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First Ever Criminal Prosecution for Domain Name Theft Underway

Interesting Property Rights considerations

9:36 pm on Aug 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Arrested at his home in Union, New Jersey and charged in a landmark case, the first criminal arrest for domain name theft in the United States.


12:15 am on Aug 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

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With all due respect to all concerned, can we get off the off topic bickering and get down to discussing the criminal charges, prosecution and possible conviction in THIS case, about THIS perpetrator, which is what THIS thread is about?

A conviction would definitely set an important precedent.

Do you think the probability of a conviction would be influenced by judicial precedent? Subject to jurisdiction of course :)

As mentioned in the opening post this action could introduce some interesting considerations of property rights. Do you think that conclusions reached in the EU jurisdiction would always be the same as in the US?

Do you think if there were fundamentally different conclusions the difference would be tenable over the long term?

8:20 am on Aug 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

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POSTED ON ARTICLE COMMENT.. NOT REALLY RELEVANT TO THE ARTICLE BUT OH WELL HERE IT IS (After reading I realize it is 4 am and I need sleep) ... ;)

Here’s my take on it all. Domain names can NEVER be property because they have to be RENEWED or else they die.

You CANNOT compare a domain name to a HOUSE or LAND because if you own LAND then it is not going anywhere if you don’t RENEW it next year.

What if we lived in a WORLD where once you purchase a domain name it is YOURS forever? Of course, it would cost MUCH more than $10 per year or Network Solutions crazy $35 per year. Well, that would never happen because the REGISTRARS need to get THEIR money every year.

Everyone and their brother is buying domains, MOST of which never do anything with it, atleast not on any kind of SUCCESSFUL scale. Why? Because it’s ONLY $10..

Why are their so many useless parking page websites? Because they are only $10..

Why oh why? Because it’s VIRTUAL baby! I can’t afford the life I live now but for $10 I can have a .com with 3 hyphens that makes no sense.

Why have they SOLD so many .tels, .info’s, .booboo’s ? Because everyone wants a piece of this PIE that you can’t even put in your mouth. Because we are hoping for something VIRTUALLY that we cannot have in REALITY.

What happens if someone owns a domain name then dies? Then their credit card that was set to auto-renew does NOT auto renew because the card is expired because of death.. All the years SPENT on building the site…down the drain and SCOOPED UP by someone that will put a parking page there and make 30 cents per click from Google. Just like that. No if’s ands or buts.

DOMAINS ARE NOT REAL they are a figment of our imagiNETion.

Domains need DEEDS and they need to be bought for life not for 365 day increments.

And yes, I know you can buy them for up to 10 years but really who does that? You might EXPIRE BEFORE YOUR DOMAIN NAME DOES!

Domain Name Speculators are just that. They SPECULATE that they can place a worth on a location in cyberspace, the real final frontier. And who falls for this? People that USE AOL EMAIL ADDRESSES for important things like Domain Name registration! For shame.. For “REAL”.. not virtually, for real!

Now I am off to buy a hyphenated .info for $1.99 on special YAY!

8:55 am on Aug 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

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because if you own LAND then it is not going anywhere if you don’t RENEW it next year.

It's going somewhere if you don't pay the taxes on it.
10:46 am on Aug 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Do you have an example from an EU jurisdiction where criminal proceedings have been instigated for the theft of a domain name?

There is actually one quite prominent case of an attempted domain name theft in Germany with a prison fine. The german lawyer Günter Freiherr von Gravenreuth has been recently sentenced to 14 months of prison for a case of fraud. He attempted to illegally sell the internet domain name of a well established german newspaper (taz.de).

The story in short: it seems to be the case that the lawyer was annoyed about some stories run on this particular newpaper. He was then making up claims, stating that the newspaper owns him some minor amounts. Even though not justified the newspaper was paying these amounts. The lawyer then claimed falsely that the newspaper didn't pay these alleged debts and initiated a procedure to pawn the domain. In the end it was rather mere luck that the newspaper's lawyers found out about this domain name theft in progress and were able to save the domain name from an illegal takeover by a shameful lawyer...

The auto translated story reads like this: Behind bars for fraud [translate.google.de]

2:03 pm on Aug 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

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CANNOT compare a domain name to a HOUSE or LAND because if you own LAND then it is not going anywhere if you don’t RENEW it next year

Just try not paying your property taxes and see where the land goes. Generally, not unlike domains, the land goes to auction (to satisfy the tax lien).

