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Appeared on: Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Spelling piracy - errors are money

1. Page 1

Web economy is based on a fundamental monetary unit: the visits attempted by cybernauts to various web pages. An increasing activity of visits to a site leads to an increasingly underscoring of its importance that results to a boost in advertising prices and so on. Furthermore, many web pages do not even need a lot of advertising to become known. They bear their own history that has existed longer than cyberspace itself. Take the address ww.nytimes.com for example; an address, which belongs to the “New York Times” newspaper and is one of the Internet’s most frequently visited sites. The reliability of the newspaper is translated into an invaluable source of information on the Net. Yet, was someone to keystroke www.nytimesl.com by mistake one would be faced with quite a surprise. That specific address had been registered by a character that had nothing to do with the newspaper and navigated computers to the pornographic site www.clubanytime.com.

Rafael Fortuntry, an Internet entrerpreneur from Miami, USA, had come up with a cheap means to increase his web page traffic: he would just make use of people’s spelling mistakes. The “New York Times” was not his sole victim. The distance between a lot of large and famous sites and his own, was limited to just a dot. For instance, if the users who would like to visit the Pain Webber Inc. Investment Company’s pages (www.painwebber.com) missed the first dot (in other words punched wwwpainwebber.com) would find themselves logged once again on Fortuntry’s pornographic site. The same would happen to those who, instead of stroking www.citibank.com, would keystroke wwwcitibank.com or to those who, while looking for books, would punch www.barnsandnoblel.com instead of www.barnsandnoble.com, or to those who would enter www.ebbay.com instead of www.ebay.com.

This phenomenon, known as “spelling piracy”, was greatly featured in the Press some time ago, when the Pathfinder spacecraft had landed on Mars and several schools in the USA attempted to visit the NASA pages (www.nasa.gov). To their dismay and embarrassment, the teachers who had mistakenly punched www.nasa.com found themselves in a pornographic site. Naturally, and after the turmoil that broke out,www.nasa.com is no longer on, but the practice of “spelling piracy” has already acquired the magnitude of an epidemic.

2. Page 2
Pain Webber Inc. became aware of the situation with their electronic address when an upset customer sent e-mailed them. The Company appealed to Court on the grounds of “Violation against Trademark Legislation and judge Mr. Claude M. Hilton ordered a temporary suspension of wwwpainwebber.com until the issue was resolved. He acted likewise with the Citibank case.

No matter how the Pain Webber as well as the Citibank cases are resolved, the issue still remains a complex one. On the first place, such a comprehensive judicial judgment, banning “spelling piracy” cannot be brought to action. A resolution like the one mentioned above, would constitute an insult to the freedom of expression (all humans are entitled to…making spelling mistakes). And even if so be the case, a big issue is due to arise, an issue having to do with words that differ in spelling by just one letter. The word noble is the same with the word Noble when the letter arrangement changes. Thus, a comprehensive settlement of the issue might do injustice to some. ?he only solution to the problem is an individual examination of each case, and that is an extremely time consuming process. Spelling mistakes in each and every address can be infinite.

Some companies have copyrighted their electronic addresses’ mistakes for fear of piracy to be. For instance, Playboy Inc. has copyrighted wwwplayboy.com, whereas Gillette has acted likewise with www.gilette.com. This practice though, stumbles over the same problem: Companies have to obtain hundreds of addresses to be able to copyright all misspelling cases… “I do hope the problem will completely disappear as soon as search engines [of information on the Internet] acquire artificial intelligence features and are capable of navigating directly to the page we wish to visit, instead of trying to guess the exact electronic address”, professor of Law Mr. Dan L. Burk stated in the “New York Times”. “Yet, the problem will still carry on being in existence for some years…”

By Pashos Mandravelis.

email to P. Mandravelis

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