Monday, September 24, 2007

Protect Your Most Valuable Asset – YOUR NAME

I’ve always thought that my name, Gwen (Gwendolyn) Magee was not that common, and foolishly thought that the likelihood of there being another artist with that name was not great. Therefore I wasn’t concerned about securing a domain in my name prior to my readiness to have a website. So I was very fortunate (translation – “I was damn lucky”) that the gwenmagee.com domain was still available when I finally got around to having a website developed earlier this year. Since then, I have discovered that currently there is not one, but two other professional artists named Gwen Magee – one is a painter and the other is a ceramist.

KEY POINT: If you have not already done so, secure your domain name even if you are not yet ready to develop a website.

My last name (Magee) is misspelled frequently, even by people who know me well. It is very common for me to receive mail addressed to “McGee or Mcgee.” Because of this, I was aware that in addition to the domain name gwenmagee.com, I would also need to purchase the domain name of gwenmcgee.com and have it point to the primary site. In other words, so that if someone typed http://www.gwenmcgee.com/, they would automatically be taken to http://www.gwenmagee.com/. It has recently come to my attention that this was a much wiser decision than I ever envisioned.

Several days ago I was contacted by someone who was sure I was the person she was looking for – it took several messages back and forth and some serious internet searching to clear up the confusion. I initially thought she was seeking textile artist Gwen Aqui (the names do sound a lot alike and we are both African American). But it turned out that she was trying to contact a Gwen McGee (also a textile artist; also African American – what were the odds of that?).

KEY POINT: If you have a name that is commonly misspelled, purchase those domain name variations as well.

You can't afford to not have control of your own identity. I know that professionally, I have to do everything that I can to ensure that anyone trying to find "me" is able to do so. And professionally, I can't afford to have my art confused with that of someone else, nor can I afford to have those trying to find me confused about what I create. Frankly, I prefer to be put into the position of helping someone who contacts me in error, than to “hope” that another person will be willing to do the same for me.

KEY POINT: To the fullest extent possible, you need to be in control of what is associated with your name.

Have you ever typed in what seemed to be a perfectly innocuous web address and found yourself redirected to a porn site? I know it has happened to me before (although thankfully not in the past couple of years). The chance that this would happen to a domain name similar to mine is very slight – but frankly it’s a risk I don’t want to take.

More risky is the chance that a domain with a name similar to mine could be used as someone’s personal site to post pictures of their grandbabies, their cats, their dogs, or to coordinate a family reunion. This obviously is less offensive than the porn site scenario, but it still is problematic from a professional perspective.

It is true that you will never be able to purchase (even if you can afford it) each and every conceivable variation of your name – nor am I suggesting that it is necessary to try to do so. However, in this era of expanded and global communication, artists have a critical need to do everything possible to protect what is probably their most precious intellectual property - their identity.

The following post to a blog gives some good advice to artists about choosing a name for their website:
Domain Name Rules for Artists
http://clintwatson.net/blog/376/

2 comments:

Julie aka "Quilt Diva" said...

Thanks for a thought provoking post...

And congrats on your inclusion in the recent Quilting Arts magazine!

Gwen Magee (Gwendolyn) said...

Thanks Julie. We all tend to think that we are totally unique individuals in every way, including our name - it really takes one up short when we discover that we're not.