Microsoft, the world’s leading producer of software, on Tuesday announced that it has filed two lawsuits against alleged “cybersquatters” or “typosquatters”—parties that intentionally register domain names similar to those of legitimate companies, popular products or other genuine sites to trick Web surfers into thinking they’re associated with sites and companies of interest, Reuters reports.
Microsoft attributes the growing issue of domain name abuse to the boom in advertising the Web has experienced over the past few years, according to Reuters.
Fraudsters who register sites with names like “microsft.com” or “htmail.com” take advantage of Web surfers’ accidental typos or plain old naivety by displaying ads for their illegitimate sites on popular sites and banking on the hope that users won’t recognize them as fakes. Since the ads are paid for based on how many times surfers click them, the sites with deceptive domain names can derive large chunks of revenue via the significant amounts of Web traffic they drive, Reuters reports.
Aaron Kornblum, an attorney with Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft, told Reuters, “This land rush on the Internet was to collect as many domain names as possible and monetize them using pay-per-click ads.”
Microsoft filed suit against two individuals attempting to register more than 320 domain names that the firm says target the company, as well as a California man it said had already registered some 85 domain names meant to drive traffic based on their similarities to genuine Microsoft Web locales, according to Reuters.
The software giant says the parties violated the 1999 Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, which imposes a fine of $100,000 on a person or entity who purposefully registers domain names that are the same or very similar to established sites or that are clearly meant to profit from their likeness to other sites, Reuters reports.
Microsoft filed legal action against the specific people who registered or tried to register the suspect names, but it is not currently going after the ad services that allow such parties to post their ads, according to Reuters. Yahoo, Google and Microsoft all offer online advertising services in which they act as middlemen for sites seeking to place their ads on other popular websites, Reuters reports.
Microsoft said its MSN AdCenter doesn’t place ads for domains created by cybersquatters, and Yahoo claims it won’t serve obvious cybersquatters, according to Reuters. Yahoo also said it has a set of safeguards in place to deter fraudsters from using its service to spread their advertisements, according to Reuters. Google said its AdSense for Domains service does allow people who own large collections of mostly inactive sites to post their ads on links on websites, and that it does not intervene in issues between domain and trademark owners unless those owners file complaints, Reuters reports.
Microsoft is still unclear on who or what party is supposed to regulate intellectual property issues on the Internet, and it’s requesting additional information from the ad services that enable cybersquatters in relation to the associated profits they bring in, according to Reuters.
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