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Tuesday, 8 August, 2000, 06:43 GMT 07:43 UK
Penguin picks the wrong domain name
online chat
Chatting online does have its dangers for children
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

Publisher Penguin in the US is facing legal action by printing a book which has a title that is a domain name the company does not own.

Now the real owner of the website is appealing to the publishing giant to undo the damage.

In May, the US arm of Penguin - Penguin Putnam Inc - published a book called written by American teenager Katie Tarbox.

The book details the events leading up to an incident five years ago in which Tarbox was assaulted by a paedophile she first met in an internet chat room.

There seem to be laws to protect businesses against cybersquatting but none for people

Katie Jones, owner of

Tarbox has won praise for writing the book by the New York Times, Time and People, and has been interviewed on TV talk shows about her experiences.

Name games

But the publicity surrounding the book has caused problems for London-based Katie Jones who owns the website.

Ms Jones found out about Tarebox's book when strangers started sending her e-mail messages recounting their own harrowing online experiences.

As far as she can tell Penguin has taken no action to find out who owns the, or if it was for sale.

Despite the book being written by a net savvy teenager, who owns her own website, Penguin picked a title it did not own says Ms Jones.

Katie Tarbox's website can be found at

"I do have a lot of sympathy for the girl and it was a terrible thing that happened to her," she said. "But that does not give Penguin the right to use my domain name just because it gives them a snappier title for the book." was reportedly Penguin's second choice for a title. The first name it picked, also a domain it did not own, was dropped because the website bearing the name was pornographic.

Domain damage

Lawyers for Ms Jones have written to Penguin informing them that she owns the website and asking them to change the title of the book.

In reply she got a strongly-worded letter from a leading freedom of speech lawyer retained by Penguin who said Ms Jones had no case.

Now Ms Jones says she is appealing to Penguin to try to undo the damage, and is pondering more legal action if it does not.

But she admits: "It is hard to see how it could be put right."

The case is a reversal of the usual cybersquatting cases in which well-known celebrities or companies have to try to wrest control over a domain from someone trying to sell it for profit.

"There seem to be laws to protect businesses against cybersquatting but none for people," said Ms Jones.

She has owned the domain since 1996 and used it as a personal website displaying contact information, a CV and pictures of her young son.

The site has now been shut down because Tarbox's book was leading to it getting the wrong sort of interest.

Ms Jones was also worried what effect being associated with the perils of online chatting would have on her own net chat business. Ms Jones is owner and manager of the UKChat website.

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See also:

07 Aug 00 | UK
Net dangers for children
21 Jul 00 | Americas
Stopping the cybersquatters
23 May 00 | UK
Netting paedophiles online
13 Apr 00 | Northern Ireland
Cyber-squatters target Irish PM
26 May 00 | Sci/Tech
Winterson wins on web
02 Jun 00 | Entertainment
Roberts wins cybersquatter battle
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