Regulation of the Internet has taken a step forward after US regulatory bodies promised to crackdown on the many get-rich-quick scams now circulating on the Web. These entice people to part with cash by getting them to invest in work-at-home schemes, or begin selling items such as water purifiers, medical suppliers or payphones. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the scams are usually highly sophisticated but are ultimately all the same and investors invariably lose their money. The FTC said it had begun legal action against more than 100 companies in 24 US states to prevent them running what it claimed were plainly illegal schemes. FTC consumer protection director Jodie Bernstein said the growing use of personal computers had led to new ways for “con artists” to promote their schemes.
In the UK, the High Court has indicated it is unlikely to support anyone who tries to make money by registering well-known companies’ names as their own Internet domain names and then charging to give them back.
The High Court ruled in December that an attempt to register the domain name “harrods.com” “clearly constituted infringement of Harrods’ registered trade marks and passing off”. The defendants were ordered to hand over the domain name to Harrods and pay costs.
Dr Willie Black, managing director of Nominent, the national registry for all Internet domain names ending “.uk” said the ruling would finally result in much needed clarity. He said: “There have been several instances of people registering companies’ names simply to extort money from them to hand them back. Now the Internet will be treated much the same as any other area of business – if a name is obviously taken for malicious purposes, it will be stamped on. People do try it on but the courts will not take it lightly and this is a very useful precedent.’