Meet Internet Billionaire Kevin Ham

What could be more lucrative and rewarding for an individual than a career in medicine? Kevin Ham found the answer. He switched from being a general practitioner to purchasing old domain names on auction and is now “the man who owns the internet“, according to Paul Sloan, Business Magazine editor-at-large. Some of the URLs that comprise his electronic empire are those ending “.cm”, a common mis-entry for “.com” that is also Cameroon’s top level domain.

This brings to mind the cases of logo copyright infringement multi-national corporations faced decades ago when expanding into new territories. A single investor had beat them into certain geographic markets, registering their own established logos before they had thought to invest there. Dastardly! – but insightful, I thought at the time. And immediately afterwards: I wish I’d thought of that. Yet when the World Wide Web came along and investors started exhibiting these same behaviours, domain squatting or cybersquatting was condemned by the World Intellectual Property Organization and shot down in the courts. One could no longer benefit from purchasing that which someone else already had legal claim to.

Like Access Copyright, which protects the rights of the producer or owner of a work, the “intellectual property (IP) system” is claimed to “reward creativity, stimulate innovation and contribute to economic development while safeguarding the public interest” (see WIPO). I can appreciate that economic gain from one’s work is a motivation for many of us. Yet creative commons can increase productivity and innovation – and what is it they mean by “safeguarding the public interest”, anyway?

I’m torn. I want to say something witty and decisive that will strike a move forward for the open source movement; collaborative visionaries are creating amazing programs that proprietary organizations can’t keep up with. Yet I remember Jerome K. Jerome‘s claims about “Three Men in a Boat: To say Nothing of the Dog“. He gained financial security from its early sales, yet did not have the means prior to copyright legislation to keep its republication solely his own. But that same fact must have helped to drive its success. As I say, I’m torn on this issue.

No time exists like the present for doing some reading. Here’s Jerome’s opus, 1909 illustrated edition online.

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1 Comment

  1. I think you misread or the article misrepresented Kevin’s deal with the Cameroon government. He has managed to avoid cybersquatting issues as his company does not registered the domain names with .cn (although he probably have the plumb ones that he already has the rights to under dot com).

    The agreement he has with the Cameroon government was to redirect (software based) typos of dot com names ending in dot cm to his Agoga site only for those dot cm names that have not been registered.

    I believed that someone else after reading the article or seeing Kevin’s plan went and registered goolge.cm, etc although yahoo.cm is already registered by yahoo.com even before this whole deal. It is a smart play but it is probably not one that will generate a whole lot of money at once but that is Kevin’s approach. Each click pays him some revenue (no matter how small) but over time and the number of folks who would probably click grows over time so that small amount will eventually turn into a bigger amount.


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