July 19, 2012

Domain Name Distress

An extremely spammy site is using my (very unusual) first/maiden name combination as their domain name. It's the first hit for my name, and then there's page after page of hits for it. They're using KristenMaiden.com as their site name, too, and saying that things are "copyright KristenMaiden.com."

Paul bought me that domain as a gift quite awhile ago. I used it for awhile, but then we let it lapse. Someone else bought it up, apparently.

And I realize this holds no weight, but it's the name I theoretically use professionally: that is, if anyone needs a "real name" to publish with my writing, that's the name I use. The reason I say this holds no weight is I haven't needed to do that yet. I gave it to Milk and Cookies when they needed a name, but then they went with just first names. My "plans to use it" aren't worth anything. But it's one of the reasons I'm so upset.

Can anything be done, SHORT of lawsuit? I'd thought of just...emailing them and asking them to stop, but (1) no contact info on the site and (2) they are VERY ESTABLISHED there, and I suppose it's incredibly naive to think they'd go away because I asked them to.

But can things really be like this? That if you EVER purchase your name as a domain name, you then need to pay for it for ALL ETERNITY, including leaving instructions in your will for your heirs to continue paying for it? Or else THIS happens?

19 comments:

Amanda said...

Yeah. Short of buying it back from them you're sort of SOL. I bought my name and then considered buying the kids' names because well, why not? But hadn't done it yet.

You can get their contact info from...what's the big registry site where all that stuff is stored? Does it start with a D? Someone smarter will know.

Amanda said...

http://www.whois.net/

You can find the info there ^

Anna said...

Well, yes - it belongs to them now. Same as if you moved house, then they bought your old house and turned it into a McDonalds. If it was a domain name of a trademark you owned, then you could take them to court, but if it's just a name, no chance. It may be an unusual name but I should imagine quite a few people still have it, and their claim to it is equal to yours.

Anna said...

Reading that over it seems a bit harsher and less sympathetic than I intended, sorry! But, yeah.

Jessica said...

Extremely spammy sites like that tend to come and go, so I suppose you'll have to just wait it out. Hopefully you can get it back after a year or so. In the meantime, are other versions of the domain name available? If they're only using .com, it might be a good idea to buy .net and etc. just so if you get .com back eventually you don't then have to worry someone ELSE took .net and made it spammy.

Jessica said...

Oh, and also in the meantime, maybe you also want to buy KMaiden.com? Just so you have *something* in case you want a website for professional purposes and the spammers still have this one. (Hopefully I'm not running up your domain name budget too badly!).

marilyn c. cole said...

My husband's a musician, and let both hisbandname.com and hisfirstnamelastname.com domains lapse, and BOTH are now spammy mp3 sites. Seriously. He's still got his (really his!) music on iTunes and a hisname.bandcamp.com site that's legit, but buying back the hisname.com site is now marked at the "premium" level, so $300, at least.

Jessica's suggestion of buying another site, like kristenmaiden.net, kmaiden.com, (kristenswistle.com!), and building a presence there is definitely your best bet, if you still want to use that name. Google prefers to have legitimate search results over spammy ones, so with a little time, you would certainly appear higher than them in the results.

Elizabeth said...

You can negotiate though. someone bought my domain name so instead of the wordpress address, it was www.princessnebraska.com. They didn't have anything up on it, but they wanted to sell it for some ridiculous amount, and my brother bargained them down to some normal fee by telling that literally no one else was ever going to try to buy it (true) and that it wasn't worth anything to them. It sounds like this isn't exactly the same thing since they're not so much domain name speculating as squatting on it with a bunch of spam, but it can't hurt to try if you can find their contact info.

Swistle said...

Anna- The house analogy doesn't work for me: I still own the name even though I gave up something that had the name written on it. It's more like if I moved out of a house---and then the new owners pretended to be me.

Swistle said...

Amanda- Yeah, we looked there, but it's some proxy thing. Like, a company bought it along with tons of others. It doesn't tell us who bought it from that company.

