The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, Canada’s second-largest student lobby group, still does not own the web domain name for its bilingual name, CASA-ACAE. Until Monday, the domain name belonged to its main rival, the Canadian Federation of Students.
In 2005, the University of Manitoba’s newspaper The Manitoban reported that CFS had registered www.casa-acae.ca the bilingual web domain name of CASA. The domain was registered to a CFS-Ontario staffer.
Control over it was due to expire this week. On Monday, however, the site was re-registered, with rights to the domain name now held by Pablo Vivanco. Vivanco used to be on the CFS-Ontario executive, and is a long-time student leader at York University.
CASA broke away from CFS in 1995, and focuses on lobbying legislators at the federal level. The two organizations have competed fiercely for student union members on Canadian campuses, with the CFS now boasting more than 80 members, to CASA’s 18.
CASA national director Phillippe Ouellette said that, while unfortunate, the lack of a bilingual web domain does not interfere in CASA’s operation.
“It hasn’t been that big of a deal,” he insisted. “But I do think it interferes in the student movement in trying to build some sort of cordial relationship between organizations.
“This is not what’s best for students at the end of the day.”
In the past, CASA had been criticized in the past for not being sufficiently bilingual.
Philip Link, executive director of Canadian Federation of Students-Services, explained that one of the services the federation offers is domain names and web hosting for member student associations, which it buys in bulk to lower costs. But he said he was not aware that CFS owned CASA’s bilingual domain name until a student reporter called to ask about it in the fall of 2005.
“It was some kind of activity or project of Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario, sometime ago-several years ago” Link explained. “I don’t know whether it’s active, or inactive.”
Asked why the web domain was registered to the address of the CFS national office, in Ottawa, Link replied that it was likely a mistake.
“I’m thinking it’s just a mix-up in terms of addresses,” said Link. “This never had anything to do with the Canadian Federation of Students. At least, that’s what I’m told.”
Ken Marciniec, the Ontario national representative at CFS-Ontario, said that the domain was first registered before he took on his current job. He claimed not to know who had initially registered that domain name. “It was one of the previous elected representatives, I suppose.
“I understand it was a project that one of the representatives on the Ontario executive committee was working on at the time. [It] had to do with central American student solidarity work.”
With the registration renewal date looming this week, Marciniec transferred control of the domain name to Vivanco. “I guess he’s still intending to do something with that project.”
In order to gain control of the domain name, CASA could bring a complaint to the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, which operates the “.ca” country code.
Under CIRA’s rules for resolving disputes, CASA would have to prove that the domain name is confusingly similar with its registered trademark, that Vivanco, the registrant, has no legitimate interest in the domain, and that the registrant registered the domain name in bad faith, according to CIRA’s rules.
(The Varsity could not confirm whether CASA owns the rights to the bilingual trademark CASA-ACAE by press time.)
In an interview, Vivanco said that Marciniec transferred the domain name to him so he could set up a website for the Central American Students Association, a student solidarity organization he was trying to help create as a student. He pointed out that the organization’s English-Spanish acronym is CASA-ACAE as well.
“It was a project that we were looking at starting, myself and other Latin American student activists,” Vivanco said. He pointed out that other organizations share the acronym.
“I’ve worked with other CASA’s though,” said Vivanco, naming the Creative Arts Students’ Association at York University.
“There are tons of organizations that would have that acronym,” he added, naming the Colombian Action Solidarity Alliance as another example.