SPECIAL to cct
Harwich override supporter Michael Comeau may have violated the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) by registering the domain, harwichtaxpayersassociation.org, according to Julie Brooks, president of a local web site development company.
"I'm not an attorney, but I have dealt with this situation many times before in my business. The ACPA was written by Congress to be very clear about what constitutes cybersquatting, and Mr. Comeau has clearly violated this law, in my opinion. " Ms. Brooks stated.
Mr. Comeau, who spoke out in town meeting on May 9 to the fact that the Harwich Taxpayers Association has not officially registered itself as an organization with the state, registered the organization's domain in his own name a month earlier on April 3, 2005, according to publicly available records. (See box below on right for information copied from NetWorkSolutions' Whois Search Results.)
The website at the domain Mr. Comeau registered (see screen shot on right) does not appear to be associated with the Harwich Taxpayer's Association and contains links to some news articles which cite information unfavorable to the Association.
CapeCodToday.com attempted to contact Mr. Comeau who works off-cape. His wife told us she was positive her husband was unaware of any deliberate error he may have made in this matter. She said she assumed anyone could legally buy a web address and has promised to ask him to call us with his comment. Later email messages requesting his comments were not answered.
The HTA, which spearheaded the effort to reject the override, is headed by Geoffrey Wiegman.
In a telephone interview this morning, Wiegman stated that he did not know about the phony HTA website. Mr. Wiegman's organization operates a blog at Harwich.Blogspot.com
Federal law allows a $100,00 fine for this offense
Ms. Brooks went on to say, " Ideally, Mr. Wiegman should have secured the domain name for his organization, but that still does not entitle an unauthorized third party to register it. In a nutshell, Mr. Comeau's action constitutes a violation of the ACPA because he has no right to the name 'Harwich Taxpayer's Association' and because he allegedly registered it in full knowledge of this fact and in bad faith.
"The ACPA allows for remedies including statutory damages up to $100,000 per domain name. The fact that the HTA exists as a publicly recognized entity in effect means that they have the trademark rights to the name, and the fact that they have not registered as a taxpayers' association is irrelevent.
"Mr Comeau clearly does not represent this organization; therefore, he is subject to paying statutory damages should the law be enforced. "