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Mass. Republicans launch pre-emptive Web strike

Party snaps up would-be picks for Web addresses for Democrat Tom Reilly if he runs for governor in 2006.

Massachusetts Republicans have launched a pre-emptive strike against Democratic Attorney General Tom Reilly by snapping up online Internet addresses that would have been obvious picks for him if he decides to run for governor in 2006.

Reilly has not yet said whether he will challenge Republican Gov. Mitt Romney in 2006. But if Reilly does run, it will be hard for him to use the Web sites reillyforgovernor.com, tomreillyforgovernor.com, reillyforgovernor2006.com and reillyforgovernor06.com.

That's because the state Republican Party registered those domain names last week, the Boston Herald newspaper reported Monday.

"We intend to have some fun if he indeed is the candidate for governor," said Tim O'Brien, executive director of the state party. He added that the party did not break any rules.

Reilly advisers said the Republicans' Internet maneuvering appeared premature, given that the Democratic attorney general has not yet announced his candidacy.

Susan Crawford, an expert in Internet law at New York's Cardozo Law School, said the Republicans' move seemed to be a new twist on the practice of cybersquatting, although O'Brien said it was "standard procedure for political operatives."

A term that originated in the 1990s, when the Internet was catching on, cybersquatting refers to the act of reserving a particular domain name for the purpose of selling it at a higher price. Celebrities and corporations have typically been victims of cybersquatting schemes.

Crawford said she could not recall another instance of one political party registering domain names for a potential rival, although she noted that before he ran for president in 2000, then-Gov. George W. Bush of Texas complained of a parody site that used his name.

Crawford said Reilly still has several options available should he decide to run for governor.

She noted the number of possible domains has expanded in recent years with the advent of new Web suffixes like .info, .biz and .us.

Reilly also could dispute the Republicans' move through arbitration, Crawford said. However, the cost of doing so is likely to be far greater than the $6 to $9 fee for registering a new domain name.

"He definitely has options, but he may not want to waste his money," she said.

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