Leave it to the tech industry to create weird and confusing new words - terms that many even elicit a giggle or two. Take the term "cybersquatting" for example. It sounds awfully silly. But in reality, cybersquatting is a very serious issue for many people.
So what in the world is cybersquatting anyway? Basically it's the act of registering a domain name with the ill-conceived intent of selling it back to it's rightful owner. It's sort of like occupying a reserved parking space without permission - and refusing to relent until the owner pays you big bucks to move your car.
The person doing the "cybersquatting" is usually referred to as a "cybersquatter" and generally registers a domain (like example.com) in an attempt to benefit or profit from another entity's trademark. They do this by holding the domain hostage until the subject finally buys the domain from them at an inflated price.
Some cybersquatters will even place derogatory or inflammatory content on the website of the "stolen" domain to further encourage the subject to buy it from them. Others will fill the website with information about an organization's competitors. In either case, many Internet surfers are likely to visit the website, not realizing the domain and the content doesn't belong to the entity they think it does.
Often times the cybersquatters win their wager after the subject - which could be an individual or and organization - becomes wary of the potential damage to their trademark and/or reputation.
For example, suppose the owner of an auto dealer by the name of John Doe proceeds to register the domain name johndoeauto.com, only to find out someone has already registered it. Curious, John types johndoeauto.com into his web browser and is horrified by all of the dishonest and derogatory content that he sees about his business.
Worried that the website will severely hurt his business and sour his auto sales, John contacts the owner of the domain and demands the website be taken down. He also demands that the domain be unregistered.
The owner of the domain - a cybersquatter - adamantly refuses to cooperate. Instead, John is told that if he wants to rid himself of the domain and accompanying website, he must fork up several thousand dollars to buy the domain. This is the game of cybersquatting.
While not all cases unfold like our fictitious John Doe's did, it's a rough and dirty game nonetheless - one that finally caught the attention of federal lawmakers in 1999. Congress passed the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act that year, which made cybersquatters liable to civil action.
But litigation is never cheap, nor is it ever simple. Many notable cybersquatting court cases became heavily intertwined with intellectual property law, which makes the legal process even more complex.
So while "cybersquatting" may seem like a funny word, it is a very real issue to many people - especially those who have been negatively burdened by it.
Have comments or suggestions for a Tech Tips article? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.