The Economist, July 13, 1996; Letters

You name it

SIR - In your June 8th article on internet domain names ("Names writ in water") you neglect the main point. Trademarks are registered in a system that permits many companies to share a name legitimately without interfering with each other, such as Sun Photo, Sun Oil and Sun Microsystems. Domain names only permit one user of a name; there is only one, which Sun Microsystems registered first. Neither lawyers nor governments can make ten pounds of names fit into a one-pound bag.

Like trademarks, Internet names have traditionally been assigned first come, first served. Users of these names must be permitted to use any unassigned name unless they use it in a way that actually infringes on a trademark. If sells cartoons or Acme Anvils, it is in trouble; if it sells computers, Warner Brothers has no legitimate complaint. Network Solutions Incorporated (NSI) has shown itself poor at adjudicating such complaints. That is a job for the courts, which have procedural protections for the innocent as well as proper punishments for the guilty.

Washington, Electronic Frontier Foundation

(Actually I'm in San Francisco, not Washington; they got that wrong.),