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Florida Man Registers BenedictXVI.com Name

By David McGuire
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, April 20, 2005; Page E05

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany is not the only person to value the papal moniker Benedict XVI.

A St. Augustine, Fla., man, Rogers Cadenhead, registered the address BenedictXVI.com on April 1, hoping that would be the name of John Paul II's successor. To cover his bases, Cadenhead, 38, also registered ClementXV.com, InnocentXIV.com, LeoXIV.com, PaulVII.com and PiusXIII.com.

Benedict XVI was the name picked by the new pope, Joseph Ratzinger.

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Cadenhead, an author of 20 technology how-to books with titles such as "Movable Type 3 Bible Desktop Edition" and "Teach Yourself Java in 21 Days," said he registered the names for $12 each from Internet address seller BulkRegister LLC.

"I couldn't resist the chance to have some skin in the game. Someone else already has JohnPaulIII.com and JohnXXIV.com, but otherwise I put a chip down on every name of the past three centuries," Cadenhead wrote on his Web log at www.cadenhead.org.

For nearly as long as Internet addresses have been sold, speculators -- sometimes called cyber-squatters -- have bought attractive addresses with the hopes of either selling them to the highest bidder or using them to snag visits from unsuspecting Internet users.

BenedictXVI.com links to Cadenhead's blog. Reached on his cell phone, he said visits to the site started rolling in at a rate of about 100 per minute after the pope's new name was announced.

Cadenhead describes himself as a "lapsed Catholic" and "domain name geek" who bought up the domains after doing a little online research into papal naming conventions. "I really thought that especially if Cardinal Ratzinger was chosen, that he'd be very likely to go back to the papal playbook and choose one of these traditional names," Cadenhead said.

According to publicly available Internet records, BenedictXVI.de, BenedictXVI.org, BenedictXVI.net and BenedictXVI.info each appear to have been registered yesterday after the new pope was introduced.

A 1999 U.S. law made it illegal to register an Internet domain name with the intention of extorting money out of a trademark owner. But that does not prevent someone like Cadenhead from owning an Internet address associated with a famous person's name, said Wendy Seltzer, an attorney at the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation.

She said owning such domains is permissible "if you share that name . . . if you're creating a noncommercial message or fan site around that name or . . . if you're using it for an unrelated purpose [where] the name also makes sense, but not to gouge money out of the celebrity."

A spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops declined to speculate on whether the Vatican would ask Cadenhead to transfer ownership of BenedictXVI.com. Messages left with the Vatican's embassy in Washington were not returned.

The newly anointed Benedict XVI inherits a large and robust Internet presence. The Vatican's official Web site -- www.vatican.va -- contains detailed information about the church, the pope and the Holy See in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. And since the Vatican is a sovereign nation, church leaders can use its .va Internet domain however they see fit.

BenedictXVI.com is not Cadenhead's first celebrity domain purchase. In 1998, he bought Drudge.com in response to the rising popularity of the Drudge Report (www.drudgereport.com), an Internet gossip and news site. He still runs the "Drudge Retort" site as a liberal response to its enormously popular namesake.

Cadenhead said he hasn't decided what he will do with the Benedict domain, but he vowed he will not pawn it off to the highest bidder.

"Whatever decision I make will be guided by the desire not to make 1.5 billion people mad at me . . . including my grandmother," he said.

McGuire is a staff writer for washingtonpost.com.

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