Bestselling authors win back domain names

University lecturer blocked from selling author domain names

Three leading authors have won control of Internet domains featuring their names after a Cambridge University lecturer bought them and tried to sell them for a profit.

The Web site domains, containing the names of bestselling novelists Julian Barnes and Louis de Bernieres, and historian Anthony Beevor were registered by Cambridge philosophy lecturer Mark Hogarth.

Hogarth bought and registered the domain names in February 2000. In the next six months he is thought to have purchased more than a hundred domain names relating to famous authors. In March Hogarth wrote to ten authors (or their agents) asking them if they wished to purchase the domain names associated with them in exchange for three percent of the writer's 1999 gross book sales.

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has ruled that the domain names rightfully belong to the authors, and has ordered Hogarth to hand them over.

"Although the authors hadn't registered the domain name, there is a common law trademark that places the rights with the owner of the name," said a spokesperson at WIPO.

Last May, Hogarth lost a similar case to novelist Jeanette Winterson after WIPO ruled that her name was a trademark. He consequently transferred the remaining names to a company, Old Barn Studios, that has since been deemed a "shelf company" since all correspondence was forwarded to Hogarth's home address.

Complaints from female writers Margaret Drabble and Joanna Trollope are due to be heard in the next few weeks. In other high profile cases, Hollywood actress Julia Roberts and the family of rock legend Jimi Hendrix have won back the rights to their domain names.

Have your say instantly, and see what others have said. Click on the TalkBack button and go to the ZDNet News forum.

Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom. And read other letters.