Paul’s Mistake on RonPaul.com

Ron Paul

*Update- In light of Lew Rockwell’s recent post and Robert Wenzel’s article, I will address new concerns soon in another piece. I also thank Wenzel for his response as libertarianism is a political theory that, like other theories, needs discussed and debated.

In what has to be one of the most puzzling lawsuits in recent history, former Congressman Ron Paul is disputing the ownership of the websites RonPaul.com and RonPaul.org. By filing complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organization of the United Nations, Paul is attempting to expropriate both sites from the current owners. The complaint argues that because Paul is owner of the “Ron Paul U.S. trademark,” he is also entitled to “domain names <RonPauL.com> and <RonPaul.org>” as they are “identical to the RON PAUL mark.” According to the owners of RonPaul.com and RonPaul.org, they launched the website on May 1, 2008. Prior to, the domains were registered back in the years 1999 and 2000 respectively. There is no evidence the current owners acquired the sites through any wrongdoing.

For a champion of libertarianism like Ron Paul to launch this lawsuit is extremely disappointing. Normally a man of peace, the three-time presidential candidate is attempting to use state force to reclaim what he believes is his property. Economist Robert Wenzel recently came to Paul’s defense by writing that the former Congressman is in the right because the use of his likeness is misleading. In the same post, he declares there are no natural rights, and therefore the internet should be governed differently.

Wenzel’s defense, while spirited, is mistaken. The owners of RonPaul.com and RonPaul.org came into possession of the domain sites through homesteading. Before being acquired, the sites had no owner- they were effectively unowned property.

Murray Rothbard describes the homesteading principle as

“the way that unowned property gets into private ownership is by the principle that this property justly belongs to the person who finds, occupies, and transforms it by his labor. “

Homesteading assumes that man owns himself before he can justifiably mix his labor with unowned property. If he does not rationally come to the conclusion that it is within human nature for men to own themselves, then there is no basis for his ownership of other parts of the natural world. Because man derives from reason that he must own himself, no other person can exert ownership of him. The ideals of communal or government ownership of scarce goods imply that property is still able to be owned but by certain groups of people or society as a whole. But if individuals are to be denied single ownership, that would mean groups such as the state, which are made up of individuals, are not allowed ownership either. The same applies to a community as well. Either man is able to own property, including himself, or he is not. Reason dictates the former over the latter.

This is the basis for natural law from which natural rights come from. By using reason, men can discover a systematic order to life and ethics in the natural world. Instead of acting instinctively like animals, humanity is unique in that it can perceive between what is morally good and bad. With free will, ends can be found that conform to what is right. Since man owns himself and any unowned property he mixes his labor with, he has a right to do with that property what he will as long as he refrains from interfering with others. As James Sadowsky writes,

When we say that one has the right to do certain things we mean this and only this, that it would be immoral for another, alone or in combination, to stop him from doing this by the use of physical force or the threat thereof.

It follows that the owners of RonPaul.com and RonPaul.org are indeed the rightful possessors as they, in effect, homesteaded the domain sites. To enlist the violent force of the state to take it away would be just as wrong as reaching into someone’s wallet and snatching a handful of dollars. Perhaps more egregious is that a man such as Ron Paul is lobbying a governmental entity to do his bidding. Paul’s congressional career was highlighted by his refusal to engage in political corruption. His understanding of the cretinous disposition of the state is what made him a voice for liberty among the criminal class. Appealing to the World Intellectual Property Organization is the same kind of shameful maneuver that Paul honorably spoke out against for decades. It is a violation of the libertarian principles of peace, cooperation, and respect for property.

