strike real names - wdr.org had to change to dl2mcd.de and to
drop the contact information
to international law and clearly against ICANN policy happened
to us, as we are international (a German, an American), but living
I am a journalist,
having written technical and other articles since 1975. The initials
of my real name match those of a local German radio station. They
already have their own .de-domain,
but now they want all international domains too. Like wdr.com
(formerly owned by Swiss-American bank Warburg Dillon Read), wdr.org
(which was mine and was registered by a Swiss organisation when
I was forced to release it) or wdr.ca
. You see, domain fights are big and easy money nowadays in Germany.
They already are sueing Swiss citiziens too (sprachen.ch and syscontrol.ch
are Swiss domains under German fire!) and they will take over
more domains in use by others worldwide now.
Our domain was based
on my initials, which I used like every journalist. In my case
für 25 years, and 5 years on the net. In radio, my abbreviation
was understandably never used, rather in print media (newspapers,
magazines, books) and on the net. The similarity of the abbreviations
for the broadcaster and the author had not caused problems in
the past and the abbrevaition was never used as a company name.
broadcaster suddenly sent a cease and decist letter accusing me
of pulling serious business advantages and enticing their customers
away from their web site to mine. I knew this was not so - what
should I do with radio and television viewers anyway? I do not
offer a program guide here. And every false hit on my website
costs me money - I do not use a cheap ISP, rather a professional
charging a known limit on traffic. I did not have any advertising
banners - journalists should remain independent. And I am also
not a publisher. That anyone could actually confuse the "TV
program with the Mouse" (popular German kid show made by
the station in question) with a contract to produce a website
or a technical article is also hardly believable. In the search
engines we emerged well after the broadcaster, if someone searched
for the abbreviation. Of course we showed up in front of them
when someone was looking for my full personal name "Wolf-Dieter
Roth" In 1 ½ years there was only one confused visitor,
and that was only due to his not being fluent in German or English.
Also we have never used the three letters as a trademark nor as
a company name - only as an abbreviation under articles or e-mail,
and of course as part of our email addresses, because that was
why we had the domain in the first place: normal internet service
providers had been unreliable in the past and delivered our personal
mails to other customers.
Radio and TV against
the net: They want to get rid of it!
But the court decided
that it is right for that radio station to take over all different
top level domains and that I am not allowed to use my name anymore,
as brand law in Germany now strikes name law (it was not like
that in the past, or we would not have chosen a name-based domain
in the fist place). If I do not agree, it would cost $ 250,000
each time. Even star journalists do not make enough money for
that. :-( Even with giving up, I still had to pay $ 20.000 to
the lawyers and the cologne court who also threatened me to go
up to $ 1.000.000 if I would ever end up there again. Which is
likely as I tried to move to wdroth.de and was told then that
any domain worldwide will be under attack from Westdeutscher Rundfunk
if it contains the three letters "wdr" in a row - e.g.
or of course wdr.ca.
Indeed this broadcaster had applied for its abbreviation as a
trademark first in 1979, but it has this name for 40 years - and
myself 38. End of discussion.
We decided to use my
personal ham radio callsign as a domain name now, as that at least
is internationally coordinated, so noone would be able to sue
me on it, which I would not be sure when trying to use any part
of my name. The officials agreed on it - so here we are now as
DL2MCD.de. We still act international, but as we have to obey
local laws anyway instead of ICANN, we will not apply for an international
domain any more.
When the decision was
made to use the ham radio call sign, we did not know that westdeutscher
Rundfunk would even see this hobby acitivity as a commercial competition
to their business. That is clearly against international law,
as amateur radio is noncommercial by definition. But the cologne
court did not care. And people at Westdeutscher Rundfunk are known
for hating ham radio and thus are very happy about that decision.
We also had a "just
in case" help link to the broadcaster for "lost surfers"
- and exactly this warning was used as a ground for the court
injunction. Means: because we were nice enough to set a link to
them, we get accused of causing confusion and our domain and thus
mail gets hijacked Therefore we deliberately removed our recommendation
for the broadcaster's job directory. When a thoughtful link for
lost surfers has such consequences, how will the revenge for praise
this broadcaster was famous in the past thanks to merited colleagues
like Jean Pütz (Hobbythek), Wolfgang Back (Computer-Club)
or Jörg Schieb (Windows expert and technical writer), and
has thrown their reputations away. Yes, when its about making
money and having more rights, then the broadcaster has no more
interest in its reputation. .org is certainly for nonprofit as
well as individuals. So I thought. But Westdeutscher Rundfunk
wants everything. They say they are not commercial but they simply
went after everything and even brought Swiss-American bank Warburg
Dillon Read to their knees having to hand over their former domain
wdr.com. So well, Westdeutscher Rundfunk wants to be commercial
and expand its business worldwide (why else do they need a .com
domain?) but are financed by fees of $18 a month drawn from every
German owning a TV.
A totally needless
The system of top level
domains were created exactly so that such collisions would not
happen. wdr.org is not the same as wdr.de. It is a pure address
system and was not intended for trademarks - one can not register
a domain name as a trademark in Germany.
Suddenly comes the
valid right that Müller Incorporated can forbid Hans Müller
his name, because Müller Inc. has all the rights to all names
that contain Müller. Hans must therefore transfer his name.
