Comparative Domain Name and Keyword Regulation Talk Slides

By Eric Goldman

I have a busy semester of talks, so I will be rolling out some talk slides over the next few days. Today, I’m posting my talk slides from a talk I gave last month at the University of Houston as part of this event. I titled the talk “Domain Name and Keyword Regulation.”

This is a newly updated version of a talk I gave in 2007 at McGeorge Law School. At the time, I was interested in how we codified various forms of domain name exceptionalism compared to other keyword navigation tools. (The impetus for that talk, in turn, comes from my Deregulating Relevancy article, where I make this point more fully). This time, I think I did a better job offering some reasons why domain names may truly differ from keywords, so perhaps the “exceptionalism” isn’t as remarkable as I indicated in 2007 (or is justifiable in part).

Revisiting the talk after 4 years, what really caught my attention were the relative quantum of regulations targeted specifically at domain names and keywords, respectively. I did a search in Westlaw’s federal and state statutory databases for “domain name,” and I was overwhelmed with hundreds of search results. I’m amazed how many statutes call out domain names and, in some cases, subject domain names to exceptionalist regulation. I taxonomize these various types of domain name regulations in my slides.

In contrast, we still have virtually no keyword advertising-specific regulation. The only such law still on the books is the Alaska anti-adware law, a law that I believe everyone simply ignores (although perhaps it’s been mooted by the demise of adware circa 2005). When I initially gave the talk in 2007, the Utah Spyware Control Act was still on the books, but Utah ultimately (and wisely IMO) repealed that law, and Utah’s other flirtations with keyword regulations have fortunately petered out. Given how keyword advertising has eclipsed domain names in so many ways, I remain perplexed by this disparity in regulatory attention despite the distinguishing characteristics between the two.