In his blog post defending Paul, Robert Weznel argues that rights are not natural but are rather “designed.” He states that “You can argue about who should design rights, how they should be designed, but they are nevertheless designed rights.” Immediately, Wenzel’s proposition leaves the possibility open to full-blown totalitarianism since government can become a designer of rights. Being a proponent of a private property society, Wenzel would likely not be in favor of such a destructive predicament. On numerous occasions, he has endorsed the non-aggression principle and rightfully called it the ethic of the civilized person. I can’t say for sure why Wenzel chose libertarianism as a preferred political philosophy but it’s clear he sees it as correct. In other words, he is using his reason to discover a law that is fitting of mankind. The non-aggression principle is based on the truth that humans own themselves and their property. It isn’t designed but is discovered by inquisition into the nature of man.

Wenzel’s antagonism toward the owners of RonPaul.com and RonPaul.org also stems from the names. Because the sites are named after the good Doctor, he views it as “misleading.” But the owners of both website claim they never portrayed themselves as running anything but fan pages. And with no assertion of official capacity, no fraud was committed. In the realm of the internet, there is no way to guard against visitors differentiating an authentic landing page from one run by supporters. Attempting to do so would devolve into draconian thought police.

Try as his supporters might, there is no sensible defense for Ron Paul’s attempt to take the websites bearing his name by force. The owners of RonPaul.com and RonPaul.org have already attempted to sell the domains to Paul, including their mailing list of 170,000 addresses, for $250,000. Working out a deal through voluntary means would be the moral course for rectifying the dispute. Instead, the guns of the United Nations are being employed.

No man is perfect, especially a politician. But man’s eternal imperfection does not justify violence toward the innocent. Ron Paul knows better; just as he understands the rights of those he is attempting to coerce. If he succeeds in reclaiming the site, it will be tainted with the blood of broken principles.

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20 Responses to “Paul’s Mistake on RonPaul.com”

  1. @qh4dotcom says:

    The owners of RonPaul.com also own ronpaul.net, ronpaul2008.com, ronpaul.info, etc. So why isn't Ron Paul attempting to seize those? Should the owners get to keep all of their RonPaul domains, some of them or none of them?
    I own RonPaul.NAME
    Ron Paul wants his name and I got his .NAME
    I don't see why I should get to keep my ronpaul.NAME domain while the RonPaul.com folks have to lose theirs….same goes for all the other Ron Paul sites…ronpaulforums.com, dailypaul.com, ronpaulmarket.com, etc. Those sites also registered a famous person’s name and are making money off it.
    Let me tell you the whole story about RonPaul.com…The current owners bought it on Ebay back in 2008 from a man whose name was also Ron Paul…they didn't cybersquat and initially register the domain themselves…I remember going to the Ebay auction back in 2008 and seeing RonPaul.com go for over $25,000…a Facebook friend of mine told me this
    ——-
    "If Ron Paul could hire competent people, he would already own the damned thing. They are supporters who bought it at an auction, while his staff, as usual, ignored all the pleas from the grassroots to buy the damned thing for Ron.
    No sympathy for him at all in this. The people that bought it kept the domain from falling into neocon hands, they spent their time and their money using the site to do nothing but support Ron and his message, and this is the thanks they get. No wonder libertarianism turns off so many people.
    If Ron had any sense, he'd hire them to run the site. That's the win/win solution. But selling it to him would mean it will be run badly. If you doubt that for one second, check out his recent Facebook and Twitter posts. I suspect this is just another effort by those close to him to cash in on his name, now that the campaign well has run dry.
    The story is this: another guy named Ron Paul owned it. He wasn't a fan and wouldn't sell it until the 2008 campaign was winding down. Then, he put it on eBay because they couldn't get on touch with Ron through the campaign.
    I was one of the people calling and emailing the campaign. I had Benton's cell phone number – I personally left him messages. I called the office several times, I emailed the eBay listing to every Ron Paul contact I could find. The people that bought it did him a favor. Seeing millionaire Lew snark about the price they're asking is salt in the wound. Why the hell didn't he buy it back then, either?" http://web.archive.org/web/20070509005106/http://
    I think he should raise a money bomb to buy it…the 250K is negotiable so he'll pay less than that.

