Saturday, February 10, 2007

What's in a Name?

I guess you've all heard about this country singer Keith Urban -- he's the guy who married Nicole Kidman. I was dimly aware that she married some guy, and I think I might have known he was a country singer, but I didn't know his name until recently, when he made the news by deciding to sue some other guy named Keith Urban simply because the other guy owned the domain www.keithurban.com.

Okay, let's take a quick poll on this. If you think Keith Urban the country singer is a moron, raise your hand.

All right, I see a lot of hands in the air, and that's good, but I also see a lot of people with their hands down, so let's say the world is equally divided as to whether Keith Urban is a moron.

For those of you with your hands down, think about the other Keith Urban. He's a painter who uses his web site to promote his paintings. He's not as famous as the singer Keith Urban, and he probably doesn't have as much money either, but even though the lawsuit is completely without merit, it could cost the painter Keith Urban a lot of time and money if the case doesn't get thrown out.

Okay, a few more of you have raised your hands. That's good. But here's something for the rest of you: Nobody can own a name. Remember when the junk food corporation McDonald's tried suing the McDonald family in Scotland, even though the Scottish McDonalds had been using that name for centuries? I think that suit got thrown out of court, but the McDonald's company acted arrogantly and stupidly in bringing the suit in the first place.

I happen to know that I'm not the only R. B. Kaplan in the world. (I also happen to know that I'm not the only Robert B. Kaplan in the world.) So how do you think I'd like it if a wealthier and more famous R. B. Kaplan decided to sue me because I own the domain www.rbkaplan.com? I'd feel like some idiot was trying to use his wealth and power to take something that is rightfully mine. And I wouldn't like that a bit.

Of course, it would just be adding insult to injury if the other R. B. Kaplan happened to be a country singer. Why do they even need web sites? I don't even think they need computers. All they need are shotguns, moonshine, pickup trucks, confederate flags, cowboy hats, and guitars. Oh yeah, and dogs. Hound dogs. How could I forget the hound dogs?

Okay, maybe that's an over-generalization, and perhaps I could be accused of promoting unfavorable stereotypes. I may even be confusing cowboys, rednecks, and hillbillies, but the real question is, why do people listen to country music anyway? I never understood the appeal. There might be a few good country songs out there, but by and large, the music is uninteresting and simplistic. I'm not saying all music has to be as complex as, for example, Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring -- I'm not even saying music has to be complex at all. But country music is like easy listening music with twangy voices, and that makes it completely without merit, as far as I'm concerned.

Okay, maybe that's another generalization, but I'm sure you get my point. And if you don't, my point is that I don't really like country music. But my other point is that when two people have the same name, the person who registers it as a domain should get to keep it, regardless of how much money or fame or power the other guy has.

So that's my message for today. I'll have another one in about a week. Thanks for reading. And you can all put your hands down now.