrators denied MGM's claim on the grounds that I established my legitimate interest in selling wargames at the domain:

The picture that emerges from this material is of the Respondent, having seen Complainant's WARGAMES movie as a teenager in or about 1983 and having developed a professional interest in computer programming and wargames, to the extent of writing about them, creating them and publishing material on numerous websites, registered the disputed domain name in 1998 with the idea of one day using it to sell wargames over the Internet. That idea remained in abeyance for six years until Respondent began to prepare to open his online store. Meantime the domain name resolved to a website which, inter alia, contained advertising links which most likely generated PPC revenue. By the time Complainant complained by letter of September 7, 2006, preparations to open the online store had advanced sufficiently to enable Respondent to advance his plans and to open the store on September 14, 2006.

Complainant rightly submits that what Respondent did after receiving the letter of September 7, 2006 cannot be taken into account in determining legitimacy. However, the speed with which Respondent was able to open his online store after having received that letter lends support to Respondent's contention that much work by way of preparation to use the disputed domain name for the purpose of selling wargames over the Internet had already been done by the time that letter was received. The sworn statements mentioned above cannot be dismissed as ex post facto attempts to concoct a defense to this Complaint. Indeed, they explain the acquisition in 2004 of the sales and use tax permit and the subscription to the Drop Ship Source Directory as being related to Respondent's intended online wargames store.

In its complaint, MGM found several things to make me look like a cybersquatter obsessed with the film, including a joke I made in Sams Teach Yourself Java in 24 Hours:

The quote "Shall we play a game?" is from the 1983 movie War Games, in which a young computer programmer portrayed by Matthew Broderick saves mankind after almost causing global thermonuclear war and the near-extinction of humankind. You'll learn how to do that in the next book of this series, Sams Teach Yourself to Create International Incidents with Java in 24 Hours.

MGM also cited a Red Herring interview:

That Respondent recalls where he first saw the WARGAMES film demonstrates the degree to which the film imprinted on his mind, and helps to explain his fascination and continuing references to MGM's film.

When first contacted by MGM in September, I was certain that I would win a Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) case if my ownership of the domain was challenged. I didn't know much about the UDRP, having never been involved in one of these disputes in a decade of web publishing, but I understood that it existed to stop people from grabbing domains to profit on somebody else's trademark. I got Wargames.Com to sell wargames.

The more I learned about the UDRP, the less confidence I had in winning. Most disputes end in victories for trademark holders and there's a huge number of ways that domain owners have been judged to have acted in bad faith.

Where domain owners are concerned, the UDRP's a strange game where the only winning move is not to play.

This battle has been four months of stress-induced, take the whole gallon of ice cream out the fridge eating -- people are starting to ask my due date. The next book I write will cover how domain name owners can protect themselves from a UDRP grab. I asked my book agent to shop two different proposals depending on the outcome.

The first proposal: How I went to battle with a ginormous corporation and saved my domain.

Thanks to my attorneys Wade Duchene and Brett E. Lewis, I don't have to write the other proposed book: How one of America's most beloved film studios hurt my feelings, kicked my ass and took my domain name, and what you can do to avoid my sad, sad fate.

Domain Owner Keeps Pig.Com in UDRP Dispute

In a UDRP dispute decided Monday, the New Pig Corporation failed to take away the generic domain name pig.com after previously trying to buy it for $21,000. I'm hoping that the National Arbitration Forum decision bodes well for my own generic use of Wargames.Com.

New Pig owns a Pig trademark registered in 1987 for industrial absorbents used to clean oil spills.

The decision sheds some light on the money involved in parked pay-per-click search domains like the one currently at pig.com. Domain investor Adam Dicker bought the domain for $50,000.

To make its case look better, New Pig reportedly bid $2.74 per click so that it would show up in the top position on pig.com, which it then used in the UDRP complaint to claim the domain was trading on its mark.

Attorney John Berryhill, one of the small number of attorneys specializing in UDRP disputes, appears to have slaughtered New Pig in this case:

While the Complainant states that, on average, it spends $4M per year on unspecified promotion of its products, no documentation is provided for this assertion. The swine and pork industries dwarf the Complainant's sale of its specialized product, and it is reasonable to assume that the Panel members themselves were aware of the word "pig" prior to this dispute and, like the Respondent, had never heard of the Complainant or its products.

The Complainant now admits that the Complainant itself is responsible for the appearance of its own advertisement on the Respondent's webpage.

Dell: Master of 4,264 Domain Names

Nathan J. Hole, the Loeb & Loeb attorney representing MGM in the effort to grab Wargames.Com, has won four more UDRP arbitrations the past eight weeks:

In all four cases, domain owners didn't file a response, giving them no real chance of winning. This brings Hole's record to 13-0.