  2. john says:

    there are currently 4 ICANN approved international arbitration service providers. All of them except WIPO are private entities.

    Ron Paul had a choice. You'd think his high dollar lawyers would have informed him of this. I suspect if Ron Paul knew he had a choice, he would have not picked the UN to hear his complaint.

    It also amazes how much supposedly intellectual and principled people who hold the individual in the highest regard, parrot each others misunderstanding instead of doing the research for themselves.

    I suspect when the truth comes out about WIPO and the choice Ron Paul had, those folks who were wrong will still blow it off as irrelevant.

  3. Ryan says:

    I have been in the internet marketing business long enough to respect someone who can build up a profitable business. What I do not respect is masquerading as a phony grassroots support "team", pretending to have sacrificed anything for Paul. I don't believe RonPaul.com has contributed anything, let alone any financial support to the liberty movement in any way. They aren't writers or journalists, they don't produce their own content, most of it is transcribed from videos that they ask volunteers to do for them and it's obvious to me that their motive is monetary gain – not supporting Ron Paul or the liberty movement.

    They are typo/cybersquatters taking advantage of ronpaul.com type ins coupled with transcribing already existing content, generating as much traffic as possible to monetize.

    I don't support them morally and I will be happy when a true grassroots supporter (Ron Paul) takes ownership of his rightfully trademarked domain.

    FAQ:

    "Why can't they handle this in the free market?"

    ICANN is a private, non-profit organization based in the US. The UDRP is essentially part of the free market. WIPO's involvement is a formality and does not change the fact that the owner violated the Registrant terms. The basis for filing through WIPO is likely for cost-purposes as it only costs several thousand dollars (to my knowledge) to file the complaint. The owner is also located overseas which prevents any jurisdictional authority from intervening. The issue at hand is a violation of these agreements.

    "They should just work it out between themselves"

    This appeared to have already been attempted as stated in the complaint filed on Paul's behalf. To summarize, the owner offered Paul the domain name only for $848,000. That was rejected. The domain was appraised at $50,000. They returned another offer of $250,000 for the domain only, a copy of their email list and the ronpaul.org domain.

    "Paul should pay the market price!"

    The appraisal was previously noted at $50,000 for the domain and to my analysis this would be on the high side of an accurate appraisal. The market price would be determined in an auction setting – not what the current owner decides it is worth or how much they want for it. If the owner wanted a billion dollars, would that be the "market price"?

    "Ron Paul is stealing the domain and he's a statist/hypocrite for going to the UN!"

    As noted, it is impossible to steal something which is not in their possession in the first place. They are simply the current registrant. They've violated ICANN's policies by cyber-squatting. It should not be a surprise why Paul will win the domain. The WIPO arbitration process isn't akin to running to a Government agency to have them use force to get his way.

    ICANN's UDRP (policy for resolving disputes) dictates that only certain arbitration providers can hear these matters. They are: The Asian Domain Name Dispute Resolution Centre (ADNDRC) National Arbitration Forum (NAF) World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Czech Arbitration Court, Arbitration Center for Internet Disputes. Since the owners are in Australia; the ONLY provider that is available is WIPO. If there were other private arbitration bodies trusted for international disputes, then the arguments against Paul would begin to make sense – and only begin.

    That WIPO is a UN agency is nothing to get upset about. First of all, this is a process private individuals have agreed to and which Paul has to abide by if he wants the domain back. Secondly, the UN has no power and WIPO is there just to solve the matter. ICANN has the power to remove WIPO from that list, it exists because it is an agency that has existed much before ICANN and has already specialised in these matters. It is picked because it is a GOOD organisation…that it comes from the UN means little – with regards to the reasons why Paul's fans might be upset.
    – Annoy

    To my mind, the Statist view is exactly the opposite. A Statist would say that any individual has a right to do whatever they want with another's (intellectual) property. A Libertarian would say ICANN has a right to develop their own rules and policies for domain names and if they so choose, can use these to protect the intellectual property rights of others against those with bad faith intent.

