NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Is nothing sacred?
The white smoke had barely dissipated, the bells stopped pealing, and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had just been identified Tuesday as the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church when the Internet domain name race was over before it had barely begun.
Within an hour of Cardinal Ratzinger being named the 265th pope Tuesday, the rights to potential Web site addresses bearing his adopted papal name, Benedict XVI, had been sold.
That includes the obvious picks BenedictXVI.com, BenedictXVI.org, and BenedictXVI.net. Domain names ending with ".info," ".name," and ".biz"? Gone.
The domain name frenzy was part of a broader dash to capitalize on the Ratzinger's ascension. As of Tuesday afternoon, refrigerator magnets and other paraphernalia bearing the new pope's likeness were selling on eBay.
BenedictXVI.com was actually snatched up April 1 -- the day before Pope John Paul II died -- by Florida resident Rogers Cadenhead, according to Network Solutions, a registrar of Internet domain names.
In an interview with Reuters Wednesday, Cadenhead said he spent some time in the hours before Pope John Paul's death coming up with possible names for his successor.
Popes come up with a new name once elected and often adopt the name of a predecessor in honor of that former leader. Cadenhead wound up buying five other names, including PaulVII.com, InnocentXIV.com, and PiusXIII, in addition to BenedictXVI.com.
"I think I was the second-most excited person on the planet when they announced the name," Cadenhead told Reuters. But then, he said, his site started to crash as visitors flocked to it.
For a papal hat, all yours!
BenedictXVI.com redirects users to Cadenhead's personal Web site.
Cadenhead, who told Reuters he is a technology writer and lapsed Catholic, said he doesn't know what he will do with his now red-hot domain name, but he ruled out selling it to pornographers or gamblers.
"Whatever I decide, it's going to be guided by a desire not to anger 1.1 billion Catholics," said Cadenhead. He said he's open to handing the address over to the Vatican if approached and possibly in exchange for "one of those papal hats, and maybe three days/two nights at the Vatican hotel built for the conclave."
The rush to lock up Benedict XVI domain names is reminiscent of the late 1990's dot.com boom. At that time, speculators locked up the rights to Web addresses in the hopes of selling them for a profit to a company or individual who was willing to pay for those rights.
The practice, known as "cybersquatting," became highly controversial as companies were forced to shell out a lot of money to secure domain name rights. To stop the profiteering, Congress passed a law in 1999 that essentially forced cybersquatters to give back the rights to Web site addresses to trademark holders.
If the Vatican decided to go after any of the BenedictXVI domain name holders, it might be out of luck.
Richard Stern, a Washington, D.C. intellectual property lawyer who teaches computer law at Georgetown University law school, said he didn't think the law applied to individual names, papal or otherwise.
"It certainly is unclear," said Stern, "and I would go so far as to say it's doubtful."
So what about JosephRatzinger.com? Taken.
Someone from Holland owns it -- as of April 1.
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