Lots of side issues in this thread, showing that there is still a bit of domain related energy, i.e., just say the word "domain" and something is evoked in many in the Web community.

Now, harkening back to my youth (and Abbott and Costello):


"Slowly he turned, step by step, in by inch . . . " [youtube.com]

4:17 pm on Aug 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

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The only sensible definition of property for legal purposes would have to be worded something like "any commodity that can be traded". People cannot be traded, therefore they are not property but domains can be traded therefore they are property.

Civil actions are brought by one person/group/organisation against another person/group/organisation. Criminal actions are brought by the state. Criminal actions can lead to jail time, civil actions cannot. HOWEVER, even in a civil case, you can be jailed for perjury, contempt or court, perverting the course of justice, and failing to appear (and maybe other things I've forgotten).

To me, the issue of jurisdiction is most interesting. I have been arguing in the foo/McKinnon thread that the location of the person at the time of the crime should determine jurisdiction in all cases of long-distance crime. This case strengthens my belief in that principle.

Assuming the guy is found guilty, I hope he gets ten years. However, the registrar bears some of the blame too. For security purposes, how difficult would it be to notify account holders of changes to their account - answer - not difficult at all. (That would include changes to contact information being sent to the previous address). Had such a system been in place, the theft would have been noticed immediately and the domain could not have been sold on. To that extent, a civil suit should be brought against the registrar for negligence and the rules for the behaviour of registrars needs to tightened by ICANN.


6:17 pm on Aug 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

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As someone with a largish number of domains with the particular registrar I can say that they do have notifications of any and all changes to accounts both at their retail and their wholseale domain sites ..but I cant say without time consuming research ( trawling thourgh old emails commited to CD archives ) when that started happening ..least since 3 or 4 years though ..

As to the "property or not" applied to domain names ..

Surely it's similar to renting or leasing a house ( or car for that matter ) or renting or leasing commercial premises ..

If I pay a landlord for the lease for 10 years on a
property ..and then someone breaks into his office ..alters the lease agreement by forgery to their name ..and then one day I go to open up and discover someone else is in "my place" ..and they claim to be the leaseee ..or that they have bought the lease in good faith from someone purporting to be the leasee ..

Then thats fraud ..( under UK law at least )

Or where I'm posting from it's "faux" .."usage de faux" .."escroqurie" etc etc ..( fraud )

In Europe it may be difficult to exactly reconcile each countries laws to each other member state ..but basic "use of fraudulent instruments" or their local equivalents ought to cover it ..

I also throw out the idea for your joint perusal that all domain transfers should require "registration before public notary" or their country equivalent ( here that would be "contrat privé signé devant notaire ..or seeing privé.devant notaire ..cost about €50.oo one time only per transfer ) ..I'm sure that some system has already been put in place in the USA to have notary public online type servives ..here we also have huissier online at €15.oo ( sort of court bailiff online ) witnessed contracts ..

The latter is used quite frequently to establish who is /was first online with content in copyright disputes ..you "declare" send them your site on CD or zipped rarred etc ..or give them a link to it ..and they time and date it ..their world is final in the courts as to who had what first ..

And yes doesnt work too well for dynamic sites ..but that is a different matter to domain names or static sites ..

BTW here you cannot buy nor sell nor exchange a house without a notaires contract ..and they are govt officers ..fixed rate fees ..or percentage of price ..way cheaper than lawyers for "conveyancing" ..they also do "escrow" services for the deposit included in their fees ..could do the same for domain purchases ? ..not foolproof ..but very close ..

7:09 am on Aug 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

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A salute to the case. Also, I wish that companies that provide the domain name service are found more liable, including domain name market runners.
I see so many TM related domains that are on sale, while those that recoup the commission and set minimum prices are washing their hands by having something in their T&C. Screw it, they should be liable anyway, and not allow those domains to show up at all.
Same with service providers. I see so many offenders in one or the other way.
I.e. pirated software - once proven, what's the big deal about domain name service provider and hosting company doing something and preventing such guys of continuing or doing it again?
Back to the case, and including the theft issue, this is not different than falsifying someone's documents and making a financial gain.
A good and heavy sentence is needed here, but without stopping and ensuring that the next one gets the same.
2:55 pm on Sept 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

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horray for this...

there IS a central registry... ICANN.

but they are not as effective as they could be in this.

they need some arbitration scheme with a reasonable fee. (it can't be "free" or it would be clogged by nusance suits.)

This 39 message thread spans 2 pages: 39