  4. Ryan says:

    A small excerpt:
    "It is well-established that trademark rights may be established by use of a mark and that the mark need not be registered in order for the trademark owner to have standing in a UDRP proceeding. Ron Paul has used the RON PAUL mark in commerce since at least 1982 in connection with his authorship of books. The RON PAUL mark has achieved a secondary meaning in the public's view that distinguishes Ron Paul's goods and services from those of others. (See Johnson v. Belize Domain WhoIS Service — Sufficient rights found where the complainant was a mayor who also an author, journalist, and "after-dinner speaker/entertainer")"
    Sarah Hinchliff Pearson, a residential fellow at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford noted in an email interview "Without a trademark registration, the politician has to prove they have common law trademark rights," she said. "A name is not automatically a trademark. Rather, it must be used in commerce in connection with goods and services."

    Given that Ron Paul is no longer a politician, "Public Domain" probably will not be a deciding factor for WIPO. Regardless, it is not a stretch to believe Paul has established his name in connection with goods and services through all of his books, public speaking appearances and his private medical practice.

    Moral Argument:

    "I Support RonPaul.com Owners Anyways"

    With the information presented above, it is hard to make a case for the RonPaul.com owner in terms of violating their Registrant agreement. Likely, WIPO will agree and the domain name(s) will be turned over to Paul.

    Nonetheless, there are still many people who view this as a "power grab". A David vs. Goliath story if you will. The RonPaul.com camp has put out an image of a small grassroots team who built up a Ron Paul fansite to support the "politician" we've all come to adore. "We put our lives on hold and invested 4.5 years of hard work into you, RonPaul.com and Ron Paul 2012" they say.

    Unfortunately, things aren't always as they seem…

    If we head over to the Paul website, I can count at least 26 advertisements. On the side I see "Every Monday is Ron Paul T-Shirt & Hoodie Day! Wear your Ron Paul gear in public and send your photos and stories to grassroots@ronpaulcom"

    Half of the website content is dedicated to peddling Ron Paul sweatshirts, t-shirts, hats, iPhone cases, coffee mugs, books and other merchandise.

    On each of their invidivual pages (for example: http://www.ronpaul.com/2013-02-13/ro…union-addr… ) – they have Google AdSense ads. Google AdSense will pay up to $1 – $3 per click usually (In my projects, I generally receive between $0.30 – $1.50 per click depending on the niche). With hundreds of thousands of visitors coming to this site, you can imagine how much money they make just off of the ads alone. Saying "We put our lives on hold" is a bit of a stretch. I don't know about them, but when I build a website into a profitable project, I don't consider it putting "my life on hold".

    This may be why their first offer to the Paul camp was $848,000. After Paul's legal camp inquired about owning the domain they responded:
    "Yes, it's currently for sale at $848,000. This is for the domain name only and does not include the website or other content. We could use Escrow.com or Sedo.com for an immediate transaction"
    – Realizing the backlash behind this, the RonPaul.com owner (allegedly named "Tim" who lives in Australia) denied ever sending this email. I find this unlikely, as in order to contact a domain owner, the WhoIs privacy email listed in the Registrant information will be redirected to the domain owner's contact email. It would be an astronomical coincidence to find someone else who says the domain is indeed for sale, let alone be willing to sell it through an Escrow service that would force the transferring of the domain before the funds were released to the actual owner. In other words, in order for them to receive the $848,000, the domain would have been transferred to Paul first. The only way to do that would be to have access to the domain owner's account and email address on file.

