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Thursday, 21 March, 2002, 13:04 GMT
Web woes hit poetry promoters
The Poetry Place
The society's café in Covent Garden, London
The UK's leading poetry charity, the Poetry Society, is struggling to recover from the "disaster" of unexpectedly losing its web addess.

Last Thursday, visitors to the society's website found not poetry but a directory of online service providers offering everything from Viagra pills to hair-loss treatments.

Thanks to an administrative oversight, the site had been legally bought by a Hong Kong-based company named Ultimate Search Inc.

The Poetry Society had failed to renew its registration of the domain name www.poetrysoc.com, and now faces a potentially expensive legal fight to get the name back.

Poetry Society website
The society's website

It has had to set up www.poetrysociety.org.uk, which is now up and running, in time for World Poetry Day, which is run by the United Nations' educational arm, Unesco.

The Poetry Society argued that its domain name registrar, Total Registrations, failed to notify them of renewal and final deactivation.

Society director Christina Patterson told BBC News Online: "This is a disaster."

"We can only assume that these people have done what they have done to get the traffic, which was about 300,000 hits a month."

'Prudence'

The society had spent five years building up the site to the point where it was award-winning, she said, and this latest development is a "major blow".

"We were going to have a surplus of about three grand this year, which, for a charity, shows astonishing prudence," Patterson said.

The society will now have to restart dozens of school initiatives and change all its stationery.

Poetry Society
Some of the wares on offer at the society's old address
It also faces costly international arbitration to secure the return of the domain name.

The full cost of damage limitation is estimated at about £20,000.

The society plans to enlist the help of the law firm Bates, Wells and Braithwaite, which has been helping it for the last year on a pro bono basis with its placement scheme Poet in the City.

It says Ultimate Search has so far not replied to its e-mails or telephone calls.

If the name is returned, then traffic can be fed through to the new site.

See also:

29 Nov 01 | Arts
Poet honours New York dead
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