Porn site protest backfires

A Netizen's plan to generate fury by redirecting URLs with country stars' names to a porn site backfires, putting him in the legal hot seat.

A California man was so appalled by the bogus sexual images of the First Family on the pornographic Whitehouse.com site that until Wednesday, he pointed about 400 Net addresses to the site, leading some unassuming surfers to nudity instead of content one would expect to find at "Billofrights.com" or "GarthBrooks.org."

Why would Jim Salmon drive traffic--and possibly underaged Netizens--to an "Adults Only" Web site he despises? In an interesting twist of logic, Salmon said he hoped to use his lucrative celebrity domain names to expose Whitehouse.com to a wider audience. The result, he said, would create a backlash that would bring down the site, which has remained live despite legal threats from President Clinton's counsel.

"I was going to see if I couldn't do my part in changing the world," Salmon told CNET's NEWS.COM. "I realize that my tactic was little unorthodox, but the attempt was to bring public indignation against the use of that specific domain name with those images of the president of the United States and Mrs. Clinton, the First Lady."

Salmon, who has spent $40,000 to register his domains, didn't exactly get the results he wanted. In fact, he may have generated more disdain toward his tactics than toward the growing popularity of Whitehouse.com.

At first, some thought Salmon was working with the site's owner, Dan Parisi of New Jersey.

A handful of country music singers talked to lawyers about filing a class-action lawsuit against Salmon when they discovered, about six weeks ago, that some 60 country artist names were pointing to Whitehouse.com.

"BryanWhite.com," "VictoriaShaw.com," "LeAnnRimes.com," "ShaniaTwain.org," and "TrishaYearwood.com" all were redirected to Whitehouse.com, as well as domains such as "FirstAmendment.com," "YogiBerra.com," and "JoeMontana.com."

"Victoria [Shaw's] fan base is of all ages, and kids logging on to find her could have been directed to [Whitehouse.com]," said Bob Locknar, Shaw's manager and husband. "We refer to it as being 'held hostage.'"

Shaw's lawyer contacted Salmon, who stopped pointing to Whitehouse.com this week, and got in touch with Parisi. But instead of protesting Whitehouse.com, the country singers were angry at Salmon and asked him to stop pointing to the site. Parisi did the same thing.

Now Salmon's country music names point to his Web site, "Countryjukebox.com."

"He was trying to blackmail me," Parisi said. "It's pretty wild what he was trying to do. They thought I was together with him so I put up a disclaimer up on the site that said Whitehouse.com has nothing to do with the various celebrity names being pointed to this site."

Shaw, for one, knew Salmon had her name under the commercial top-level domain because she was unable to register it and went with "VictoriaShaw.net" instead. Locknar said Salmon tried to charge them for the name, which Salmon denies.

But Salmon's numerous sites and Whitehouse.com tap a much a larger controversy over the fact that domain names are registered on a first-come, first-served basis--usually for $100 each for two years.

This has led people to buy up potentially lucrative domains and then try to sell them off to interested buyers. However, trademark owners have waged legal battles and won back the rights to domains, such as "MTV.com."

Salmon said he never tried to sell any of his domains, but admits that he did post a page for some time with apparent prices next to names (there were no dollar signs). Shaw's name, for example, was listed next to "10,000." Major country star singer Garth Brooks's domain name was posted next to "50,000." Shaw plans to challenge Salmon's ownership of her name with Network Solutions, which operates the nation's largest domain name registrar. Use of the name then could be frozen until the dispute is settled.

Despite Salmon's failed grassroots effort against Whitehouse.com, the site is under fire from another front this week--Congress.

Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R-North Carolina) said he plans to introduce legislation that would prohibit private parties from registering government agency domain names. The senator became concerned about the issue after one of his staff members pulled up the infamous Whitehouse.com.

"It angered the senator that schoolchildren could go look for the White House and pull this up," Jim Hyland, Faircloth's legislative director, said. "We are in the process of drafting legislation that would in some way try to address the situation of people appropriating well-known government names and turning them into commercial sites."

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