  5. Ryan says:

    Many people do not understand that domain names are not available to "own". By purchasing a domain name, you become a "Registrant" which can essentially be looked as "leasing" a domain name. "Registrars usually charge an annual fee for the service of delegating a domain name to a user and providing a default set of name servers. Often, this transaction is termed a sale or lease of the domain name, and the registrant may sometimes be called an "owner", but no such legal relationship is actually associated with the transaction, only the exclusive right to use the domain name. More correctly, authorized users are known as "registrants" or as "domain holders"."

    By "registering" a domain name and becoming the "Registrant", you are bound by the Registrar's "Registration Agreement" and "Terms and Conditions". This includes the "UDRP" (Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy), and ICANN's "Registrant Rights and Responsibilities".

    RonPaul.com was registered via Fabulous.com. You can find their specific policy here: http://fabulous.com/informationcente…x.htm?form…

    Which includes:
    "4.1. You acknowledge that you have read, understood and agree to be bound by all terms and conditions of ICANN's Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy ('UDRP'), as amended from time to time, which is hereby incorporated into this Registration Agreement by reference."
    as well as:

    "5.1. You shall at all times comply with:

    (a) ICANN standards, policies, procedures and practices: and

    (b) operational standards, policies, procedures and practices adopted for each Registry TLD."
    To summarize: Domain names are not peices of tangible or intangible property that any person or organization takes ownership of. They are delegated/leased to registrants via registrars and are bound by terms and policies of the Registrar/ICANN. Thus, it would be factually incorrect to state one can violate another's private property rights by obtaining a domain through the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy.

  6. @qh4dotcom says:

    The author of this article is not aware of how the current owners acquired the domain…they bought it in the open market fair and square on Ebay and paid over $25,000 for it.

    The owners of RonPaul.com also own ronpaul.net, ronpaul2008.com, ronpaul.info, etc. So why isn't Ron Paul attempting to seize those? Should the owners get to keep all of their RonPaul domains, some of them or none of them?

    I own RonPaul.NAME
    Ron Paul wants his name and I got his .NAME
    I don't see why I should get to keep my ronpaul.NAME domain while the RonPaul.com folks have to lose theirs….same goes for all the other Ron Paul sites…ronpaulforums.com, dailypaul.com, ronpaulmarket.com, etc. Those sites also registered a famous person’s name and are making money off it.

    Let me tell you the whole story about RonPaul.com…The current owners bought it on Ebay back in 2008 from a man whose name was also Ron Paul…they didn't cybersquat and initially register the domain themselves…I remember going to the Ebay auction back in 2008 and seeing RonPaul.com go for over $25,000…a Facebook friend of mine told me this
    ——-
    "If Ron Paul could hire competent people, he would already own the damned thing. They are supporters who bought it at an auction, while his staff, as usual, ignored all the pleas from the grassroots to buy the damned thing for Ron.
    No sympathy for him at all in this. The people that bought it kept the domain from falling into neocon hands, they spent their time and their money using the site to do nothing but support Ron and his message, and this is the thanks they get. No wonder libertarianism turns off so many people.
    If Ron had any sense, he'd hire them to run the site. That's the win/win solution. But selling it to him would mean it will be run badly. If you doubt that for one second, check out his recent Facebook and Twitter posts. I suspect this is just another effort by those close to him to cash in on his name, now that the campaign well has run dry.
    The story is this: another guy named Ron Paul owned it. He wasn't a fan and wouldn't sell it until the 2008 campaign was winding down. Then, he put it on eBay because they couldn't get on touch with Ron through the campaign.
    I was one of the people calling and emailing the campaign. I had Benton's cell phone number – I personally left him messages. I called the office several times, I emailed the eBay listing to every Ron Paul contact I could find. The people that bought it did him a favor. Seeing millionaire Lew snark about the price they're asking is salt in the wound. Why the hell didn't he buy it back then, either?"
    http://web.archive.org/web/20070509005106/http://

    I think he should raise a money bomb to buy it…the 250K is negotiable so he'll pay less than that.

