Oops: OFA loses fight over Organizing for Action domains
posted at 5:21 pm on April 9, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
After the 2012 presidential election, pundits hailed the superiority of the Barack Obama campaign’s Internet organization and competence. In their rush to transform themselves into the tax-exempt advocacy group Organizing for Action to push Obama’s agenda in his second term, however, they seem to have forgotten one important detail — registering domain names. An arbitrator has ruled that their oversight doesn’t trump the property rights of Derek Bovard, who took advantage of OFA’s oversight (via Politico):
An arbitrator has denied the organization’s effort to obtain the domain name organizingforaction.net, registered by a quick-moving computer technician in Castle Rock, Colo., on Jan. 18, when the news broke that Obama’s former advisors were launching the group.
Derek Bovard proceeded to configure the site so all the hits were directed to the website for the National Rifle Assn. It was one of three domain names for Organizing for Action that the group failed to register before it launched.
“If they don’t like it, they can buy it from me,” Bovard told the Los Angeles Times at the time.
Instead of just purchasing the domain, OFA chose to force Bovard to give up the domain names through legal action. That backfired, in part because OFA didn’t even bother to register its name as a trademark until three weeks after Bovard bought the domain:
In a decision issued last week, Karl V. Fink, a retired judge in Ann Arbor, Mich., concluded that Organizing for Action did not provide evidence that the name was “a distinctive identifier” of the group or that it owned any trademarks at the time.
(In fact, the group did not file a trademark registration for “Organizing for Action” until Feb. 7, according to United States Patent and Trademark Office records.)
D’oh! Well, what about using a .org or the much more common .com versions of the domain name? OFA neglected to secure those, too. Both are owned by a Florida Republican, whose website offers OFA and its followers a little advice:
But those sites now include a disclaimer stating that they are “NOT affiliated with any 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4), or other entity or business that uses the generic phrase Organizing For Action as all or a portion of its name.”
“Organizingforaction.com is not seeking to prevent you from contacting any such entities, businesses, or their websites, or to disrupt their activities,” the disclaimer reads. “Therefore, if you are seeking a different entity, business, or website, it is suggested that you perform a Google or other Internet search to locate it.”
It’s not the only battle they’re losing, either. National Journal’s Beth Reinhard reports that the gun-control push has gone badly as OFA’s first attempt to impose the Obama agenda:
Although the first votes on gun -control legislation have yet to be cast, by some measures the National Rifle Association has already won.
Obama’s ambitious plans to ban assault weapons and limit magazine capacities are off the table, while the NRA suggested it could support the most likely outcome — expanded background checks — as recently as 1999. The NRA claims that the president’s efforts have triggered a fundraising surge and boosted its membership from 4 million to nearly 5 million. Members of Congress who seemed open to legislation after the shooting deaths of 20 Connecticut schoolchildren are still on the fence, while Republicans are threatening a filibuster.
Perhaps a battle pitting one of the oldest and most aggressive lobbying organizations against President Obama’s fledgling advocacy shop wasn’t a fair fight.
“Fledgling”? This organization has existed in one form or another since 2007. All they have done is change names, and they haven’t even managed to do that correctly.