India should follow China in protecting domain names of athletes

August 22nd, 2008 - 6:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 22 (IANS) Ever tried out punching in www.abhinavbindra.com or www.leanderpaes.com Or even www.rajyavardhanrathore.com or www.sushilkumar.com?Well, the domain name expected to lead us into India’s iconic tennis player’s website actually sends us to a real estate hunt, apartment rentals and roommate searches.

Try one for Bindra, India’s first individual Olympic gold medallist, and it shows an enterprising person having uploaded a lot of news on India’s latest hero - notably only after he won and none before - with bits and pieces ollected from all over the media, including this writer’s article on the BBC website as the first one which pops up in the news section!

One has no way of knowing whether this website is actually the official website of “India’s first individual Olympic gold medallist” or not. But one can only hope Bindra has a say in what goes on it, unless of course Team Bindra - a prominent member of which is his father, A.S.Bindra - has authorised it.

What you would expect to be Rathore’s site does not open and the domain name for India’s first wrestling medallist in 56 years Sushil Kumar is obviously still available. Ditto for the one on Vijender, India’s first Olympic boxing medallist.

Maybe, it is time for the Indian sports authorities to take some steps in this direction of protecting domain names of famous athletes. Sure, there will be a lot of Sushil Kumars or Vijenders and maybe even Rajyavardhan Rathore, but squatters can surely be discouraged.

In this time and age, personal websites of famous people are an important tool in communicating with them and they are also a source of additional income for the athletes.

The Chinese authorities faced a similar scenario some years back and after the 2004 Athens Olympics the problem became severe, as ’squatters’ booked domain names identical to that of Olympic gold medallists and made commercial gains.

This time around, the Chinese sports authorities have taken care to ban the booking of internet domain names based on their prominent gold medallists. They have decreed that only the athletes themselves will be allowed to register those names.

The General Administration of Sport (GAS) in China have asked China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC), the domain name registering agency in the country, to reject registrations of domain names featuring the names of Chinese gold medallists.

This was done before the Olympic Games began and the authorities had been given full list of China’s Olympic team and they registered all available domain names for their athletes in Chinese characters and in Pinyin. Pinyin is the Standard Mandarin Romanization, made as the international standard for Chinese language since 1979.

Along with the cash rewards that come with the gold medals, the Chinese athletes will also be given their domain names free of cost.

The China Daily reported that the authorities have also ‘advised’ those who had booked domain names similar to the athletes’ names to give it to the medallists.

The CNNIC said on its website: “Those who had registered domain names same as athletes’ name, can keep them, but are advised to give it to the medallists as a gift.”

Protecting domain names in China is difficult because hundreds and thousands have similar names. For instance, more than 9,000 people are said to share their name with diving superstar Guo Jingjing.

The Beijing News has reported that domain names featuring at least 10 Olympic gold medallists, including weightlifter Chen Xiexia and gymnast Yang Wei, had been registered before the Olympics.

Now probably, the athletes will get a domain name as ‘gift’ in addition to the riches that await them.

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