An Article from Aaron's Article ArchiveThis is Funny! (Political Free Speech, or Domain Speculation?)
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This is Funny! (Political Free Speech, or Domain Speculation?)
Wednesday, 12 March 2008 3:05 PM MDT
A gentleman I know named Jeff, of Cedar City, Utah owns the Internet domain name utahdemocrats.org. Jeff has his web site set up currently so that any and all visitors are immediately redirected to John McCain's web site, www.johnmccain.com. Before Mitt Romney bowed out, Jeff's site redirected to www.mittromney.com.
I know Jeff. I've worked with him. He's an honest, hard-working, likable guy, with a touch of the entrepreneurial spirit. He collects and invests a little bit in Internet domain names among other things, and has had some success doing this over the years. I've sought his advice on various domain investment topics before and will in the future when dabbling in domains. (I currently own a two-letter domain, eq.net, and used to own, in the 90s, with some friends, the domain southwest.com but sold it to Southwest Airlines for a meager sum and some airline tickets.)
He's also a conservative Republican. (I don't know if he's a registered party member, but from what I've heard of Jeff's views, he seems quite conservative, and I suspect he is registered as a Republican.)
So today I hear from Jeff that the Salt Lake Tribune has mentioned his utahdemocrats.org web site in an article at http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_8542223 (At least as of now that link works—I expect that article will eventually migrate to the Trib's archives and the link may stop working.)
Down near the bottom of the Tribune article, it says:
Those little devils: When trying to access the Web site of the Utah Democratic Party, a reader typed in www.utahdemocrats.org," and was immediately redirected to John McCain's campaign Web site, www.johnmccain.com.Jeff's little bit of political speech via his web site apparently got someone in a tizzy, so much so that later in the day, this article turned up on the web site of KSL (a local Utah television station) at http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=2839356 where the short article's author, Mary Richards, reports in the first paragraph:
The actual Web site for the Utah Democratic party is www.utahdemocrats.com.
Utah Democrats are wondering if a Web site blunder is a funny joke or dirty trick. A similar Web site to their own redirects people to John McCain's site.I find it interesting that none of the reporters tackled the free speech angle. Political free speech one of our most preciously held constitutional rights, and the press is usually quick to back it up. Just because Jeff owns the domain utahdemocrats.org and he might not actually be a Democrat isn't a problem. So what if the Democrat Party of Utah chose to use as their web site utdemocrats.org? That's not Jeff's problem, unless he were deliberately trying to confuse visitors and make them think his web site was the official web site. He's not, though.
He's not committing a crime. In fact, far from it. Now were he representing his own web site as something other than it is, he would possibly be within the realms of fraud. But he's not. He's clearly making a political statement by redirecting web visitors to Senator John McCain's campaign web site.
I think the best analogy would be something like this: Let's say the Democrat Party of Utah leased space for party headquarters in a building, and someone of a more Republican bent chose to lease space right next door in the adjoining suite. On the door or in the window of the adjoining suite, the non-Democrat hangs a prominent sign that says merely "Utah Democrats Welcome". Immediately inside of his office, he bedecks the place with conservative and Republican paraphernalia, campaign posters, signs, etc.
Now anyone going into the building might see the two doors and initially wonder where he was going (if he didn't carefully check the address). But upon opening the door, he would immediately know he was in the wrong place if he mistakely opened the wrong one. He could and would likely quickly step back out, double-check the address, and then enter his original destination.
Is this sneaky? Perhaps. Is it valid political free speech? Very much so! The next-door neighbor isn't purporting to be the headquarters of the Democrat Party, and upon opening the door, makes it very, VERY clear that it is not.
(I hope Jeff doesn't mind me mentioning this, his only regret expressed to me today was that his mother called him about this after hearing it on radio KSL 1160 AM. Apparently the radio report cast his domain ownership in a somewhat negative light, and his mother, in her 70s, didn't appreciate hearing her son's name in that context.)
So is this domain speculation (or worse, typo squatting), or is it political free speech? I'm going to vote free speech on this one. (But then perhaps my own conservative leanings make be biased.)
No matter what you think about the issue, if you think it's interesting, join me and Digg the KSL news story here: http://digg.com/politics/Democrats_Having_a_Fit_Over_Free_Speech_in_Utah
I hope things go well for Jeff, if there's any more hoopla about his domain. I find it all terribly funny! All I can say is: Go, Jeff! Go!
UPDATE: 12 March 2008
Jeff spoke up for himself on KSL's web site in the story's comments section (see comments by user Dc84720) where he said:
The story is about me I guess, I am the owner of that domain nameAnd a bit later, another user asked and commented:
Let me set the story straight. This is not a JOKE per se. I buy and sell domain names along with 2 or 3 other 'hobbies' that make me money. I own several hundred domain names, most of which are related to Utah in some way.
Back in July of 2006, I found Utahdemocrats.org in a 'dropped names' list. Daily, thousands of domains are not renewed by their owners. This name was not renewed. It NEVER belonged to the Utah Democratic Party. So to summarize at the time I bought it, their website was UTdemocrats.org. Obviously, I offered it to them for sale. They declined to buy it on 3 or more occasions if I recall.
The way in which they handled themselves and their excuses simply irked me.
The domain has been at various times, Parked (for income from ads), redirected to MittRomney.com first, then GOP.org now to JohnMccain.com. This has been all as the election has progressed.
Anyway, this is within my rights. The story doesn't really represent me in a positive light. I don't really care but I wanted to set the story straight since the reporter made very little effort to communicate with me.
The name is for sale, if the Utah Democratic party wants the name, its for sale. They know how to reach me.
Their excuses?To which Jeff responded:
Their excuses simpled "irked" you? You just assume people should buy from you, and when they choose not to, they're making "excuses"? WOW, quite a pedestal you put yourself on.
You know, you may be right.And finally, when someone commented about KSL not contacting Jeff before running the story, Jeff replied:
To a point.
Maybe part of it was the wording I used in my description above. Basically they wanted to introduce me to the "ways of the democratic party" and tried to convince me to donate the name to them.
I politely declined their offer as I *had* no political intentions with the name. I approached it in a business-like manner hoping that they could see the value of the name and purchase it from me. Nothing more. Their handling of the 'negotiations' was unprofessional in my opinion and ultimately led to my being 'irked'.
they called.....So it looks like my interpretation of Jeff's actions as being mostly political free speech is not entirely accurate. From Jeff's own words, it looks like he was simply doing business, and in the interim, doing a little bit of political speech on the side (i.e. redirecting the web site to sites that match his own political views so long as the domain remains unsold).
KSL called and wanted to confirm I really owned it. I called and only got a voicemail saying, yes, I owned it. That was the extent of it.
Thanks, Jeff, for the clarification. Your responses definitely paint a better picture of the situation than KSL's original story did.