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Reading really is fundamental

Breaking new ground, John Zuccarini became the first person in the country to be charged with violating the recently-passed Truth in Domain Names law.

Prosecutors said that as part of the scheme, the defendant, John Zuccarini, had registered 3,000 domain names that included misspellings or slight variations of popular names like Disneyland, Bob the Builder and Teen magazine. Mr. Zuccarini used more than a dozen variations of the name Britney Spears, the prosecutors said.

A child who accidentally mistyped a name into an Internet browser would be directed to a Web page controlled by Mr. Zuccarini and barraged with X-rated advertising, the authorities said. The child would also be "mousetrapped," they said; that is, unable to exit from the Web site.


"Children make mistakes," Mr. Comey said. "The idea that someone would take advantage of that, of a young girl, for example, trying to go to the American Girl Web site to look at dolls or a child trying to visit the Teletubbies Web site, and mistypes, to take advantage of those mistakes to direct those children to pornography sites is beyond offensive."


In the misspelled domain names, Mr. Zuccarini used spellings like "Dinseyland," "Bobthebiulder," "Teltubbies" and "Britnyspears," prosecutors said.

Perhaps I'm slow, or really naive, but what exactly is the point of this? The article quotes prosecutors as assuming this is a moneymaking scheme of some sort, and Zuccarini's past activities make that seem plausible:
Mr. Zuccarini has long been the subject of complaints, including lawsuits, over his use of domain names, records and news reports show. In about 100 complaints raised in arbitration proceedings to resolve domain name disputes, panels have ruled against him almost every time, prosecutors said, and ordered him to transfer the names at issue to the legitimate holder.

In 2002, the Federal Trade Commission got a permanent injunction against Mr. Zuccarini, ordering him to end his activities, dismantle certain Web sites and pay a $1.9 million judgment. But he continued to use misleading domain names to promote advertising for pornography to minors, according to a criminal complaint filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan.

It added that Mr. Zuccarini got a referral fee of 10 to 25 cents each time a visitor to one of his Web sites moved to the site of one of the advertisers. He earned $800,000 to $1 million a year through the scheme, the complaint said.

And yet, I don't quite get it. How do those schemes translate into this one? Is there a large untapped market for pornography among dyslexic eight year olds? I would understand the plan if he took advantage of sites intended for adults, like Amazon, CNN, or ESPN. But Teletubbies or Bob the Builder (whatever the heck that is)? Where exactly does the profit come from? Not that this guy sounds like a rocket scientist, but I would think he would have thought through at least this part of his plan.


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