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Nebraska Neo-Nazi's Web Address is Deceptive, U.N. Agency Rules

On January 25, 2002, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), a United Nations agency, ruled that neo-Nazi Gerhard Lauck of Lincoln, Nebraska, has "no rights or legitimate interests" in four Web addresses that he had registered and used to spread his views.

The Web addresses were similar to those used by German governmental institutions, and Lauck hoped that Internet users looking for the sites would mistakenly type the addresses he registered and find his anti-Semitic material instead. The WIPO determined that Lauck had registered the domain names "in bad faith" and concluded that the names were "confusingly similar to trademarks or service marks" that rightfully belong to the German government.

Though the WIPO decision was not legally binding, Lauck apparently did not plan to contest it. Even before the WIPO ruling, he acknowledged that any of his "many 'alternative domain names'" might "suddenly go inactive." For this reason, he urged visitors who reached his site via the misleading addresses to "immediately" note its "real" domain address, nazi-lauck-nsdapao.com. He made no argument before the WIPO to defend himself, and he has said that instead of defending the disputed addresses, he is more likely to register new, similar addresses.

Lauck currently maintains at least one misleading address not named in the WIPO decision and apparently believes that continuing to use such addresses will serve him well: He claims that his Web site received 1,500,000 hits between January 5 and January 11, 2002.

These domain name disputes are not Lauck's first run-in with the German authorities. He spent four years in a German prison for inciting racial hatred in that country by disseminating anti-Semitic and racist propaganda. Before his arrest in Denmark on March 23, 1995, he had been the largest exporter of neo-Nazi propaganda to Germany.

In recent years, other extremists have also tried to promote their ideas by using purposefully misleading domain names. In October 1998, Adrian Edward Marlow of Suisun City, California, programmed more than 10 domain names - each similar to the name of a major daily newspaper - to forward visitors to the white supremacist Web site Stormfront. Web users looking for news about Philadelphia at "philadelphiainquirer.com," for example, ended up visiting Stormfront, not the Philadelphia Inquirer Home Page (which is located at phillynews.com).

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