An Independent Weekly Newspaper, serving Hunterdon since 1825
Thursday, November 26,
1998 PAGE A-25
To the Editor:
Information and photographs presented on my privately owned and operated, almost
2 year old website, "flemington-nj.com," about the town i live in, will not be
available until further notice due to the current controversy with and threatened
legal action by attorneys representing the Flemington Borough Council asking me
to cease my domain name.
The "Official" site of Flemington Borough Council is and always has been "flemington.net"
but it really should be "flemington.gov" as, I believe their governmental domain
name has been reserved in their honor. Their actual site shouldn't be maintained
and owned by another private resident of our town.
I apologize for everyone's inconvenient and disappointment, but attorney Peter
Buchsbaum has threatened legal action if I did not comply with the council's demand.
I feel that this entire situation is simply a result of a misunderstanding
of how this new media (the World Wide Web of the Internet) works, and that knowledgeable
webmasters, with good intentions and borough cooperation, can benefit all members
of their community.
Webmaster of flemington-nj.com
To the Editor:
I think that flemington-nj.com website was completely legal and not at all
confusing. It was clearly not "official" and the municipality was overreaching,
silly and showed the all-too-present penchant of "leaders" of government to spend
tax payers money to press the position of those in authority regardless of the
law, or the expense to its adversaries.
Contrasted to the position of the governing body, Annick Elzière's determination
to accede to their wishes shows a genuine desire to accommodate, even at the cost
of her rights, a lost virtue in the mean times we live in. I wish her well.
Robert C. Shelton Jr.
To the Editor:
I am astonished the taxpayers of Flemington would condone an official assault
on such a useful public resource as Annick Elzière's www.flemington-nj.com.
Here in morristown, various private citizens have developed competing websites
that promote our historic town, including www.morristownnj.com, which earned its
"official" anointment by including substantial noncommercial content for the benefit
of residents and visitors.
If Flemington seeks to offer the public only one official website, perhaps
they should offer only one official restaurant, gas station and church.
Town officials have no legal grounds for harassing www.flemington-nj.com and
their frivolous attempt to aggrandize themselves will ultimately result in a widely
publicized lawsuit resulting in a substantial damages award to a well intentioned
Timothy G. Cutler
First Amendment Violation
To the Editor:
I was surprised to read in the Democrat that Flemington's attorney has sent
a letter to Annick Elziere - the author of an Internet Web page devoted to Flemington
- and demanded that she "cease and desist" from publishing her information on
the Internet. Such action by the borough is a clear violation of Ms. Annick's
First Amendment rights. Furthermore, the Democrat's assertion that "there was
no way of knowing that the website...was not government backed just from its appearance"
is completely mistaken. Government sites are clearly identified by the use of
the "gov." domain, just as a private website is distinguished by the "net." or
The Founding Fathers chose to protect private speech from government intrusion
the very first amendment. Indeed, it is the security of the First Amendment which
serves as the first line of defense for all of our other rights. That Ms. Elziere's
site may have created some confusion on the part of some readers is hardly just
cause to compromise this important right.
I find it curious that the Democrat chose to publish this story on page 8.
Presumably, the editor believes this story to be of lesser importance than those
which preceded it in the paper, such as open auditions for a theatrical performance
at the East Amwell School or the Fall Talent Show at Our Lady Of Lourdes Church.
(And I mean no disrespect to either of these events.) I'm quite certain that if
the government ordered the Democrat to cease publication, the story would somehow
find its way on Page 1 above the fold. And that would be perfectly proper.
Flemington borough should immediately retract its demands and affirm its understanding
that the First Amendment prevents government from restricting the speech and expression
of our citizens.
East Amwell Township
Flemington Should Back Off
To the Editor:
I find the recent actions of the Flemington Borough Council against an individual
operating an Internet website under the name of flemington-nj.com to be quite
disturbing. The action, as I understand it, seeks to prevent the individual from
using this name, which she has owned since March 1997, citing the fact that the
website does not represent the borough and infringes on their legal right to the
name. Possibly so, except for the fact that there is no apparent action to protect
the name, being directed at the private owners of two other Internet names (called
domains in the language of the Internet): flemington.net and flemington.com.
There is also reported a concern, by the borough, that confusion is being created
over "official" information, as presented on the Internet webpage, and that the
domain name flemington-nj.com implies an official sanction. This is just not the
case. According to the various standards adopted as Internet naming conventions,
a specific domain known as ".us" (pronounced dot u s) is available specifically
to register localities. As of the writing of this letter, Flemington Borough has
not claimed its exclusive right to its designated name "ci.flemington.nj.us" (the
ci stands for city). Over 275 towns in New Jersey have claimed their names
in the "us" domain, so this is nothing new.
Additionally, these names in the us domain are free, unlike the commercial
names that charge an annual registration fee.
The borough is choosing to swat flies with a shovel. Reports seem to indicate
that threatening action was taken prior to even discussing the issue with the
domain name owner. It would be much more reasonable for them to claim their "official"
information they deem appropriate there, possibly even acknowledging the contributions
to the community by the private website with a link. They should stop expending
the community into abandoning her right to use a commercial name for whatever
legal purpose she wants, as protected by the First Amendment.