Ex-councillor loses web wrangle

The Ufford OnLine website, www.uffordparishcouncil.org.uk EMN-140506-161817001
The Ufford OnLine website, www.uffordparishcouncil.org.uk EMN-140506-161817001
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A former Ufford Parish Councillor has been told to hand over ownership of a website he registered in the parish council’s name and which he uses to give information about the village, situated between Stamford and Peterborough.

Ex-councillor, Ian Glew, became embroiled in an acrimonious spat with Ufford Parish Council after he refused to give up the uffordparishcouncil.org.uk web domain, which the authority said was confusing users.

Ufford insisted it was being “misrepresented on the internet” and that the site prevented it from posting vital information for the village’s 200 residents.

Online dispute resolution service, Nominet, has now ruled that Mr Glew’s use of the domain name and his connected website caused “inevitable” confusion for web surfers and directed him to hand the web address over to the parish council.

Nominet expert, Jane Seager, said Mr Glew, of Main Street, had been a member of Ufford council for years and was present during meetings when a planned local authority website was discussed.

The disputed web address was registered in May 2007, before Mr Glew resigned as a councillor in late 2008. But despite Ufford repeatedly requesting that he give up the online real estate in 2009 and 2010, Mr Glew flatly refused.

Ufford complained to Nominet in January, saying Mr Glew had registered the site for the council before stepping down and had since renewed it “despite the fact he had severed all links with the council”.

The local authority blasted Mr Glew’s use of the domain, which connected to his “Ufford Online” website; it said his page was “neither up to date nor complete” and left those wanting information on the council flummoxed.

“The council is prevented from posting a wide range of statutory information such as dates of meetings, agendas, minutes of meetings, financial reports and many other matters.

“This means, the council is being misrepresented on the internet and visitors to the site are unable to interact with it,” the council argued.

The council claimed that when users search for “Ufford Parish Council” on Google, the disputed domain pops up, “purporting to be that of the council”. It said it had been forced to use an alternative domain name, uffordvillage.btck.co.uk, while the row rumbled on. However, Mr Glew denied registering the disputed address for the council’s benefit and argued that Ufford had “had three years to avail itself” of the “.Gov” suffix but had missed the boat.

He vehemently rejected claims that his site was rarely refreshed, saying there had been 18 major updates since June, 2013; he branded suggestions that the site was incomplete “preposterous”.

Mr Glew also argued that “it is now generally accepted that domain names play little part in searches as users do not use them and certainly no longer type them - they rely on the primary name, in this case Ufford Online”.

The ex-councillor insisted he had taken steps, including removing a masthead displaying the village church, to ensure that visitors would not confuse the website with one connected to the parish council.

But the Nominet expert ruled: “It is clear that the vast majority of internet users would believe that any corresponding website would not just be about Ufford Parish Council, but would be controlled by it too. Confusion is therefore inevitable.”

The expert said that Mr Glew’s connected website also did not “do a great deal to dispel such confusion”.

Miss Seager concluded: “Ufford council has rights in a name which is identical to the disputed domain name and the domain, in the hands of the respondent (Mr Glew), is an abusive registration.”

She directed the transfer of the disputed domain name to Ufford Parish Council.