Several important points need to be made. Both sides are now in the wrong, for different reasons. Let’s walk through this step by step:
Domains Are (or Should be?) Private Property
As I understand it, domains are a scarce resource and thus should be private property. The ronpaul.com domain is legitimately owned by some Ron Paul fans, who have bought up many domain names, ostensibly to keep them out of enemy hands. Unfortunately for Ron Paul, he failed to purchase it years ago when it was worth much less. It’s all a matter of supply and demand. In the past 10 years, Ron Paul has went from obscurity to a household name, and that drives up the value and demand for a domain name such as ronpaul.com.
Domain names are limited to a supply of one, so there is no competition to drive down the price. Unless the owner can be convinced to sell, you’re out of luck. In this case, the owner offered to sell for a quarter of a million dollars. While this sounds outrageous, it’s important to keep in mind many domains are worth millions of dollars. There is nothing unusual about this case, but that doesn't mean the market price is really $250,000, and it doesn't mean that the owners are wise to charge that amount, even though it’s their right to do whatever they want since it’s their property.
RonPaul.com Owners Are Being Unreasonable
Just because they have a right to doesn't mean they should. The owners of ronpaul.com, if they really want to advance the liberty movement and support Mr. Paul, should make sure that the domain is in Ron Paul’s hands as soon as possible.
They made significant investments in their website and probably want to continue their activities, so it’s perfectly reasonable to ask a price that covers the expenses involved with moving to a new domain and business. They could do this by selling to Ron Paul, or by setting up a fundraiser, which would bring in the money so that the domain could be handed over to Ron Paul for free. They could also work in the deal, perhaps, a temporary free banner ad notifying visitors that the old site moved.
Any such deal would have been the classy thing to do, and would have earned them praise instead of the disdain they now are getting. Unfortunately, they stuck to their ridiculous $250,000 demand. While a five or six figure sum is probably the market price for this domain, as supporters of Ron Paul and the liberty movement they ought to prioritize getting the domain to Ron Paul above making the most money they can off him or the movement.
Ron Paul’s Anti-Libertarian Response
It may not be inconsistent with his past record, but Ron Paul’s actions are certainly inconsistent with the libertarian message. His problem is not in using a UN agency, anymore than it being a problem that he drives on government roads and uses Federal Reserve notes.
The real problem with Dr. Paul’s current actions is they are based on a claim to trademark, a.k.a. “intellectual property”, which is state granted monopoly over ideas. This is anti-libertarian; ideas are not scarce and therefore not private property. See Stephan Kinsella’s revolutionary work for further detail- either his book “Against Intellectual Property” or his other media, such as this speech.
Lew Rockwell, who appears to be closely involved in this situation, posted to his blog to deal with some of the disinformation over this issue; his points are all very good though he seems to concede the legitimacy of an IP argument against Ron Paul. Trademark is anti-free market, anti-private property, and anti-liberty, and that’s what’s wrong with Ron Paul’s side of the debate.
Both sides are wrong for different reasons. There is no reason for them to continue being wrong, and the sooner that is corrected the soon the liberty movement can get rid of this distraction and needless division and move forward.