Stennett bill would outlaw Web site fraud
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
In an apparent response to his discovery
last fall that an Idaho Republican Party officer was "squatting" on a Web site
bearing his name, Sen. Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, has introduced a bill that
would outlaw the activity.
Stennett introduced the bill, called the
Political Cyberfraud Abatement Act, in the Idaho Senate last week. It would
impose fines up to $1,000 for each day a violation occurs and would enable a
court to transfer a domain name as part of any relief granted.
"(Web site campaigning is) a practice of
free speech, and people ought not be using that type of speech to interfere with
campaigns," Stennett said.
In the midst of campaigning for
re-election to his District 25 Senate seat last fall, Stennett discovered that
Idaho Republican Party Vice Chairman and Sun Valley City Councilman Latham
Williams had registered the Web site, clintstennett.com.
Stennett said he has not introduced the
bill because of Williamsí actions, but because his constituents suggested the
The bill defines political "cyberfrauding"
as intentionally redirecting access to a political Web site, intentionally
preventing or denying exist from a political Web site, regestering a domain name
that is similar to another for a political Web site "with the intent to cause
confusion," or as intentionally preventing use of a domain name for a political
Web site "by registering and holding the domain name or by reselling it Ö "
Stennett said the bill is based on model
legislation from the National Conference of State Legislators, a forum for
lawmakers to research and share ideas.
"The World Wide Web is a unique arena for
the free and open exchange of ideas," states the bill. "Political cybersquatting
stifles that open exchange, thus undermining the essential element of our
A 1999 federal law allows people or
companies whose names or trademarks have been used in "bad faith" on the
Internet to sue for damages.
However, political cybersquatting appears
not to be illegal under the provisions of the federal statute. Last April,
Marylandís lieutenant governor, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, lost when the World
Intellectual Property Organizationís Arbitration and Mediation Center declined
to transfer Internet addresses bearing her name to her.
"The panel finds that the protection of an
individual politicianís name, no matter how famous, is outside the scope of the
policy since it is not connected with commercial exploitation," according to the
But that hasnít stopped states from taking
California enacted a law Jan. 1 this year
outlawing political cybersquatting. Violations in California include registering
the domain name of a political opponent on the Internet to set up a phony Web
site, or to resell it for financial gain.
States Stennettís bill:
"Political cybersquatting has the effect
of denying a voter access, or interfering with a voterís access, to information
that will enable the person to make a knowledgeable electoral decision.
"Political cybersquatting is the
equivalent of stealing campaign literature out of a voterís mailbox, because it
prevents a voter from accessing or being aware of particular electoral