As technology evolves and society relies more and more on the Internet for work and play, scam artists seem to dream up increasingly creative ways to derive a profit from it. Most regular Internet users have become familiar with the term “cybersquatting” in recent years. This nefarious online activity involves a company or individual who registers a domain with a name that is confusingly similar to a legitimate website. Administrators use the sham websites to elicit personal information and money from unwitting users. The result is big time profits for the criminals and big time headaches for their victims.
Recently, federal courts decided in favor of Facebook against several defendants who had registered domains with confusingly similar names. The websites, examples of which included Dacebook.com and Facebooll.com took advantage of the most frequently made typographical errors users enter when searching for Facebook. In addition to having similar titles, many of the websites also copied the Facebook look and interface to further convince users that they had landed at the legitimate Facebook website.
Facebook executives filed the complaint against the typosquatters in 2011. The judge ordered that the defendants should pay Facebook a combined total of some $2.8 million in damages. Moreover, the infringing domains must be turned over to Facebook, making it possible for the social networking giant to redirect users with poor typing skills to the Internet destination they actually wanted to reach. The defendants in the case are also prevented from continuing to register domain names that are confusingly similar to Facebook’s. A lawyer working on behalf of Facebook notes that “we are pleased with the court’s recommendation.” In addition, he foresees a continued vigorous defense in support of Facebook’s intellectual property.
Facebook is not the first company to rely on the 1999 Anticybersquatting Act. Other recognizable companies like Microsoft have used the act in the past to protect their online presence and reputation. As commerce continues to rely on the Internet in an ever increasing amount, it seems clear that this law will be put to the test on many occasions in the future.