Barack Obama and Mitt Romney go to head to head on the web

Even U.S presidents need to stay one step ahead online with cybersquatters

Having spent many hundreds of millions of dollars on their respective campaigns to date, filling the airwaves and television screens across the nation with sponsored adverts, not to mention the robocalls and direct mail, we finally entered the business end of the 2012 Presidential campaign day before evening: the head to head debates between the Oval Office incumbent, President Obama, and the Republican challenger, Mitt Romney. I had personally been looking forward to the televised debates as the gloves were off and we finally got to see the two candidates go head to head. It was an opportunity for each candidate to land some blows on the opponent in an attempt to convince those swing voters who are so crucial to the election on November 6th.

But as ever in this age of instant Internet land grabbing, key events such as these presidential debates also present an opportunity to those keen on social media gratification, shouting loudest from the blogosphere rooftops and turning a quick domain name buck.

A search of twitter for “presidential debate” a few hours before the debate kicked off quickly yielded a plethora of results ranging from media outlets listing the “seven questions that need to be asked”; to tech sites detailing the “eight ways to watch the Presidential Debate online” (which includes further proof of the ubiquity of the Internet in our daily lives: YouTube officially streamed the debate live worldwide); to the humor sites urging the two candidates to give up the debate in favor of an octagon ring ultimate fighting bout (who wouldn’t like to see that happen? After the low key debate this evening perhaps it should have done).

And what about domain names? Well, at the time of writing there were 74 gTLD domain names with the “presidential debate” string. This is not surprising as there is little in the way of intellectual property enshrined in a common two word string, which means would-be domain name speculators are not exposed to the usual consequences of perpetrating IP infringements in this instance. Some of the somewhat benign domain names include, to purely speculative domains such as the distant (who knows how politics will look in 2048?) or the hopeful (for those who would like to watch the debates on their smart phone). As one would expect, most of the URLs go to domain name parking pages: the owners hopeful of generating pay-per-click revenue or even a domain name sale off the back of a well used phrase.

But what about more sensitive words and phrases - those which do contain intrinsic intellectual property? And what words can be more sensitive to someone than their own name? The current 44th President of the United States is certainly a popular domain name string: there are currently 1,800 gTLDs with the string ‘Barack Obama’ and only one of those to the best of my knowledge is his official web site domain, namely And Governor Romney himself can boast 1,159 gTLDs containing his name. So the President can claim an early blow: the infringement competition!

All this goes to prove that time and time again domain name speculators, bloggers, activists, friends and foes will seize on words and phrases for domain name registrations as a platform for own agenda. I am sure the President has more pressing issues on his mind than bad faith domain name registrations, but companies and brand owners need to be just as concerned with those who are looking to devalue their own critical online assets and stay one step ahead of those wanting a piece of their digital pie.

Written by Luge Pravda, Senior Vice President, NetNames USA

5 October 2012

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