Ownership of Names (was Re: Public identifiers and topic maps)

W. Eliot Kimber eliot at dns.isogen.com
Mon Sep 28 18:08:23 BST 1998

At 05:15 PM 9/30/98 -0500, Steven R. Newcomb wrote:

>[Even so, in response to what you say, I feel compelled to point out,
>perhaps irrelevantly, that names cannot be owned in any meaningful

I own drmacro.com. This ownership is asserted through paying my bill to
InterNIC, which acts as both a registrar of ownership (just like when you
register the deed to your house at the courthouse) and a manager of access
to the names (by controlling the DNS system that maps names to machines).

Thus, I own the name space. I can argue that I also own the names within
that name space because I also control the machine that has the resources
that those names will map to [that's actually not true--Steve owns the
machine and I use it only through his largess and kindness, but let's
pretend I did own it.].  I can sell names in name space, just as I can sell
space on my Web pages (or the roof of my house, which is right in the
landing flight path of Austin's airport, and therefore a good candidate for
signage that will reach a largely affluent audience--I'll even trim my tree
if the price is right :-)).  If I can see it, I must own it.

Maintaining and protecting ownership is another thing, as you point out.
But that's true for anything we can own--that's why we have property laws.
If someone else "takes" one of my names by using it in some way that I
didn't approve (like registering it and providing a mapping for it that
doesn't end up on drmacro.com), I can call the Sheriff and sue them.  Xerox
may have failed to maintain Xerox, but I know that Coke has succeeded in
maintaining Coke as a trade name.  So names can be protected given
sufficient vigalance and the right breed of attack lawyer.

So I maintain my assertion that names, not just name spaces, are ownable
things.  If this were not the case, Compaq would not have spent 3.something
million dollars to buy the name "www.altavista.com".  QED.


<Address HyTime=bibloc>
W. Eliot Kimber, Senior Consulting SGML Engineer
ISOGEN International Corp.
2200 N. Lamar St., Suite 230, Dallas, TX 75202.  214.953.0004

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