©2007 Nathan Tabor
me say at the outset that I'm a firm believer in the capitalist system.
There is nothing indecent about earning a profit if the work
you're doing is honest and you're not engaging in any immoral means in
order to accomplish it.
I find it strange that when the tragedy at Virginia Tech exploded onto
our television screens, some people started seeing dollar signs.
to capitalize on a particularly horrific American tragedy, some
individuals rushed to buy Internet domain names bearing the marks of the
for instance, Fred McChesney, a gun control supporter who, according to
the Associated Press, bought up dozens of domain names with frightening
connotations such as CampusKillings.com, VirginiaTechMurders.com, and
goal, according to the AP, was to sell the domain names to the highest
was quoted as saying, "Everyone is profiting off of this.
I'm not hurting anyone."
was a time when it was unseemly to profit from a tragedy—let alone
admit to it. Movie
producers who attempted to turn tragedy into big box office were
condemned; legislation was passed to ensure that violent criminals did
not cash in on their infamy with lucrative book and film deals.
News organizations accused of a mentality of "If it bleeds,
it leads" tried, whenever possible, to show sensitivity to crime
victims and their families.
in the year 2007, it appears that a different mentality is at
When disaster strikes, people whose god is their checking account
set out to make as much money as they can from some of the most
devastating events of our time.
Jones, general counsel for the domain registration service known as
GoDaddy.com, told the AP, "Any time there's a big news event,
people go register the domain names."
It happened after 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the Southeast
Asian tsunami. So
I suppose it's not surprising that it would happen again after a mass
killing at a college campus.
if you think disaster commerce doesn't negatively impact victims'
families, think again.
When the names of the victims of the tragedy at Virginia Tech
were released, individuals not connected with the families began
registering domains in the victims' names.
As a result, if a father or mother wanted to establish a memorial
in cyberspace for a son or daughter killed in the assault, he or she
would first have to purchase the name from someone else—likely at an
incredibly inflated price.
some companies are standing up to those who attempt to engage in
disaster commerce. For
instance, some name brokers have closed down domains named in connection
with the Virginia Tech tragedy, such as BlacksburgBloodbath.com and
These name brokers recognize the fact that there is an ethical
line which simply should not be crossed in pursuit of profit—that
money made from someone else's misery is ill-gotten gain.
just hope that disaster commerce is one of those Internet fads that will
fade over time.