Sale of IRS.com stirs Congress into action on domain names

When Intersearch.com paid $12.5 million for the domain name irs.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor
When Intersearch.com paid $12.5 million for the domain name irs.com ("We're not the Internal Revenue Service, we're the #1 INDEPENDENT resource for tax information"), some in Congress had had enough.

Hours after Intersearch president Daniel O'Donnell rang the bell to start the trading day at the American Stock Exchange, a House panel was considering legislation to bar the use of domain names that resemble government agencies, The New York Times reports.

The Computer and Communications Industry Association, issued a statement last week warning consumers that Web sites like irs.com, irs.org and irs.net "make money by offering services that, in many cases, taxpayers could get for free through the I.R.S.'s official Web site, irs.gov."
But Jennifer Faye Drimmer, legal counsel to Intersearch, says the company is fully complying with the law. A 1994 law makes it illegal to use "any" name of the Treasury and Internal Revenue Service and their initials, logos and other symbols to solicit business. The law also states that a disclaimer is not a defense against either civil or criminal action. Drimmer said that she didn't think the law applied to domain names. The House action would amend the law to explicitly include domain names in the ban.
Claudia Crowley, the chief regulatory officer for the American Stock Exchange, said yesterday that the exchange had assigned its best special investigator to look into Intersearch’s disclosure statements.
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