Beware of web woes of singer's charity

  • Article by: JEAN HOPFENSPERGER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 12, 2011 - 7:18 PM
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Amy Winehouse

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After British singer Amy Winehouse -- perhaps best known for her hit "Rehab''-- was found dead in her London home in July, her father announced he would launch a foundation to help others battling addictions.

But before he was able to create the foundation, someone else registered the Internet domain names for amywinehousefoundation.org.uk, amywinehousefoundation.com, theamywinehousefoundation.org.uk, and probably more.

British newspapers hunted down the buyers. Some choice words ensued. And the foundation plan was put on hold, much to the outrage of many of the singer's fans.

But last week Mitch Winehouse, Amy's father, shared some good news on Twitter. Her foundation will be launched on Wednesday, on what would have been the Grammy Award-winner's 28th birthday.

"We will turn our grief into positive action,'' Mitch Winehouse tweeted last week. "... Think of all the sick and disadvantaged kids we will help in her name.''

Winehouse did not provide details of how the conflict ended. But the saga represents an all-too-familiar problem, and not just for superstars, said Jim Steffen, a Minneapolis attorney specializing in trademark law.

"There are people who will do anything for a buck,'' said Steffen. "It's unfortunate, but not rare.''

"We do hear from people all the time,'' he added. "They put out a press release [announcing the creation of a foundation or other entity] and by the time they register it, it's taken.''

There are legal remedies for recapturing names, said Steffen. But they are often expensive and time consuming.

Steffen offers this advice to anyone thinking of launching a charity: "Go up and grab the domain before making any announcements.''

The Winehouse foundation is slated to be launched on the same day as the release of Winehouse's duet of the classic "Body and Soul'' with Tony Bennett.

Proceeds reportedly will go to the new foundation.

Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511

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