CBC News reported recently that Conservative MP Keith Ashfield registered the domain name keithashfield.ca during the 2008 election.  When Mr. Ashfield failed to renew the registration, it was quickly scooped up by an apparent cybersquatter.  Cybersquatters (as they are commonly known), often register famous names or trade-marks in order to benefit from the associated goodwill to drive traffic to their websites.  Often these websites are “pay-per-click” sites which generate revenue for the cybersquatter.

The website now resolves to a site offering details on how to get prescription drugs without a prescription.  Exactly who holds the domain name is unclear, as this information has been privacy protected by the registrar, Namespro Solutions Inc., at the request of the owner. Under the current CIRA privacy policy, personal information of owners who are individuals is permitted to be cloaked, even if the domain name links to a commercial site.

Mr. Ashfield could potentially try to regain ownership and control of the domain name under the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) Dispute Resolution Policy (CDRP) One issue, however, may be his ability to prove rights in his name as a “Mark” as defined by the CDRP policy. A CDRP proceeding allows for the transfer of a domain name from a registrant to a complainant if the complainant can prove that (1) the domain name is confusingly similar to a Mark in which the complainant has rights, (2) the registrant does not have a legitimate interest in the domain name, and (3) the registrant has registered the domain name in bad faith (as defined under the policy).

Cases such as this highlight that public personalities, including politicians, as well as trade-mark owners are encouraged to pre-emptively register their names or trade-marks as domain names with multiple top level domains (such as .ca and .com).  As Mr. Ashfield has no doubt discovered, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

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