Reserving Domain Names on the Internet
QUESTION 37: RESERVING DOMAIN NAMES ON THE INTERNET
On the Internet, a person can reserve an Internet name by
going to a web site and entering information about the
'domain name' that a person wants to have. The company
then sends a bill via e-mail, which can be paid by credit
card or check. If the money isn't paid within a certain
time, the name is lost. I assume that a person who wants
to be on a high level always does what he says, and if he
says he's going to buy something, follows through. If after
a week a person decides he really doesn't want the name,
is it perfectly all right, even if he likes to operate lifnim
meshuras hadin (beyond the letter of the law), not to pay
and let the name lapse, even though in a sense he has
electronically committed himself to purchasing that name?
I don't know, because I'm not sure exactly how the process
works. Let's say you earnestly wanted to use it, and then
you back out because you decided not to use it. In this
case your temporary use was for a trial period where your
right to back out is legitimate and lechatchila (from the
beginning). Let's say they haven't sent the bill out, and
in the meantime you used it for a while, with no trial use
intended. Then lifnim mishuras hadin, you should probably
pay for it. But I don't think that the din - the law itself
-- requires that you pay for it.
Actually it says, "Do you want to have it for a year? It's
$35". You actually click a box.
You mean, you actually received the name, and it was yours for
you to use. In other words, they gave it to you on the basis
of that commitment.
You can use it for that month, but it's not really worth that
much to use it for a month. The question is, is there a moral
commitment to pay for it - even though you decided that you
don't really want it.
I see. Now we're talking about something else. In other words,
you have permission to use it for a certain amount of time
without charge. But tell me, are they asking about paying for
the 30 days, or for payment for the whole year?
There's no way to pay for the 30 days. You either pay for the
whole year, or you just don't pay them and it lapses, and then
you don't have it anymore. So is there a kind of moral commitment
to follow through on what you clicked?
No. I don't think so. Mi sheporoh (being obligated to a verbal sale)
or tzaddik hein sheloch (a tzaddik doesn't retract his words) are
not applicable here. If you promised to use it for a whole year,
that's one thing. But if they themselves say that if you don't
want to use it for a year, you can change your mind, and they
provide the mechanism for backing out, that's another thing.
Well, it just lapses. It's not like you say "I don't want it".
There are cases similar to this. For instance, let's say you
rent an apartment and you're there for one day and then you
decide to back out. The period of rental is for one month and you
have to pay for the whole month. Even though you're not using the
other 29 days. That's what you bought, you bought a month's use.
In our case, it seems if you use it for one month then you bought
a year's use. If that's the case, then of course you have to pay
for a whole year. But apparently it's not so.
However you could say there the principal of tzaddik hein sheloch does
apply here, because you signified your intention to use it for a year.
Even so, you intended to use something which didn't exist yet, and
it's a dovor shelo bo l'olom (something that doesn't yet exist).
I could only see it as a lifnim mishuras hadin type of thing, but
not even within the level of tzaddik hein sheloch... it's not binding,
Thus there are two issues. Issue number one - did you purchase
a year's time? Apparently not, because otherwise they could bill
you for it. Issue number two - is there an intention on your part
to buy it for the whole year? Is it considered as though you
promised to buy a year and then you didn't? I don't think that
this promise was made either, because in the end people do back
out, and it's a dovor shelo bo l'olam (the commodity is not yet
in the world) and it's not something that you could say you
committed yourself to purchase.
To me it seems the are two valid problems. One is that you did
use it for a month, and a second is that this system is vulnerable
to abuse. If you used it for a month, you had hano'oh (benefit)
from that month's use. You received something that has a certain
value to you, and you should pay for it. But you say there's no
mechanism to pay for that. That's why I'm saying it's only lifnim
mishuras hadin (beyond the minimal requirements of the law), and
it's quite a leap to pay for a whole year's use when you used it
for one month.
Earlier you said there are three levels of lifnim mishuras hadin.
The first level is what we should all do; the second is a higher
madreigoh (level) and the third is the highest for only tzaddikim
(very righteous people). So of the three levels, which does this
This is more like the second one, not the third. The third level
involves paying for something that you didn't get at all. You're
just paying the other person out of kovod habriyos (out of respect
for his humanity). Here you want to pay for something that you got.
You don't want to use something which you got for free.
Would you say this even though here it's all done electronically -
nobody knows that this really happened?
That's what I'm saying. It's the middle level of lifnim mishuras
So a person who regards himself as a ba'al madreigoh (striving
for a high level) should accustom himself to follow through on
what he says. Is that the bottom line?
Yes. But I'll tell you, I have to reserve one thing here.
There is something called minhag ha'olam (the general practice of
the world) that is pertinent here. Number two - it may be the
will of the company that people should not feel themselves
committed. Why? Because of an attitude that is quite prevalent
in business. The company knows it can get many new customers by
making its introductory policies a bit liberal. Hundreds of people
may try something out, and out of that number, half of them will
stick to it. And this half will help the company increase its
business. If people feel that once they are committed to take
the day's worth, then they'll have to pay for a year, so then
most people will say, "I'm not sure about it," and then they'll
decide not to even try it out at all. Liberal introductory
policies can lead to much more business. So it's to the benefit
of the company, actually, to let people try things initially for
free, and not require them to pay for it up front.
These are all or most of the considerations involved. To be any
more definitive, you would have to be quite familiar with the
workings of the Internet, and I'm totally unfamiliar with that.
I can see there are a lot of issues.
But I think we covered most of them here.
NEXT WEEK'S QUESTION 38: DOCTOR FORGIVING DEDUCTIBLE
When our family goes to the doctor at the start of each year,
we must pay a deductible amount after which the insurance
company pays most of the cost of the doctor visits. During
this period before our deductible is reached, our family
doctor lets us pay a portion of each visit now, with the
intention that we will pay the rest later in the year - even
though he reports the entire cost of the visit to the
insurance company. If later in the year, he forgives us our debt,
is that fraud?
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