San Francisco Mayoral Candidate Hampered by Cybersquatter

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SACRAMENTO -- One of San Francisco's mayoral candidates is the latest victim of a quasi-illegal cyber offense known as cybersquatting.

London Breed can no longer use as a campaign site name because someone else already paid for the rights to it.

And it gets more unusual. Typing into a browser directs you to Mark Leno’s website, Breed’s opponent.

A spokesman for the Breed campaign confirms they inquired about getting the naming rights back but whoever owns demanded $99,000 for it.

Campaign representative Tara Moriarty says soon after they refused to pay the site began redirecting to Leno’s page.

"People should know they absolutely do have remedies both in the court systems as well as through the domain name registrar,” said Michael J. Thomas of the Sacramento based law firm Downey Brand.

Thomas has dealt with intellectual property issues in the past and says this case likely violates California campaign laws.

If someone buys and registers a domain name for political cyber fraud, or if someone registers another person's name with no legitimate reason, the victim can take the issue to court. He says it’s been an issue since the mid-1990s, when the internet went mainstream.

"It was really the wild west where you had all kinds of cybersquatters sitting on the most precious trademarks in the world," Thomas said. "Things like Tower Records I recall being an issue in Sacramento, Coca-Cola, all these domain names were registered by people who had no legitimate interest in these trademarks and held them hostage. Basically [offenders] demanded ransom to have these trademarks sent over to these rightful owners."

The Breed campaign released the following statement:

“We don't presume to know who purchased, we can only ask, why is it directed to Mark Leno? Beyond that, we can't waste our time on dirty tricks. We're focused on our campaign, our candidate and our message."

Moriarty says the campaign isn’t going to take legal action but will continue to focus on the campaign.

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