  7. DAT says:

    At the end of the day, isn't it still true that people who buy the ICAAN controlled domain names are signing into a contractual agreement that means their domain names are subject to this arbitration process? If ICAAN had no government associations at all, but there was a contract term that says domain names may be challenged and reasserted to others based on certain rules, why would there be any problem here?

  8. Lara says:

    WIPO Amicus: Memetic Liberty Challenge to Intellectual Property; CommonSism Challenge to Anthropocentic Jurisprudence

    EcoFeminist Sustainable Security Guerrylla Law CommonSist Amicus Curiae Submitted to ICANN: WIPO in Ron Paul v RonPaul.com dispute

    Amicus alleges (1) WIPO’s ‘Intellectual Property’ doctrine is founded upon Memetic Tyranny Jurisprudence; (2) WIPO’s Treaties are not Credible Peace/Problem Solving Treaties. WIPO Treaties – like all International Treaties — are Parasitic ‘War is Peace’ Whore Treaties, to the extent that they ignore CommonSism Guerrylla Law Sustainable Security and Sustainable Rights principles.

    sqswans.weebly.com/icann-wipo.html

  9. Dissident Thinker says:

    I may have changed my mind on this one, in light of new information.
    http://lewrockwell.com/goodwin/goodwin25.1.html

    There is also the question of scruples regarding the guys running RP.com and that they never gave a dime to the campaign and may have used it to make money off advertising/marketing/merchandise.

    If I were them, I'd probably hand over RP.com and switch to another domain, if they REALLY are supporters of Ron. The only trade I would ask for in return is to have Ron buy me lunch!

    • DAT says:

      Agreed. The owner of the domain is clearly trying to make a living by ripping off Dr Paul, and yet everybody jumped on the Dr wihout knowing all the facts. Besides, the owner could've partnered with the Dr instead and make a lot more money in the long term, but instead he now risks losing the domain and even if he keeps it, his reputation is destroyed, imho, which is a dumb move on their part

  10. I would go with James on this one. Paul should just cut a deal with the current owners, not like he can't afford it.

    First, because of the non-aggression, free-market principles (they purchased the property first).

    Second, because it would be the Christian thing to do.

    Third, because I would not want to give any more legitimacy than necessary to the devil's global authority (as depicted in the Book of Revelation), the United (Abomi)Nations.

  11. Natalie says:

    I agree with Dr. paul on this one. You should not be able to own a website in the name of another person. He has a right to his own name and the way it is used/misused.

    • Natalie,

      Ron Paul is not the only Ron Paul in the world. Under your logic, all of them would be barred from owning the site RonPaul.com. Why should the former Congressman have dibs?

      • Jerry says:

        Yes and no. For what purpose or use would other Ron Paul's wish to operate their site? Certainly other Ron Paul's wouldn't have the same interests. Why cut a deal with the owners? For my money let them have their site(s). Start his own. Dr. RonPaul or something of that nature. 250K for their sites? Are you joking? Ha. Worth nothing in short order, IMHO.

        • Jerry says:

          Furthermore are they not attempting to make use of "this particular" Ron Paul specifically to make a profit? There would likely be no issue if it were another Ron Paul as the probability of profit would be less. I think the issue is larger than just the name Ron Paul.

  12. collinsjp says:

    James, I am typically a fan of what you write, but you need to visit Lew Rockwell's site and read the article JFF posted a link to above. Sounds like Dr. Paul is in the right here.

  13. Jerry says:

    Read Lew's comments about the same time as you JFF. Certainly does seem odd and unjust that someone should use his name and then offer to sell that site to Ron himself. Has the smell of bribery. With friends like that who needs enemies? What little I know about the situation, I'd offer zero dollars. If the owners had integrity to match Ron Paul's they'd donate the sites.

    • Caleb says:

      As much as a fan I am of Ron Paul, Lew Rockwell and Wenzel…. I agree with James' analysis here. This is an unfortunate situation but Lew's opinion doesn't negate the homesteading principle.

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