A swift response to hate-sites

By Brand Heeler

Taylor Swift shows us how to own haters like a boss

For any brand owner, one of the more irritating aspects of the internet is the difficulty of protecting your brand online. No matter how many domain names you register, at whatever expense, someone else can always come up with an extra one you hadn’t thought of and try to use it against you. With the recent increase in the number of available gTLDs (generic Top Level Domains – the .com or .info part of a domain name), this problem has been getting worse, but it’s taken a real nosedive recently.

One of these new gTLDs is .sucks, operated by Vox Populi Registry, and no prizes for guessing what market they’re targeting. And as if that weren’t bad enough, the specific twist with Vox Populi’s offering is that, whereas youwill be able to buy brandheeler.sucks after 29 May 2015 for $9.95, if wewant to pre-empt you and buy it now, it will cost us $2,499.00!!

This is apparently a ‘super premium’ for taking advantage of the sunrise period (between now and the end of May, during which brand owners can have first dibs on .sucks domain names). ‘Super premium?’ – we can think of other things to call it. Of course, we could bide our time until the sunrise sets, and then take our chances on being able to pick up brandheeler.sucks for a bargain $9.95, but Vox Populi are clearly hoping we – and every other brand owner out there – can be scared into shelling out megabucks beforehand.

To an extent, it’s all fair enough. In the immortal words of Taylor Swift – currently one of our favourite brands artists – players gonna play and haters gonna hate and cyberspace is big enough for a multitude of dissenting opinions (she doesn’t actually sing that last bit, but we’re sure she’s thinking it).

Part of the answer is knowing how to keep a sense of perspective. If someone wants to bad-mouth you online, they’ll find a way to do it. And as long as that doesn’t directly interfere with your ability to do business, it’s usually best to leave them alone. If you’ve got the important domain names for your business (e.g. [mybrandname].com or [mybrandname].com.au) and your customers can reliably find you, it’s not usually worth the hassle of worrying about someone criticising you on [mybrandnamesucks.com] or [mybrandname].sucks or any of a near-infinite number of variations on the theme.

It’s only if a hate-site starts gaining significant traction or starts diverting business away from you that you need to be concerned. We suggest you would be mightily foolish to fall for Vox Populi’s scam. It’s a pretty transparent protection racket, and comes with the added twist of not actually offering you any protection. We’ve decided to add them to our official list of liars and dirty, dirty cheats of the world and our advice to all brand owners is to just shake them off. It’s gonna be alright.

This article contains our thoughts and opinions on an issue of general interest and is written from the perspective of Australian and/or English law. It is not legal advice and is not provided in the context of a solicitor-client relationship. It may not even be relevant to your jurisdiction. No duty of care is assumed or accepted. Please carry out appropriate research and consult with a suitably qualified legal expert before taking any action or making any decisions.

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