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F & F


Interview with Katie Jones of (the Real) Katie.com
posted by scubacuda on Friday August 06, @01:13AM
from the racketeering.com? dept.
Copyright Katie Jones (the real Katie.com owner) shares with GrepLaw some of the details of the dispute with Penguin's "branding" of its book, Katie.com.

Katie talks about her conversation with cyberlawyer Parry Aftab, how she believes Penguin's title change (from girl.com [then a porn site] to Katie.com) suggests that Penguin thought it could steamroll her without recourse, and the tremendous amount of support the geek community has shown her.

Update: /. comments on the interview; Penguin has now changed Katie.com to A Girl's Life Online

Katie, you're involved in an interesting dispute over your domain, Katie.com. Tell us more.

In a nutshell, in 2000 a book was published by the name of 'katie.com' - a story by a girl who was molested by a guy she met on the Internet. Katie.com the domain name belongs to me and the first I heard of the book was when I started to receive email from people thinking I was the author.

And when did you first register your domain?

My husband bought the domain for me as a gift in 1996. He registered one each for us (his is gareth.com) and we both felt we were extremely lucky to get our own names with a dot com extension at a time when they were being snapped up very quickly.

So they could have known that Katie.com was registered to you?

They must've known. Early publicity for the book stated that it was going to be called girl.com and at that time girl.com was a porn site. Suddenly it was changed. This is a clear indication that they knew the title of the book would be significant. I imagine that they thought I was a 'nobody' that they could steamroller me without recourse.

How has the Penguin's "branding" of Katie.com restricted the use of your domain?

I originally had links to my business, my resume, and also personal items such as photo's of my son and other family members. Seeing as my business is online chat / community development it was obviously not in my best interests to be linked to the subject matter of this book so I removed that. And of course, I didn't want people who were interested in the subject of pedophilia or molestation viewing pictures of my baby boy.

The Register covered your dispute a few years ago. Anything in particular that made the issue resurface?

I posted an update to my website http://www.katie.com after I had a phone call from Parry Aftab, a lawyer working with Katie Tarbox on a new project. The lawyer asked me to 'donate' my domain name to them, attempted to emotionally blackmail me into doing so, and when I refused then got quite nasty about it and told me things would 'only get worse' if I didn't. The update was picked up by the blog community and then the press.

Have you ever talked to Katie Tarbox? Might she be able to do something about it, if she so wanted?

Never. She's never approached me. I've read responses she's written to other people denying all responsibility and blaming Penguin. But she's continuing to work using the term 'katie.com' for publicity, and apparently about to launch materials for schools using the title too, so regardless of whether she had control over the title of the book (and I'm sure she must have to some extent) she could choose to put an end to this invasion of my privacy and use another marketing tactic, but she doesn't.

Have any lawyers tried to steamroll you? (On your website, you mention an "aggressive lawyer" [and then link to Parry Aftab, the executive director of KatiesPlace.org who is working with Katie Tarbox])

Yes, Parry Aftab called me ostensibly to write an article for 'Information Week'. It transpired during the conversation that she was working with Katie Tarbox on a new project, at which point I began to feel misled about the purpose of the call. She told me that I should donate the domain name to them, or redirect it to their new project/site. I politely refused and she continued to attempt to persuade me, saying if I handed it over she would promote my 'campaign'. I said I don't have a campaign, I just want to be left alone, and I am not going to give the domain name to them, that if nothing else I would sit it out and wait for the whole thing to die down so that I could use it again properly.

She then got quite aggressive and said things would 'only get worse' for me if I didn't give it up. She also told me that I could not sell it to anyone nor use it for any other purpose because she could prosecute as it's now linked forever to the book and it's subject matter. And she said that they were going to Trademark the term 'katie.com'. The other thing she tried to do was emotionally blackmail me, which I felt was extremely inappropriate. I understand only too well the dangers of the internet and I work very hard to promote online safety in the UK and I have donated my time to doing so, as does Ms Aftab, but I don't feel this entitles me to someone else's property.

Slashdot recently linked to the most recent article in The Register. Comments (as you can imagine) ranged from beating their lawyers with a clue stick to redirect to a porn site. One /.er quipped, "Never underestimate the power of geeks in large numbers." What kind of support are you getting from the "geek" community?

Overhwelming support, from offers of money, to kind words, to legal advice. I have not accepted money but I'm really pleased that people agree that this issue is important, not just for me but for any domain name owner. Some of the comments on slashdot are hilarious, some disturbing. I read one who quoted a response to his email from Parry Aftab which I was completely amazed by. I don't know how this woman can suggest that I have a 'hidden agenda'.

There's no agenda, hidden nor otherwise, I just want them to leave me alone and I've always been very open about that. I also don't relish the publicity as she suggests. I'd sooner be without it and be able to concentrate on my family (I gave birth to a gorgeous baby boy last week!) and I really would rather this situation were not happening to me. This entire thing was thrust upon me, I didn't invite it and I am not encouraging it. I don't benefit from it in any way whatsoever so why would I want publicity? It costs me both time and money. My privacy has been completely invaded by their use of my domain name. I am baffled as to how this woman can suggest that I am in the wrong at all. I think, infact, that they are lucky that I have as much integrity as I do and have not done, as many suggest, something like turning katie.com into a porn site.

I see that there are some interesting reviews on Amazon.com. Lots of people have modded up reviews suggesting that people do not buy the book, Katie.com. Do you think that such actions help or hinder your efforts?

I'm not really making any 'efforts'. I've asked for them to acknowledge responsibility and to stop using my domain name. They haven't. The Amazon reviews I think just serve to show how strongly the Internet community feels about this.

Has anyone else shared with you interesting of ordinary people being inconvenience/harassed because of a company's mistake? (My favorite was how, thanks to Tommy Tutone, a phone number made its way into our collective consciousness)

I've had lots of emails from people who've suffered with large corporations hijacking their domains. None has been quite like this particular issue though!

Yes, yours is quite unique. What might fellow netizens do to support your efforts?

Good question, I don't know that anything will help because I don't think that they (author/publisher/lawyer) intend to make good on the damage they have done. I guess emailing them and making it clear that they should right the wrongs that they've done is about the only thing which might help, it might get through to them one day.

Any plans in the works for a book called Penguin.com?

LOL well, that is one of the many suggestions I've received. But no, no plans.

I guess those of us who suggest that aren't quite as funny as we think we are.

Thank you for your time, Katie. Please let us know of any interesting developments in your domain dispute.

Katie Jones was interviewed by Roger E. Rustad, Jr. (scubacudaNO^SPAMiname$com), senior editor of The Berkman Center’s GrepLaw.

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Related Links
  • Slashdot
  • The Berkman Center
  • covered your dispute
  • Slashdot recently linked
  • most recent article in The Register
  • beating their lawyers with a clue stick
  • redirect to a porn site
  • Never underestimate the power of geeks in large numbers.
  • one who quoted a response
  • interesting reviews on Amazon.com
  • Tommy Tutone
  • phone number
  • collective consciousness
  • The Berkman Center
  • GrepLaw
  • Katie.com
  • Katie.com
  • Parry Aftab
  • girl.com
  • then a porn site
  • /. comments on the interview
  • Penguin has now changed Katie.com to A Girl's Life Online
  • More on Copyright
  • Also by scubacuda
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