I've been a Dell shareholder since 2001, so Loeb & Loeb was working for me when it acquired the following domains for Dell through the UDRP process: dell4mecom.net, dellcart.com, dellcomputerssuck.com, dellcustomersupport.com, dellscomputer.com, delldvr.com, delldvr.net, delldvrs.com, delldvrs.net, delliran.com, dellpc.net, dellpccart.com, dellpromos.com, dellsite.com, dellsite.net, dellwork.com, dellworks.com, wwwdell4me.net, wwwdellcom.com, wwwdellcom.net, wwwdellcomputer.com and wwwdell4mecom.com.

These 22 domains were acquired in 11 UDRP cases that cost $16,900 in filing fees from the National Arbitration Forum plus whatever it costs to have a young attorney write sentences like "Respondent's vague allegations regarding his contemplated use of the Domain are contradicted by the manifest weight of objectively verifiable facts surrounding his registration and use."

None of the domains directs traffic to Dell today, and in two cases nobody bothered to update the name service after the UDRP ruling, so they continue to point to their former owners' web servers. If you visit dell4mecom.net and wwwdellcomputer.com today, you'll find parked pay-per-click pages on two servers that host 1.4 million and 44,000 domains, respectively.

Dell currently owns 4,264 domains according to DomainTools and appears on pace to add 1,000 a year. To give a sample of its thoroughness, the company owns dell-sucks.com, dellcomputerssuck.com, delldjdittysucks.com, dellhostsucks.com, dellservicesucks.net, dellsucks.org, dellsucksass.com, dellsucksnow.com and dellblows.com.

Dell has bigger problems than an addiction to domain names -- how do you say "please help, my Inspiron laptop incinerated my mantackle" in Hindi? -- but I'm not seeing the logic of a corporation hoarding thousands of useless and valueless domains related to its brands because some random idiot registered them. Dell's trying to corner the market on an infinite resource.

Wargames.Com UDRP Dispute Goes to Arbitrators

MGM's effort to grab Wargames.Com is now in the hands of a three-member panel of arbitrators for the National Arbitration Forum, who will read the filings of both sides and decide the matter in the next two weeks.

Under the forum's rules, each side got two chances to make its case:

  • Dec. 19, 2006: MGM challenged my ownership of the domain in its original complaint, paying a $2,600 fee and requesting a three-member panel of arbitrators.
  • Jan. 8, 2007: I made my response, which attorney Wade Duchene filed at the 20-day deadline. Because MGM requested a three-member panel, no fee was required. If MGM had selected a one-member panel for $1,300, I could've paid $1,300 for two more arbitrators.
  • Jan. 16, 2007: MGM made an additional complaint, a response to my response that cost the studio $400. MGM only had five days to do this, but the last day can't fall on a weekend or holiday, so it got three additional days.
  • Jan. 22, 2007: I offered a response to their response to my response, which was filed by Duchene and Brett E. Lewis, a former attorney for Register.Com who's won more than 20 UDRP disputes. This response also cost $400 and had a five-day deadline.

Lewis, an attorney whose bio claims he can "hypnotize opposing counsel with his brightly polished, gleaming bald head," wrote an article for the domain industry site DNJournal on how to protect your domain names. My favorite tip is that you should not pretend to be a cat.

The timing of this dispute worked out well for MGM, putting most of our work time in the Christmas holidays and giving the studio extra time for its additional complaint.

MGM's intellectual property firm Loeb & Loeb has become one of my weblog's most avid readers. Its second complaint includes screen captures of several weblog posts here on Workbench to pursue its claim that everything I've done on Wargames.Com is an attempt to hide a long-unrealized desire to profit from MGM's 1983 film:

When Respondent "launched" the <wargames.com> website on September 14, 2006, it did not even merit a mention on any of his websites. A printout from Respondent's blog showing entries from the days surrounding September 14, 2006, is attached as Annex E. In fact, during the three (3) months that elapsed between Respondent's first use of the <wargames.com> domain name and MGM's filing of this dispute, Respondent did not publicize, announce, or mention the activation of the <wargames.com> website. Indeed, the first public announcement of new <wargames.com> website was in connection with Respondent's blog post announcing that MGM filed the complaint in this proceeding (see Annex D). Thus, if Respondent is to be believed, after spending more than two (or eight) years and 1,000 hours developing the <wargames.com> website, he did not so much as mention when it finally went active. That Respondent only began to publicize his website after MGM initiated the instant proceeding betrays his claims regarding his efforts to develop an active website using the Domain, and further suggests opportunistic bad faith in attempting to capitalize on the dispute for his own financial benefit.

They overlooked the links to Wargames.Com in the "Working On" sidebar of this blog -- even in their own screen captures -- and wargame ads I've run on other sites I publish. Google has indexed more than 13,000 pages where I've linked to my store, an effort that takes 3-6 months to improve its standing in search results.

