UAAHookup – a combination of eBay, Match.com, and iSawYou – launched in late December from the hosting account of a man who only identified himself as “Vlad”.
Designed as a variation of Craigslist, the site offers users the ability to post items and residences for sale, personal ads for relationships or friendship, or to post about that person you wanted to approach but were too scared to. All that is needed is a UAA email address.
Vlad’s surf across the web has recently plunged into rocky waves. He received an anonymous email accusing him of copyright infringement for using a variation of UAA’s logo, and warning him that the site has been reported to UAA and he would be expelled if he did not take down the website.
Copyright violation is what Vlad tried to avoid as he designed the site.
“Obviously it looks similar but I used a different font, I didn’t use the slash mark,” Vlad stated. “I tried to keep it different enough.” He went at lengths to post several times on the site that UAA is “NOT affiliated in any way with The University of Alaska Anchorage” and takes full responsibility for the content.
Despite his attempts for a fair use image, Vlad is facing doubt as to the legality of using the trademark.
“I question from a legal standpoint whether he can stand behind a copyright violation,” said Vice Provost of IT Services, Richard Whitney. “I think it’s a copycat. This is the kind of approach somebody uses when they’re trying to lock onto our electronic base and try to pull students and people affiliated with UAA onto their services.”
The mysterious email also threatened Vlad that “ITS staff already know who you are and will punish to the fullest extent of the law.”
The charged statement holds no official merit however. Both UAA Advancement and IT Services have denied knowledge of the email or where it came from. UAA Advancement’s Senior Electronic Media Specialist Jeffery Oliver has been speaking with Vlad since his office found out about the site ten days ago.
“We have contacted [Vlad] to ask them politely about removing the somewhat confusing branding that could make people believe it is a UAA website,” Oliver said. His biggest concern is that students will confuse the website as being officially sanctioned by the university.
Within the next few weeks, Oliver plans to send out an email to the UAA community making them aware of the site and warning them that UAA has no control over the content or possible solicitation.
As for punishment or criminal activity, “We don’t feel there’s anything malicious going on at this point so there’s really no action,” Oliver explained. “We’re not concerned about it at this point, except to let people know ‘Hey, it’s not UAA.’”
Vlad is equally relaxed about the flare up. “Until I get a cease and desist letter, I’m good,” he said, shrugging.
Vlad originally received the idea from a similar website called eduHookup. A University of Chicago student originally created UChicago Hookups to combat the stereotype of UChicago being “where fun comes to die.”
Advertised on the website as a place for students to “find casual encounters and campus entertainment events,” the site quickly became popular for the phrase “chastity is curable if detected early,” and within weeks over 200 students had registered ads, the Huffington Post reports. UChicago Hookups evolved into eduHookup, extending Columbia, Yale, and Brown students the opportunity of a “no-strings attached” rendezvous.
Although the site is free for user discretion, Vlad is going to keep an eye on the personals section on his site.
“If it gets too vulgar or “creepy” I might police it a bit, but I don’t forsee that happening. I’d like to think that most college students wouldn’t cross the line that way, though I could be wrong.” Vlad is considering adding a function where users can flag comments or posts, but for now, he is content with the site.
“I’m not sure exactly what direction it’s going to go with,” he stated. A Computer Systems Engineer major, he is excited at the prospect of the experience, adding, “I’ve heard its interesting to operate a user-generated website.”
The site already shows advertisements of textbooks for sale, an “I Saw You..” about an almost encounter in chemistry class, and two personal ads of a man and woman looking for two different types of encounters.
For the meantime, Vlad is content with the site and not too concerned with the future.
“I didn’t go through a lot of trouble to hide myself,” admitted Vlad. “Worst comes to worst, I just take it down.