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Trade Association Forced to Relinquish Domain Names
The Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), a trade association which has been labelled as "Orwellian" by Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) executive director Michael F. Jacobson, has been forced to relinquish two domain names designed to redirect or steal web traffic away from the CSPI web address. CSPI is a pro-nutrition advocacy group which was shocked to discover that CCF had registered both cspinot.com, a site attacking CSPI and its website, cspinet.org, and smartmouth.org, a Domain Name almost identical to Smart-Mouth.org, a CSPI website providing nutritional and food marketing information for children.
CFF represents chain restaurants and taverns, and is owned by Washington lobbyist Richard Berman. He also runs the American Beverage Institute, which opposes laws designed to curb drink-driving, and the Employment Policies Institute, which fights against moves to increase the minimum wage, particularly in the labour-intensive restaurant industry. Those funding Bermanís groups are not disclosed, but they are associated with executives from various table-service restaurants such as Pizzeria Uno.
"The so-called Center for Consumer Freedom deceives the American people every day of the week by posing as a consumer group, when itís really a front group that does P.R. dirty work for the restaurant and tavern industry," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "But even I was surprised that Rick Berman and his henchmen would stoop so low as to stop young kids from getting valuable nutrition information. Iím never surprised, though, by the goofy and low-brow tone of his efforts. Bermanís a real bottom-feeder."
CSPI filed complaints under ICANNís dispute resolution policy. ICANN is the body charged with regulating the Internet domain name system. This is not the first such defeat for CCF, whose Domain Registration of the domain name cspinet.com was successfully challenged in January 2002. Also that month, Bermanís group had to turn over the domain name chefscollaborative.info to its rightful owner, Chefs Collaborative. In that decision, the panel found that CCF "has engaged in a pattern of registering Domains with the intention of depriving political opponents that own a mark from using that mark in a corresponding domain name."
According to the latest ruling, "[I]t appears that [CCF] attempted to create confusion among Internet users looking for [CSPIís] websites." While one of the sites at issue, cspinot.com, criticized CSPI, CCF redirected traffic from smartmouth.org to the kidís section of the American Dental Associationís (ADA)ís web site. According to CSPI, that helped show that CCF acted in bad faith, merely intending to confuse the young visitors trying to reach Smart-Mouth.org."
"The Center for Consumer Freedom has absolutely nothing to do with consumers, but it has everything to do with maximizing profits for major restaurant-and-bar chains," Jacobson said. "Itís totally Orwellian. CCFís client companies want consumers-and their kids, evidently-to have less information about their food choices, not more. CCF is anti-parent, anti-kid, anti-health, and anti-truth. The restaurants that fund CCF should be ashamed."