Comissioners allege web addresses stolen

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By SETH STERN

A Forest Park village commissioner says he is considering legal action against a community activist for purchasing a web address containing his name.

Steven Backman purchased the domain names markhosty.com, tonycalderone.com, mayorcalderone.com and anthonycalderone.com in March 2003. He purchased the name timgillian.com two months later.

Commissioner Mark Hosty said he approached Backman seeking to get the domain name back after the Feb. 27 village council meeting, but was told "if it's illegal, then sue me."

He said he sees Backman's actions as a form of identity theft. "There is no doubt in my mind that he's trying to use these (domain names) in a malicious and underhanded way," said Hosty. "He was trying to make sure I couldn't have an easy site for a potential voter to find out information about me."

He accused Backman of "cyber-squatting," a term typically used for the practice of purchasing unoccupied domain names during the early years of the Internet for the purpose of selling them for a profit years later.

Backman said that he purchased the domain names after observing the "dirty campaign" which he said Calderone, Gillian and Hosty had run leading up to the 2004 elections.

"Three years ago the Internet looked like it could be a place for dastardly things…in federal and state campaigns, the way the Web was being used was pretty incredible," he said. Backman said he purchased the names to prevent the three commissioners, who often vote alike on key issues, from abusing the Internet in future campaigns.

Backman emphasized that he bought the names as an independent citizen and that his actions had nothing to do with the group Citizens United in Forest Park (CUinFP) which had not yet been established at the time. Backman, now president of CUinFP, maintains that the group is a non-political organization.

He pointed out that Calderone's campaign also purchased the domain name of Commissioner Patrick Doolin, who is often seen as a likely candidate to run against Calderone for mayor.

"I feel vindicated that apparently they were thinking the same way I was," said Backman.

Calderone relinquished control of patrickdoolin.com after Doolin wrote about the situation on the web site www.forestpark.com. Doolin said he had discovered that his domain name was taken when he sought to establish a web site for his real estate business.

Calderone said on the web site that Doolin's name had been purchased by a former campaign worker on behalf of his campaign organization, Citizens for Calderone, without his knowledge.

He worked with Fred Broker, the founder of forestpark.com, to transfer the name back to Doolin, who said he still questions why Calderone waited until the matter had been publicized to take action.

Backman, on the other hand, refused to give up the domain names that he purchased when confronted by Hosty.

"I think (Hosty, Calderone and Gillian) are even worse now than they were before," he said. "I bought them for a reason and I think my reason is still valid," he said.

He said that Hosty was free to either purchase another derivation of the domain name, such as votehosty.com or markhosty.net, or to request that the name be returned through the process outlined by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organization that regulates domain names, under its Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP).

Backman questioned Hosty's motivation for first bringing up this issue now, speculating that Hosty was looking to smear his name and that of CUinFP as the 2007 elections approach.

Hosty made similar accusations, noting that he felt Backman's "obsessive videotaping" of village meetings was evidence of plans to run for office. He speculated that Backman plans to use his recordings to post out-of-context video clips on the web sites he owns.

Backman acknowledged looking through the videotapes for material relevant to campaign issues, but said he has neither the intention nor the know-how to post clips to the web sites.

"Every tape is copywritten material that belongs to CUinFP. Nobody, not even me, can use the tape without permission of the CUinFP board….The disclaimer we put on each DVD wrapper states that the content is for "informational and educational" purposes only," he said.

Hosty said that he will do whatever is necessary to get the domain name back. "Whether it's a legal resolution or friendly resolution, if there's something I can do to get my name back I'll do it," he said.

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