August 30, 2006

California: Oil-Profits-Tax Advocates Accused of "Cyber-Squatting"

The fight over California's oil-tax ballot initiative, Proposition 87, is heating up. The latest legal tussle isn't about the initiative itself (which would raise $4 billion over ten years from oil companies doing business in California) but about the variety of websites that have sprung up to support (and oppose) the measure.

When Prop 87 qualified for the ballot, forward-thinking proponents of the oil tax initiative cleverly bought up a bunch of domain names that opponents would likely want to use themselves, such as As a result of this "cyber-squatting," someone who typed in that web address hoping (reasonably enough) to find an anti-87 website would get forwarded to a website that supports Prop 87.

This is tricky, but nothing new, and certainly not illegal, right? Well, it turns out California has a law called the "Political Cyberfraud Abatement Act" that is designed to ensure that Internet users seeking a particular perspective on a political issue don't have to (horror of horrors) check out a website that takes the opposite perspective. The idea, I guess, is that you should be able to judge the metaphorical book by its cover.

Prop-87 proponents have forestalled the emerging legal morass by voluntarily handing over ownership of the domain names to opponents of the tax. And so now if you click on, you'll go to a website that really wants you to vote no on 87.

My question: if we're going to start requiring "truth in labelling" for website domain names, shouldn't we start by requiring these guys to hand theirs over?


At 9:38 PM, Blogger Will said...

We are debating proposition 87 on the Cut Oil Imports message board.


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