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Could www.Vote.Republican Be a Porn Site Next Year? Could www.Vote.Republican Be a Porn Site Next Year?

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Could www.Vote.Republican Be a Porn Site Next Year?

With new domain names opening up on the Internet, the GOP wants the term "Republican" for itself. Problem is, someone else has it.

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The first stage of the Internet gold rush is upon us. This means, of course, that speculators are already quibbling over property rights.

And the Republican Party is right in the thick of it.

 

Within the next year, the Internet is set to expand. Instead of just ending website URLs with the 20 or so generic domains (.com, .biz, .net, .org, etc.), or the about 200 country code domains (.us, .uk, .de, .cc), people will have the option of nearly 1,500 new endings (.bible, .tattoo, .WTF, .sucks, .porn). Last year, hundreds of people and businesses (including Google, Amazon, Nike, and many others) applied for these so-called top-level domains for various reasons. Some want to build out their brand; others want to keep competitors from getting their hands on them; and still others just want to make a profit by selling domains to third parties.

United TLD Holdco is a group in this last category. It has put in the $185,000 application fee for 26 different top-level domains, including .Ninja, .Actor, .Social, .Democrat, and .Republican. It's only the last one of these that has the Republican Party up in arms.

"It's not appropriate for them to run something that is called .Republican," says Chris Jankowski, the president of the Republican State Leadership Committee. "Part of the new Internet is about making sure the people who have the interest in the brand, in this case political parties, not just crass commercial interest."

 

For this reason, the RSLC and the Republican National Committee have filed an objection with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers—the California-based nonprofit that is in a lot of ways in charge of the Internet. Their claim is that the term "Republican" is inextricably linked to their party, and that United TLD's ownership of it might imply a connection to the Republican Party that does not exist.

If this sounds like a Republican dissing the merits of capitalism and the free market, that's because it might be. But Jankowski doesn't see it that way.

"We certainly are free-enterprise and market-capitalist, but we feel like we have the right to run our own political party," he said. "We run it in a nonprofit fashion, so I don't think the market capitalism should be involved with the actual operation of the party."

Dave Panos, a director at United TLD, says the challenge is without merit.

 

"They need to prove that they are the sole representative of a well-defined community," he said. "In that definition is where their argument breaks down. There isn't even a well-defined group of Republicans in this country. Not to mention the world."

Panos says the point of purchasing the domain is to open it up for anyone to use (for a fee, of course). If he wanted to run for office, for example, he could register the domain DavePanos.Republican or DavePanos.Democrat. An enterprising activist could register Obstructionist.Republican or DontVote.Republican. It's just one more possible problem in the new Internet landscape to contend with (just imagine the possibilities for the domain .Sucks for lawmakers). In fact, it doesn't necessarily have to be related to Republicans at all. If a pornography site felt like it, it could register Bush.Republican.

Panos believes that part of the reason the Republicans don't want his site to have the name is because it creates competition for the .GOP domain, one that the Republicans do have control over.

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"They easily could have applied for both; I'm kind of surprised that they didn't," he said.

There certainly is a lot of potential for these sites, says Josh Bourne, the cofounder of Fair Winds Partners, a domain-name consulting firm.

"By the time a candidate announces their candidacy, especially when the candidate is older, the good and intuitive names have already been taken," he says. "But now, with new domains opening up, candidates can be a part of something more intuitive that looks new, sleek, and technologically forward."

Republicans do have plans for the .GOP domain--plans that they hope can give them an advantage over Democratic groups, none of whom registered a domain. But what exactly these plans are remains unclear. Jankowski's RSLC will be the official owner of the site, but he says it will be working very closely with other Republican groups.

With the domain set to launch sometime in the first quarter of 2014, Jankowski says he hopes it can play a big role leading up to the 2016 elections. Candidates can register their own sites. This will not only making it easier to find them, it will also mean the buyer will be donating to the party by paying for the domain (Jankowski says he wants to charge $20.16 per domain).

"You aren't just buying your own domain and e-mail, but you are contributing to growing the party," he said. "All money will go into helping fund candidates down-ballot."

What's still unclear is whether the RSLC will have control over who can register for a domain. The group says that the site will be open to anyone who identifies as a Republican, but it could not answer whether it has a mechanism in place to make sure this was the case. Plus, according to their application, the domain will be open to anyone. That would mean that cybersquatters could gobble domains before candidates could. Why, the Democratic National Committee could even get them. It could also mean that there could be pornographic sites ending in .GOP.

The RSLC says it is working on this problem, that it hasn't quite figured it all out yet. This is some cutting-edge stuff, after all, and Republicans haven't always been the kings of technological advancements.

"You have to tip your hats to Democrats at this point on the technology side of things; they are clearly better than us," Jankowski said. "But we are not just going to accept that. We are trying to strengthen our party operation in the digital space. We believe this is a part of that."

This article appears in the August 27, 2013 edition of NJ Daily.

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