October 1, 1999 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WHICH IS WHICH? ON THE INTERNET, YOU NEVER CAN TELL
Every day, thousands of people looking for the Internet sites of the ultra-right party in Austria (www.fpo.at), a Liberal candidate in Australia (www.realjeff.com), the Mayor of New York (yesrudy.com), and a copyright lobbying group www.grayday.org) end up very confused.
Each of the sites listed above is a "rogue"--a nearly identical version of a "real" site (www.fpoe.at, www.jeff.com.au, www.rudyyes.com, and www.greyday.org, respectively), altered to make a political point. The trend may have begun with the yesrudy.com site, which resembles rudyyes.com so closely that an aide with the opposing campaign admitted in the New York Times to being misled (see rtmark.com/pressyrd.html and rtmark.com/bush.html).
WWW.FPO.AT or www.fpoe.at?
(contact unknown firstname.lastname@example.org)
Earlier this week, Austria's third-largest party, which was formed from the leftovers of the Nazi party, was shocked and distressed to find itself extensively and subtly mocked.
The official website of the Freiheitlichen Partei Oesterreichs, which is considered very likely to become part of Austria's government after this Sunday's closely-watched elections, is www.fpoe.at. www.fpo.at takes advantage of the fact that in German, the letter "o" with an umlaut can be written either as "o" or "oe"; the "FPO" site looks identical to the official FPOe site, but links directly to more overtly Nazi sites, replaces words like "information" with "propaganda," and makes use of many other instructive replacements.
Like George W. Bush with GWBush.com (see rtmark.com/bush.html), the FPOe is using every legal tactic to shut down the rogue site, including a U.S. copyright suit (the "FPO"'s service provider is American) and appeals to the Austrian Minister of the Interior. But like Bush with the original GWBush.com site, the FPOe has so far been unable to stop this attack on its ideas and intentions.
German-language press about the "FPO" site, from earlier this week, is at futurezone.orf.at/futurezone.orf?read=detail&id=4737&tmp=61046 and www.politik-digital.de/europa/laender/oesterreich/innenpolitik/fake.shtml.
WWW.REALJEFF.COM or www.jeff.com.au?
Australian Liberal candidate Jeff Kennett joins the FPOe and Presidential hopeful George W. Bush in attempting to shut down Internet opposition--in Kennett's case, www.realjeff.com, which mocks Kennett's www.jeff.com.au.
But Kennett's tactics are quieter than those of the FPOe and Bush. Addr.com (email@example.com), until three weeks ago the Internet provider of www.realjeff.com, suddenly suspended its hosting without explanation, and has ignored repeated inquiries regarding the matter. Also, Kennett's www.jeff.com.au now merely defaults to the Liberal Party website, as if to avoid comparison.
WWW.GRAYDAY.ORG or www.greyday.org?
Today, many Internet visitors will visit www.grayday.org hoping to learn more about "GreyDay," an annual call for stricter copyright laws for the Web. Last year, the October 1 event was written about in the New York Times, Wired News and the Village Voice.
But whereas www.greyday.org calls for more copyright protection, www.grayday.org urges visitors to keep the Internet "free from phony copyright laws." Its authors, a team of Silicon Valley software programmers and graphic designers who call themselves Tell-all Computer Programmers & Internet Professionals (TCP/IP), claim to represent "the millions of people who have benefited and will continue to benefit from the free exchange of ideas, the hallmark of the Internet."
There are many other subtle differences between the two sites. Whereas GreyDay.org urges Internet users to imagine "what if" copyright infringement leads to a lack of creativity on the Web, the spoof site implores visitors to imagine "what if there was no WWW... no Internet."
According to TCP/IP spokesperson Cecil Park, "The call for more copyright laws on the Web is especially absurd considering the Web itself was made possible by the copyright-free distribution of the first Web browser [Mosaic] and the most popular Web server software [Apache]."
(The name TCP/IP is a pointed insiders' joke. It stands not only for "Tell-all Computer Programmers & Internet Professionals," but for "Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol," the software at the heart of the Internet that was given away without copyright in 1981 by programmers at the US Government's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.)
RTMark uses its limited liability as a corporation to sponsor the sabotage of mass-produced products, and to discuss corporate abuses of the political process. One of RTMark's ultimate aims is to eliminate the principle of limited liability.