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Life could get quite a bit more difficult soon for people using misleading domain names on the Internet. Specifically, under a recent legislative proposal, the knowing use of misleading domain names to direct others to sexually explicit Web sites could lead to stiff fines and even jail time. THE LEGISLATIVE PROPOSAL Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., has offered a fairly late amendment to H.R. 1104, which otherwise deals with child abduction issues. The amendment, Section 108, titled “Misleading Domain Names on the Internet,” is somewhat similar to a bill Rep. Pence had introduced in the last session of Congress. Section 108 of the proposed amendment to H.R. 1104 seeks to add a new Section 2252A to Chapter 110 of Title 18 of the United States Code. Section 108 would create real problems for those who knowingly use misleading domain names in two contexts. OBSCENITY First, “whoever knowingly uses a misleading domain name with the intent to deceive a person into viewing obscenity on the Internet” would be “fined … or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both” under Section 108. HARMFUL TO MINORS Second, “whoever knowingly uses a misleading domain name with the intent to deceive a minor into viewing material that is harmful to minors on the Internet” would be “fined … or imprisoned not more than 4 years, or both” pursuant to Section 108. DEFINITIONS The definitions within Section 108 are important. For example, a domain name that includes words that indicate the sexual content of a Web site, such as “sex” or “porn,” is not deemed “misleading” under Section 108. As far as “material that is harmful to minors” goes, Section 108 is quite detailed and describes material that “taken as a whole and with respect to minors, appeals to a prurient interest in nudity, sex, or excretion,” “depicts, describes, or represents, in a patently offensive way with respect to what is suitable for minors, an actual or simulated sexual act or sexual contact, actual or simulated normal or perverted sexual acts, or a lewd exhibition of the genitals,” and “taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value as to minors.” THE BUZZ Rumor has it that that Rep. Pence’s amendment to H.R. 1104 likely will pass during an upcoming floor vote. If and when this becomes law, certain Web site operators will need to change their domain names — and fast. Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris ( www.duanemorris.com), where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology disputes. Mr. Sinrod’s Web site is www.sinrodlaw.com, and he can be reached at [email protected]. To receive a weekly e-mail link to Mr. Sinrod’s columns, please type Subscribe in the subject line of an e-mail to be sent to [email protected].

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