At work today, I got a charming piece of mail from some new friends in Buffalo, New York! They invited me to renew my domain (I have a registered domain in my name for work that we haven’t managed to use) for the low-low price of $30 a year! (Market rate = $10/year.) It isn’t really an invitation so much as something that carries the universally accepted format for a bill. But ever fear, Americans, this invitation, stamped with the American flag on both the envelope and the fake bill, reminds me “You must renew your domain name to retain exclusive rights to it on the Web, and now is the time to transfer… Failure to renew your domain name by the expiration date may result in a loss of your online identity making it difficult for your customers and friends to locate you on the Web.”

To be completely fair, this document is probably legal (American flag aside). It does say, buried in the text somewhere, “This notice is not a bill…” (emphasis present in document). However, calling it a notice is confusing even in the disclaimer. This isn’t a notice at all. It’s a solicitation. It’s like someone referring to a telemarketing interaction as being a “notice”. That word sounds serious, important, and as though it would be an error in judgment to ignore. There is no better use of judgment than to ignore something like this.

And yet I’m not ignoring it. Domain Registry of America, I’m calling you out. Everyone should go pelt their website with virtual rotten fruit. Even their icon is an American flag.

I’m not quite sure why this particular piece of mail is making me so angry. Perhaps because there was just the briefest moment of pause that I was given when I opened it up, and I’m about as cynical as they come with regards to spam, phishing, junk mail, solicitations, and advertising. There was never a moment when I was about to break out a pen and a stamp, but my first thoughts were “Why are the rates so high?” and “How did they get my address?” This was followed quickly enough (for me) with “What on Earth web company handles renewals by mail?” and “Why did Active-Domain switch to this ridiculous name?” and then, of course, “Oh, I know how they got my address!” And then the anger set in.

We are legally required to post the address of contact information for every registered website and keep it current. Presumably, of course, so the American flag can send us mail trying to scam us out of an Andrew Jackson a year.

But why not? Andrew Jackson himself swindled half a country away from its people. So how can we complain about invoking his image, and the image he upheld, to lie, cheat, and steal?

The actual reasoning for the required registry of addresses probably has a lot to do with 9/11 and the WWE (War Without End). After all, if someone makes a threat on a website, it’s important to be able to hold a fall guy accountable for that. Police get very irritable when they don’t have a door to knock on or smash in.

So required registration gives them a door, or a collective set of doors to open the way for the real American way: enterprising swindling. After all, money is a conserved entity. No one is making it unless someone else is losing it. We get blind to this in the US, sometimes, because the people losing it are all over the rest of the world. In our own borders, the stealing is rarely so present and obvious as when it comes in a fake bill carrying a false flag.