Sunday, November 15, 1998 (A1/ front page)
Web site war brewing in N.J.
The dueling Flemington pages could set a national standard for the
by Nicole Radzievich
From its old courthouse, site of the famous Lindbergh baby kidnapping
trial, to the celebrations of her Bahá'í faith, the borough resident said her
2-year-old Web site introduces peoples across the country to the
But borough attorney Peter Buchsbaum has instructed Elzière
to take down her Web site by Thursday because Web surfers may mistake
it as the borough's official Web site, which is www.flemington.net
Though Elzière's Web site (www.flemington-nj.com) displays
Councilman Joey Novick said people may become confused because of its
name and "official look."
The ensuing dispute over the site and its ownership could garner
interest, according to some Internet experts.
Elzière's site greets Web surfers with Flemington, written
in big blue letters and
an aerial picture of the historic courthouse. It contains 14 main sections, ranging
from maps, local events and government links. Elzière provides forums for local
issues as well as information on her homeland, France
When searching for "Flemington, NJ.," Novick said, Elzière's
page is listed
before the borough's official site, which is a less comprehensive Web page
with four main sections.
"What she did was a good thing for Flemington Borough," Novick said.
"From what I can see, it seems to have a lot of accurate information on it."
The problem, he said is the borough isn't sanctioning any of that
nor checking it for accuracy.
The borough's other 4,200 residents may start passing off "official
Web pages and provide links to political, religious or pornographic sites,
Elzière isn't bowing out quietly.
Bob Quinlan, who displays some of his photography on Elzière's
lobbying for support from the community.
"It is appalling if the Borough of Flemington is spending one cent
taxpayers' money trying to take her Web site and/or domain name from
her," Quinlan wrote in an e-mail.
Elzière has sent Buchsbaum a certified letter challenging
his request for
She said her disclaimer identifies her site as unofficial, and she
take it down unless the borough compensates her for "the thousands of hours"
she's worked on the site and the registration fees.
Mayor Austin "Ken" Kutscher wouldn't discuss compensation yet, but
he said he wants to meet with Elzière.
Novick said perhaps they could discuss solutions such as changing
Web site name. But the domain name isn't Novick's only concern; he said
the borough didn't send a letter to the owner of flemington.com, Flemington Car
and Truck, because it's easy to identify as a non-official site.
Perhaps, similar to a municipal newsletter, Novick said, the borough
a say on what goes on Elzière's page.
Elzière said she will bring an attorney friend to that yet-to-be
meeting because the borough has threatened legal action.
Novick said that sentence was intended to "legally cover" the borough,
and the borough probably won't file a suit first thing Friday morning.
Laws regulating the Internet are not well defined, said Jonathan
professor at Rutgers University.
"It's not an easy answer," Mallamud said. "I would suspect the answer
laws already on the books."
Buschaum cites the federal Lanham Act, which protects companies from
Dennis Deutsch, an adjunct professor of computer law at Rutgers and
Fordham universities, said Elzière's disclaimer may not protect her from
the borough, but it's not clear whether the act gives the borough a case.
The act protects companies against unfair competition. If someone
infringes upon someone else's trademark, it would also violate the act
because the person is misleading consumers of the association. And
trademarks, he said, can be enforced on the Internet.
Historically, Deutsch said, municipalities aren't subject to trademark
"It's not a clear-cut issue," Deutsch said, adding that this case
turn into something of national interest.
The borough may not have many avenues with internal Internet regulations,
either. Network Solutions Inc. of Herndon, Va., which virtually controls the
registration of all World Wide Web sites and has registered 2.8 million
domain names, has some guidelines.
Though it doesn't mediate disputes, it invoked a policy for 2,000
claiming its trademark has been violated.
"Our dispute policies are geared toward legitimate trademarks," said
Nancy Huddleston, Network Solutions' spokeswoman. A municipality
may not qualify as a legitimate trademark, she added.
Walter Baumgarten, mayor of Bethlehem Township in Hunterdon County,
said it doesn't make sense for municipalities to patent their names because
they are sometimes duplicated.
In Bethlehem Township, N.J., he said the borough's Web site competes
with a private page some residents set up. Baumgarten said he doesn't
doubt Web surfers get confused. "Anybody can write whatever they want,
" Baumgarten said, "And some people are loonies."