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Kerry Edwards Seeks Big Payout for Web Address

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ICANN Panel Pans VeriSign Search Service (washingtonpost.com, Jul 9, 2004)
Kerry Team Shops for New Web Address (washingtonpost.com, Jul 6, 2004)
Web Addresses Extending Their Global Domain (The Washington Post, Jun 17, 2004)
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By David McGuire
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Friday, July 23, 2004; 8:50 AM

Things are looking up for 34-year-old bail bondsman Kerry Edwards, who two years ago staked out his own patch of online real estate by purchasing the Web address www.kerryedwards.com.

Edwards said he started receiving offers for the address within hours of Sen. John Kerry's (D-Mass.) July 6 announcement that North Carolina Sen. John Edwards would be his running mate in his bid for the White House. He hired Sedo.com, a Cambridge, Mass.-based company that specializes in auctioning off Internet domain names, to take bids.

"There was a bunch of different offers coming in from different directions and it was much easier to go through the broker and let them sort out what was real and what was bogus," he said.

Bidding opened at $150,000, and the company has already received an offer, said chief executive Matt Bentley. "I wouldn't be surprised if it reached a price in the mid-six-figure range," he said.

Campaign officials asked Edwards for the address, but balked after deciding that he wanted more money than they were willing to spend. Neither Edwards nor Kerry spokesman Michael Meehan would say whether Edwards named a specific price, but both said Edwards was looking for something in the "five-figure range." In a subsequent interview, Edwards said he would have taken $11,000.

Meehan said the campaign will not "exert any more effort" to buy Kerry-Edwards-related domain names. "We branded johnkerry.com. We were able to raise $65 million at that site. We're keeping johnkerry.com," he said.

That's bad news for Michael Deutsch and his wife Adrienne, owners of kerryedwards2004.com and kerryedwards04.com. Deutsch, treasurer of a New York-based acupuncture and massage therapy college, said he approached the campaign because he wanted to "learn about politics." He said he never made an offer to sell, trade or donate the addresses, but hoped that the campaign would be interested in acquiring them.

"I thought they'd be chomping at the bit, but that hasn't happened," Deutsch said.

Deutsch said he gave domain names to ex-football pro and former Rep. Steve Largent's (R-Okla.) 2002 gubernatorial campaign and Sen. Joe Lieberman's campaign (D-Conn.) for the 2004 presidential nomination after being allowed to join the candidates on the trail.

Scott Carpenter, a financial adviser for H&R Block in Cleveland, registered kerryedwards-2004.com, electkerryedwards.com, votekerryedwards.com and a handful of others after having an "epiphany" while watching Kerry's victory speech on the night of the New Hampshire primary.

"The heavens opened up there and I thought, 'this is going to be the name. This is going to be the candidate,'" he said.

Carpenter said he has received a handful of offers for his domain names, including a $13,500 bid for kerryedwards-2004.com and kerryedwards-04.com. He also enlisted Sedo.com to auction off the addresses, but as of deadline there were no official bids.

People like Michael Deutsch and Scott Carpenter could be convicted of "cybersquatting" if lawyers for Kerry and Edwards proved that they registered the addresses to gouge money out of the candidates, said Alan Davidson, an attorney and associate director at the Center for Democracy and Technology.

A 1999 law makes it illegal to register an Internet address with the intention of forcing a trademark owner or a namesake to pay to reclaim it. The Internet addressing system's main oversight body also offers a dispute resolution process for people who feel their names or trademarks have been registered as Internet addresses in a bid to extort money.

Selling domain names was a profitable activity in the late '90s when people snapped up the names of big companies and celebrities in an attempt to make quick money. But the bottom fell out of the business after the dot-com bubble burst. Still, there are signs that the money might be coming back. Sedo.com has presided over several six-figure domain name auctions this year, including woman.com for $250,000 and commerce.com for $180,000, Bentley said.

Kerry Edwards, who bought kerryedwards.com two years before the campaign, probably could win a case that accuses him of acting in bad faith, Davidson said.


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