Swistle said...

marilyn c. cole- OMG I'd be SO PISSED! At least I'm not DOING anything with my name right now, so it's not so bad.

Swistle said...

Elizabeth- That is VERY GOOD TO KNOW. I could have MY brother do that task, too, I'll bet! He's very good with things like that, whereas I say, "Hi, my name is Kristen and I...." and then I start crying.

shin ae said...

My first inclination was the same as Jessica's. Have they been using the domain name for a very long time? You said the person(s) was "very established", but I wasn't sure if that meant lots of posts, or a long period of time, or both.

Another thing I wonder, which may be very stupid because I don't know much about such things is this: when I got my business license and jumped through all the hoops with the IRS and my state, I had to decide if I was going to have a business name or operate just under my own name. If I was operating under my own name, I didn't have to have any searches done or jump through any additional hoops since my name is my name, even if someone else has it. However, if I was using a business name, I had to pay to have some kind of searches done to see if anyone else was using it, blah blah blah. The reason I bring it up is that they are "copyrighting" under KristenMaiden.com which is not a name, but more along the lines of a business name. I do wonder that if such a thing is really going to have any legal bearing, if they would have needed to officially search and register it somehow? And if they didn't, then you could FIRST. And then tell them they need to stop using it? Like I said, I don't know how such things work, and I wonder a little if it would be easier and cheaper to buy the domain name back for $300 or so.

Joanne said...

You could ask at register.com, I'm sure they'd have an answer and possibly some help. I know someone through the internet who had her site taken out from under her, although it wasn't her full name. She couldn't get it back and had to slightly change the name of the url and the site. It seems SUPER bullshitty but I'm afraid that's the way it is, although as I say, it might be different because it's your name.

You know, I don't have any problem talking to people on the phone, so if you wanted me to call register.com and just make a theoretical inquiry, email me and let me know, I'd be happy to.

SIL Anna said...

Wow, for REAL? I don't have anything to offer except sympathy. That is so obnoxious and frustrating and wrong.

On the . . . okay, not bright side. On the "could be dimmer" side: at least it's not a site hosting something that starts with a P and ends with and ORN MY GOSH. Or some pyramid scheme. So, there's that?

Though then maybe you COULD find a way to shut them down.

laura said...

Man that sucks.

I hate to say it but this is what happens to every domain name that lapses in registration. Usually the way it starts is your registrar will put it in "holding" for six months after the registration expires, and will offer you a chance to renew it at a higher registration rate. After that, the domain names are auctioned off to aftermarket buyers, usually at a fraction of the cost. The domains are gobbled up from companies that buy up used domain names, and typo domain names as a business. They are hoping that residual traffic will result in some miniscule ad revenue, while also hoping that someone will want to buy the domain name back, usually at a MUCH higher cost.

If you contact the owner through via a WHOIS search, you might be able to buy it back. Otherwise, you're out of luck. There isn't any legal recourse here, unless your personal name is trademarked.

Good luck!

Laura Diniwilk said...

That really sucks! It kind of reminds me of how I signed up for a adriana.diniwilk gmail account, but then they closed it due to activity and now I'll never be able to get it back. I would have been better off if I just hadn't done it in the first place and waited until she was old enough!

Anonymous said...

Not sure if you want to share your last name, but if you do, we can all search on it and only click on the the results you want us to (your site, not the spam one). Then maybe we can change the rankings and push your sites above theirs in Google. Would that even work?

Anonymous said...

Think about it this way: there are multiple people all over the world who share the same names- even unique or unusual names. So really, it's not as if this person is impersonating you; it's simply someone using the same name, which, as you say, is not even you legal name, so you don't really have any claim to it. Now, if they were behaving in such a way as to steal your identity or likeness, you might have some recourse, but if they're simply using a website with your maiden name, I think you're safe in assuming that no one who knows you is going to be confused. To go back to the house analogy, maybe it would help to think of it as though you sold your home to a family with the same last name, but aside from sharing the name, they were nothing like you or your family.