BALTIMORE (AP) Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley says a Web site that uses the city’s name is not a point of civic pride, but a major embarrassment.
That’s because the site baltimoremaryland.com is actually a pornography site, the rights to which are being hawked for $8,500.
“I’m disgusted, repulsed and annoyed,” Mr. O’Malley told the Baltimore Sun after learning about the pornography site last week. “It’s like somebody’s stealing a corporate name.”
Baltimore residents are not alone in having the name of their city appropriated for porn. Other cities that have become porn gateways include Detroit, San Diego, Seattle and Nashville, Tenn., all of which are for sale for $8,500.
The sites are all owned by the same man, Stephen Gregory, a one-time Oregon resident who might be operating out of the Philippines.
Mr. Gregory did not respond to requests for comment, but his Web site lists hundreds of domain names for sale, at prices ranging from $2,200 to $350,000.
Up for sale are prison.com and fitnessguide.com, each listed for $20,000; hanukkah.com and liable.com, listed for $85,000; electionday.com and highdefinitiontv.com, for $200,000; and beijingchina.com and stockbrokerage.com, each available for $350,000.
Mr. Gregory’s domain-name exploits appear to be limited to the legal pursuit of common words and geographic place names that could be of value.
As a result, Baltimore could be left with few options to revamp the unsavory site.
“It’s just first come, first serve,” said E. Dale Robertson, a domain-name litigator who is representing the owners of barcelona.com in a federal lawsuit filed in Virginia’s Eastern District against the City Council of Barcelona.
Mr. Robertson said that aside from the Barcelona case, in which an initial ruling favored the Barcelona government, every other city 11 so far has failed when trying to wrest away its name from a private individual or company.
Mr. Robertson says geographic place names, in general, can’t be trademarked by any one person.
Baltimore.com, for example, belongs to an Irish company, Baltimore Technologies, that purchased the name from a local online-services entrepreneur in 1999 for a reported six-figure sum.
“The city of Baltimore does not have a trademark for the word Baltimore,” Mr. Robertson said.
Short of going to court, some say, it’s possible that Baltimore would find a sympathetic ear with an international arbiter of Internet-name disputes, such the World Intellectual Property Organization.
That group, and another charged with overseeing domain names, are not so keen about such cyber-speculators, said Thomas D’Alleva of Bulkregister, a Baltimore-based firm that registers domain names.
Mr. O’Malley isn’t paying the $8,500 ransom for baltimoremaryland.com, responding to a reporter’s question with a firm “heck, no.”
He wants the federal government to take a look at trademark laws and fix the situation.
“Let’s face it, a lot of people use the Internet to access city services now,” Mr. O’Malley said. “And I think it’s going to be obnoxious to a lot of our customers and taxpaying constituents to try to log on and instead have this porno site pop into their homes.”