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Someone claims he owns a domain I've registered...

it's a name of an artist, but he is not in connected to the artist

9:02 am on Sep 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I have a fansite about an artist and I have a domain registered that's her artistname .org. It might not be perfectly legal, but very common with fansites and I am not making any profit on it.

Today, I received an email from someone who claimed he owned the domain name and that my "usage of it is not legal". He asked me to contact him, because "otherwise this page will be canceled".

I've only owned the domain name for 3 months and when I registered it, it was available and not registered by anyone else (duh, of course). This guy who claims he owns it is not, as far as I know, connected to the artist's record company or management (who have probably registered the artistname as a trademark as it's not her real name).

The email was sent through the feedback form on my site, so I searched for his email address on google to see if it really exists and it apparently does. He's a 30 year old German guy (the artist is German as well) looking for au-pair girls. Hmm... He also mentioned his phone # in the email and it's the same # as on the au pair site, so I guess it is a real person.

Anyway, if this guy does not own the trademark of this artist's name and is not called the same name as the artist is, can he in any way be the legal owner of this domain? (or more legal owner than I am) Anyone has any idea?

I still haven't replied to his mail, I will do it soon and ask if he has any proof of it, but first I'd like to know someone else's views on it, who might knows more about these things than me.

9:52 am on Sept 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

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If you've registered the domain name, then he does not own the domain name or have any rights to it unless it infringes on a registered trademark.

Perhaps he used to own the domain, forgot to register and wants it back. By threatening you, he may feel he can get the domain for free.

The best advice on these matters always comes from a solicitor.

1:31 pm on Sept 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

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As long as he does not own copyright, he has nothing against you.

I would advise you ignore the email and if it persists, you may want to block his address.

1:40 pm on Sept 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

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IMHO always, always have an attorney respond for you. It is not that expensive and he/she will request the grounds from which they make their claim. This way you will find out for sure if they are serious.

This is a legal matter and I really would not play lawyer if you can possibly help it.

2:54 pm on Sept 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Check archive.org to see if a site previously existed with the domain name. However, if the guy forgot to renew, he has no case whatsoever. There is no "ownership" of a domain - it's more like a fixed-term rental. If you stop paying, you lose it.

I'd ignore the message completely. If you get a real letter from a law firm, rather than vague threats, then get yourself a lawyer yourself. Don't contact him in any way otherwise.

If you are unsure about anything, then consult a lawyer who knows about domain-name disputes - it's the only way of getting a sure answer.

9:24 pm on Sept 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

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You really should see a lawyer. IANAL. However, I'd say NOT until he sues you. Only the artist would have a basis to sue, unless the artist sold the rights to his name to another, in which case the buyer could sue. Sounds like a scam to me, because he obviously doesn't own the domain name. You do. And if he were serious about suing, you should have heard from his lawyer. To sue internationally he'd need a lawyer. If he gets a lawyer, expect the first thing the lawyer would do is contact you directly threatening to sue if you don't hand over the domain name. Even if the lawyer (or him if he acts as his own counsel) goes the ICANN route, last I checked it costs over a $1000 US just to get the ball rolling with a domain name dispute. Any lawyer with half a clue would first contact you direct with the threat of legal action, hoping you'd cave in immediately and hand over the domain name, and saving costs of legal action. I sure as heck wouldn't hand over a domain name of mine just on the basis of an e-mail from some guy in Germany who all I knew about was he was looking for au pair girls.
6:29 pm on Sept 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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thanks for the advice! i wasn't planning to give the domain away just like that and just wanted to know if he could in theory "own" the domain in any way.

now i'm pretty sure it's just a scam and will indeed ignore his mail unless he will email me providing some real proof of why he should own it.

7:12 pm on Sept 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I wouldn't ignore the email, I would reply to it only asking his reasons as to why he feels he owns the name.

Once you have a reply to that email, its is more difficult for him to turn around and say you just ignored his attempts to contact you at a later date.

9:45 pm on Sept 20, 2004 (gmt 0)

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He isn't the legal owner nor are you or the artist.

If the artist's record company or management has registered the artist name as a trademark they dont, per se, have a claim either nor do they own the domain.

Ask him why your "usage of it is not legal" and on what authority does he claim if you don't contact him "this page will be canceled"?.

8:25 am on Sept 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Ask him if he managed to get his au-pair girl - it'll freak him out ;)
11:30 am on Sept 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Over the past 5 years I have probably gotten 500 emails like the one you describe. Reply to the email asking him what his reasons for thinking he owns the domain are, and what his reasons for thinking you are doing anything wrong with it, so that you have a record, as others here pointed out. Then politely tell him to kiss your arse.

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