Organizing for Action Domain Gaffe
Most of us have heard about the profits that can be made by setting up a Facebook page with a picture of a cute puppy or an injured veteran returning home, and soliciting “likes”. The hook is usually something like “like to support, ignore if you don’t care” or “isn’t he the cutest thing ever?!” Of course, no one wants to be non-supportive of our returning vets, and almost everyone loves a puppy, so hundreds of thousands of likes are accumulated in a matter of days.
The money comes when organizations create a corresponding website, change the subject matter to their product or cause, and suddenly find themselves with tons of advertising revenue, all thanks to the “popularity” of the page.
Along these same lines is purchasing web domain names, which may be valuable to someone someday, and sitting on them until that person or entity decides they desperately need that particular domain name, and it is purchased from the owner.
Unfortunately, some people use their power to participate in this particular form of capitalism for nefarious reasons.
President Obama and his campaign organizers have been the most tech savvy ever, setting up e-mail communication and correspondence, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts to stay in touch with supporters, and to help attract younger voters. So it was no surprise when the 2012 campaign announced that they would be setting up an advocacy group website, called Organizing for Action (OFA), designed to enable supporters in their efforts to lobby lawmakers and others on issues of importance to them. Unfortunately, the organization failed to register its own domain name.
Announcement of the new site was made early on January 18. Within hours, the names organizingforaction.com and organizingforaction.org had been purchased by Michael Deutsch, a registered Republican who lives in Wellington, Florida. Since Deutsch’s purchase, both domains currently direct to a blank page with an email contact.
Organizingforaction.net was similarly scooped up, for $10, by Derek Bovard, a 40-year-old computer technician in Castle Rock, Colorado. Bovard, however, configured his site to direct all hits to the National Rifle Association Digital Network, which contains links to the National Rifle Association (NRA) and associated pro-gun propaganda groups. Bovard says “I’m for the Second Amendment. I’m not in agreement with a lot of things that are going on right now. If they don’t like it, they can buy it from me.” Mr. Bovard says he would be amenable to “around $10,000” in exchange for rights to the domain, but acknowledges that he isn’t likely to get his money back. One wonders what the NRA is doing for him for his commitment. One also wonders if Mr. Bovard understands that he is part of the game by now; DerekBovard.com redirects to the Sandy Hook massacre wikipedia page……touché.
Mr. Deutsch has had no comment, nor has a spokeswoman for Organizing for Action.
Of course, there are ways around Bovard and Deutsch if OFA really wants claim to both sites. The group could purchase one of the domains. Organizing for Action’s Executive Director Jon Carson could register Organizing for Action as a trademark and then dispute the ownership of those domains to the World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva. However, WIPO says that most disputes take two months to settle, and trying to both trademark and get the name retroactively seem unlikely.
Instead, and probably wisely, the group chose a new name for the website – ofa.bo. Hand-painted posters listed the website address for the organization at a conference of Obama volunteers held in Washington on Jan. 20 to launch the new group. It is unclear whether that will be the permanent website for the advocacy group, as it directs readers to barackobama.com, Obama’s official campaign website.
Hopefully, the lesson is that any future domain will be properly registered in advance of a formal announcement.
Meanwhile, the comments at Tech President.com are worth reading. Mr. Bovard himself weighs in.
[photo credit: latimes.com]
[this article edited by KL Johnson]