Jeanette Winterson Demands Return Of Kidnapped Name
by Linda Harrison
A Cambridge academic who registered URLs bearing the names of 130 authors says he now regrets trying to sell the domain names. Mark Hogarth has spent around £750 on registering hundreds of domain names, including martinamis.com and jeanettewinterson.com. His plan is to set up a string of Web sites through which he can redirect users to Amazon and cream off a commission when they buy books. But his mistake was trying to cash in early by selling the URLs to the writers themselves. Hogarth sent letters to 10 authors, including Martin Amis, offering to sell them the Web sites bearing their names.
Speaking to The Register, Hogarth said he now regrets this action which he describes as a "very ham-fisted approach". He says he wanted to sell one URL to get his business venture started, but the scheme has backfired. "There were some people who were a bit annoyed," he said. Hogarth also ran into trouble when Jeanette Winterson went to register her own dotcom, only to discover it had already gone.
Writing in The Times , the Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit author said: "A writer is his or her own trademark. Our reputation is our name. If I cannot go on the Web, as myself, in my own right, with my own work, then how am I to trade?" Winterson said she was preparing to take Hogarth to court to get back her "kidnapped" name. "I hope there's a more amicable resolution than going to court," said Hogarth. "I hope it wouldn't come to that. But I'm certainly not going to give it (the domain name) up." Hogarth says he doesn’t class himself as a cybersquatter, indeed he admits: "I'm not entirely sure what a cybersquatter is". He claims it is "quite rare" for a celebrity to own the URL for their name.
Regarding his new venture, Hogarth wants "a vibrant, positive site for the author ...like a personalised bookshop", and says he is no longer interested in selling any of the URLs. He has started a Web site, writerdomains.com , which explains his plan to "develop superb Web sites devoted to some of the world's favourite writers".
He hopes the first site, davpilkey.com, will be up and running in a couple of weeks, although author Pilkey has not been contacted about the venture. A quick scout around the Web revealed that a couple of other sites Hogarth might be interested in buying - markhogarth.net and markhogarth.org - were still unregistered. Would Hogarth care if a stranger registered them? "I really wouldn’t mind," was his reply.