Saturday, October 03, 2015

Updating my intentions for my own domain names ("do ask do tell")

Recently, I did a routine “WHOIS” on my domain on Network Solutions, and saw a somewhat cheesy banner offering to negotiate with any perspective anonymous purchaser.  Maybe this is common with many individually (not corporate or organizational) domains.

I have the domain name paid for and reserved until Dec. 2, 2021 (when I will be 78).  The domain name is the same as the “series title” for my three “Do Ask, Do Tell” books (1997, pod 2000, then 2002, and 2014).  I actually set up the domain on Dec. 2, 1999.  Previously, the domain name that supported my first book was “” (which remained active until July 31, 2005).  That had been a mnemonic for “High Productivity Publishing”.  After publication, as I learned more about domain names and potential possible trademark issues, I realized I should use a domain name that matched my book.

At the time of my first book and through much of the early 2000’s, my “doaskdotell” domain name was probably associated by many people with the issue of gays in the military.  (The “don’t” becomes “do”).  Since the repeal in 2011,  that connection is probably less clear today, except as a matter of “US History”.  It would sound like a natural phrase to use in connection with HIV prevention (including for heterosexuals), by encouraging partners to disclose their health status. 
I do need to reiterate that I intend to use the domain (and similar derivatives like my "” site on Wordpress) for the foreseeable future as I complete my own work plan (see the label “Strategic Planning” on my main “BillBoushka” blog). 

Public corporations and other entities using “other people’s money” (investors) have to defend their trademarks vigorously, as consumers are not expected to have detailed knowledge of their circumstances but depend on brand names.  Common phrases with political or social connotations are inherently dubious as trademarks for items or services expected to turn profits with investor money, because phrases are often interpreted differently even within relatively specific segments of society.
While “do ask do tell” may sound inherently linked to “gay equality” now, different subgroups of people interpret that concept different.  For example some see it in terms of discrimination against people in identifiable suspect groups; others see it in terms of individual rights (v. supposed collective needs of a larger society).  It’s not possible for a phrase like this to invoke one interpretation in a potential consumer’s mind over another interpretation reliably.

Even so, established charities and non-profits do use trademarks, and need the idea to help potential donors know that money is going to the right place (writeup) .

One important matter to mention is the TLD”.  In the earliest days of the web, “.com” was supposed to be for commerce, but it wound up very quickly (by about 1998) being used for everything.  “.org” was supposed to be for organizational non-profits only, but some individuals started using it.  “.edu” was more restricted (to educational institutions) as were “.mil” and “.gov” and even “.us”.  Now there are dozens of tld’s, many of them based on small countries.  Large entities can apply to ICANN to establish new ones.  But an important concept, perhaps a bit in tension with trademark, is that “.com” and “.org”  (as well as ".edu", ".gov", ".tv", etc) can be used with the same root for completely different and unconnected entities.  This was the original intention, although it doesn’t seem to be a well understood today as it may have been in the late 1990s (when another problem was that some old-school companies were slow to get their own domains at all).
By the way, as a historical aside, I let go of “” in August 2005, and still got a call from someone wanting to “buy” it on paypal even though it was no longer legally mine.  It was an online gambling site for a few years but is for sale today.

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