No joke, it happened with shell.de, where Dr. Shell had bought
the domain as the oil company did not want it but then was sued
by them later. Or perhaps the City of Munich would suddenly forbid
the City of Buchloe the streetname Bergstrasse, because there
is also a street called Bergstrasse in Munich. For someone might
get confused searching for a Munich firm in Buchloe, and they
might get a business advantage from the similarities of their
name. Now a Berg Inc. or a Mr. Berg can take all the numerous
Bergstrassen in German cities? Or a company in Cologne hijacking
a Munich company's phone number for being too similar? No kidding,
this already has happened in Germany: a perfume manufacturer from
Cologne (again! Something in the water there?) "collected"
the phone number 4711 from a cab owner in Berlin claiming his
trademark on the numbers 4711!
New top level domains
such as .eu and .info are totally worthless: it should rather
be that different companies exist alongside each other. It seems
one can just lie in wait until one such domain has started to
do well, then spark a legal battle in millions of marks. Just
to cash in on the domain and pour it back into the money pool.
Every violation of
the court order costs 500,000 marks. The use of a court injunction
was a popular club in the fight against AOL advertising - but
even AOL only had to pay 100,000 marks for every violation. The
order forbids the use of my org address, especially 'in business
use with technical journalism, public relations, web design, the
arts and contact', says the court injunction from Cologne. The
protection order of my attorney, that would prevent the injunction
and minimize this disaster, was unread by the court. In this area,
the court clearly preferred the local heavyweight.
Personal mail goes
to someone else within 24 hours
Obviously we are in
great financial danger from this public broadcaster. It is truly
absurd that I am an employee in journalism, the broadcaster is
an employer, and in all areas there is absolutely no competition.
Another interesting lie promoted by the court injunction - the
German word 'Kontakte' (contacts in english) has a secondary meaning
of 'escort business' or 'prostitution'. The court decision forbid
an escort business on our webpage. Before one makes assumptions
- we must explain that we never had an escort business, rather
a harmless address and phone number to 'contact' us by. On the
website the context is clear, but apparently the court decided
upon another association. Oh well. It also is the reason why we
do not have our contact information on thesite anymore, although
that is normally a must in Germany. But we do not want to risk
the $ 250.000 fine.
The right for privacy
and secrecy of mail is in the German constitution. But with the
bad addon: "except when another law superrules this".
Unluckily German brand law is powerful enough. Total nuts: to
supervise terrorist's conversations is difficult in Germany but
harmless but still private mails between an American and her mother
can be easily not only listened in but quite frankly cashed in
by German brand law.
As having our address
on the website was also forbidden by the Cologne court - although
an address is necessary due to other German laws, so we put Westdeutscher
Rundfunk in there - you can only contact us through the guest
book on the contact page now.
Of course Westdeutscher
Rundfunk refused to use WIPO as our domain was in accordance with
the international ICANN rules but Germany wants to get rid of
ICANN. My case was just to make more lawsuits possible like the
one where another German radio statio deutsche
Welle went after an American
software company. Thankfully they
lost this time, but only because the software company had
registered their trademark in the US a week before deutsche Welle
did! And a lot of totally useless cases were started afterwards
based on the court decision against me. Really, Germany is the
worst place in the world to have a website!
In fact I had already
experienced how bad a domain transfer can be. As wdr.org was originally
used by a big bank house - Swiss-American bank Warburg Dillon
Read - a lot of people including the employees themselves still
had mail addresses with @wdr.org stored. The result was me getting
a lot of internal mail, from jokes to 20 MB fat video attachments
and top secret stuff like a mail from the Seattle police informing
about their strategy to avoid riots at the G7 meeting. Also I
have to forward around 700 mails a week that come in on different
addresses at wdroth.de to avoid an unfriendly takeover of that
one as well.
Why is that radio
station so aggressive?
They realize that they
lose a lot of listeners and viewers to the net.So they are against
it. Especially the idea that everyone may publish on his webpage
and does not have to go after them anymore scares them like hell!
As a journalist I live
of information and secure privacy. The fact, that someone can
just collect all my mail within less than three days is a serious
problem! In fact, if I would have used WDR as a company name,
which sure would have been asking for trouble, the rsults would
have been much less fatal. That's why they go after addresses
now instead of company names: the resulting damage is much bigger!
In fact what happened
to me was not the end, not the worst: just the beginning. It was
made so rude to make reverse domain hijacking legal in Germany
and to help big corporations in active censorship. One case where
my desaster was used in later was multinational oil company Total
Fina Elf going after a Greenpeace protest site called oil-of-elf.de
pretending that just because part of their name being in that
protest site's title was enough to have Greenpeace hand over the
domain in 24 hours. And yes, the court agreed on that! :-( luckily
though the higher instance did not agree. But the highest instance
in Germany was not involved yet and what they think about domain
rights has been seen in the case of shell.de :-(((
If you read this
posting of the lawyer of DeNIC (the German NIC) you can really
be scared: he claims the German courts to be an efficient way
to settle out domain fights. Oh my! Efficient, yes, right. Always
making sure that a domain has to be released and transferred and
ruining the private people in favour of big greedy corporations!
remember, there is no such thing as "freedom of speech"
in Germany. It is not part of the constitution like in the US.
They want to censor
and hijack personal mail, they want to shut down the democratic
aspects of the internet. In my case I was even told, I should
correspond with snail mail, phone and fax "like normal people
do" instead of email. Why the heck does a radio station tell
me how to communicate!? I do not ask them to send me a letter
instead of talking bulls**t on air either! Just because they do
not like and do not use email does not mean they have a right
to forbid me to use it! But well, lawyers rarely use email themselves
so the do not care.
Buchloe, 1.4.2000 (sorry,
no april fools joke!!)