Both of MGM's documents are filled with stuff like this, where its attorneys take a thin inference from something I've written -- or in this case not written -- and stretch it into a Perry Mason moment where I break down on the stand and admit I killed kindly Miss McGillicutty for the $13 in her Little Sisters of the Poor donation bucket.

UDRP Response Filed to Save Wargames.Com

My attorney Wade Duchene has filed our response to the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute Resolution (UDRP) complaint made by MGM Studios over Wargames.Com. We're getting closer to the day where a panel of three arbitrators decides whether to give the domain to MGM, which owns a trademark registered in 2003 for the 1983 film WarGames.

UDRP arbitration is an increasingly popular tool for intellectual property lawyers trying to acquire domains for clients, as MGM's firm is attempting here. If they lose, all it costs is a $1,300 or $2,600 filing fee and their time.

The math's not as pretty for a domain name holder: You have to fight like hell to defend your rights against accusations of cybersquatting and anything else an attorney can claim to make you look dodgy, and all you get with a victory is to keep what you owned in the first place.

Actually, that's not entirely true. There's at least one benefit to me: I'm making new friends at the OfficeMax copy center and UPS Store. When I showed up yesterday to make copies of the UDRP response for some reporters, they greeted me like Norm on Cheers.

I'm also getting a great too-late-for-me education on how to reduce your risk of a UDRP grab.

If you own a domain you haven't launched and there's a trademark holder with a mark close to your domain name, you're vulnerable even if you've never offered it for sale. The time to defend your rights is before you've been contacted by a trademark holder. In a UDRP arbitration, the actions you take after that first contact are disregarded as self-serving.

My emphatic advice: Start your business today. Don't wait until everything's perfectly in place and the site's near to launch.

I registered a fictitious name statement in Florida in 2004 when I began work on Wargames.Com, which is my first (and only) retail business. That's probably the first step you should undertake. You can register a fictitious name, also called a DBA or do-business-as, with a service like MyCorporation.Com or do it yourself with your state. I paid around $50.

Registering a fictitious name tells the world you'll be doing business under that name, establishing a verifiable public record of your intent. I'll pester my attorney to explain how that helps.

The Digger Diggs, and Having Dugg Moves On

When Ryan Tomayko's blog was linked recently on Digg, he was so freaked out by the experience he wrote some code to reject all Digg traffic:

The funny thing about Digg is that it changes the way people read. The average Digger seems to assume that people write stuff solely for the purpose of making it to the Digg front page. ...

No one knows you there so you have to write in a way that is completely void of who you are and what you're about. That sucks. I'd rather just opt out of the popularity contest (and I did -- see below).

I've been ground into chuck a few times by high-traffic sites, most recently over my legal fight to save Wargames.Com from being grabbed by MGM.

When an online community's focused on you, it feels like a big deal, but the average Internet user can afford to spend no more than 10 minutes caring about any subject. After that, a new "Peanut Butter Jelly Time" remix, Apple gadget, or high-resolution picture of a celebrity's babymaker has hit the web and everybody moves on. Digg users form six strongly held opinions an hour.

When I offered BenedictXVI.Com to the Vatican, this weblog received 500,000 hits in two days and I got several thousand comments along with six flattering sexual assessments (five straight, one gay). I was just starting to enjoy my newfound celebrity after 36 hours when some Canadian woman fell on the ice singing the National Anthem at a hockey game in Quebec, inhaling all my fame oxygen. I was so upset I couldn't start my day with the Today Show for weeks.

By the time Tomayko finished his Digg blocker, the members of the site had forgotten him entirely.

Top 10 Wargames of 2006

After hearing about the battle over Wargames.Com, the Los Angeles weblog LAist asked me for a list of the top 10 wargames of 2006. Since this could be the last year I'm legally allowed to use the word "wargames" in a sentence, I jumped at the opportunity.

10. Naruto CCG: Every time I play a seven-year-old kicks my ninja's ass and tells me I bring shame to my family.

9. Advanced Squad Leader Armies of Oblivion: Published by Curt Schilling, who spends his time between pitches calculating how to keep his supply lines open to the Sudetenland.

8. Army Men Sarge's War: You're either with the Green Army or you're with the terrorists.

Memoir 447. Call of Duty 3 (XBox 360): Makes you glad to live on the continent that's uptight about sex and comfortable about violence and not the other way around.

6. Confrontation (3rd Edition): Way more action than Negotiation or Capitulation.

5. Activision Remix Chopper Command: Back in my day we had one button on our joysticks and we liked it.

4. Memoir '44: Win the last well-liked American war in 60 minutes.

3. Gears of War (XBox 360): The chainsaw bayonet is wrong on so many levels.

2. Victory in Iraq: This isn't a real game, but the guy who comes up with it should be our next Secretary of Defense.

1. BattleLore: Huge medieval hordes fight like in Lord of the Rings, but without any hobbits holding back their homosexual yearning.