07 February 2006

News Ltd stumbles into a true local piracy debate.

TrueLocal (www.truelocal.com.au), the new Australian online search directory from Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited, seems to have stumbled at launch. The problem seems to be that a search directory sharing the same name was launched in Canada last November(www.truelocal.com).

It’s a case of either real ignorance on the part of News and its naming agency (if they even bothered to go through the process), commercial arrogance, or even a form of cyber piracy.

According to a Sydney Morning Herald report hundreds of Australians had already tried to sign up to the Canadian-based service, mistaking it for the same one offered by News. Even more serious is the claim by TrueLocal president Jake Baillie, who told the Sydney Morning Herald that News Ltd was made aware of TrueLocal's existence and expansion plans for Australia prior to the launch of News Ltd service. Baillie is threatening action.

DIFFUSION checked with Melbourne IT, a domain name registrant which lists truelocal.com.au as being registered by News Ltd on 14 November 2005, while a WHOIS.net search for truelocal.com sees it originally registered in May 2003 and operative from 15 November 2005. This means that the original domain name owners could assert their rights through the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers(ICANN), which administers international domain names. Melbourne IT is an international registrant for ICANN and would presumably have an obligation to assert the original registrant’s right to the name.

According to ICANN’s policy on company name copying “disputes over entitlement to a domain-name registration are ordinarily resolved by court litigation between the parties claiming rights to the registration.”

ICANN’s policy states that once the court rules on who is entitled to the registration, the domain name registrar will implement that ruling. Where disputes arising from registrations allegedly made abusively (such as "cyber-squatting" and “cyber-piracy"), companys can then invoke a simple administrative procedure by filing a complaint with one of the dispute-resolution service providers.

At DIFFUSION we believe naming, which includes domain names, is not a haphazard process but requires careful domestic and international business and trademark checking. But when an international media monolith like News gets into some murky waters, we just have to wonder how much they really know.

The top logo is the true true local and the second is News Limited's.

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