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Unsolicited Offer For My Personal Domain Name? 542

Posted by kdawson
from the treading-carefully dept.
Batzerto writes "Last Friday I received an unsolicited email offer for my domain — click the link below for the message. Their company name matches my domain, but with a country-specific top level domain (.NL in this case). They do seem to be legitimately using the domain in their country. As for my usage, the domain is my last name(.COM) and I'm only really using it for email. I'm not really that attached to it other than the hassle of changing email addresses. There are other flavors of the domain available (.US for example) that would suit my purposes just fine. So, Slashdot veterans, I ask you, what should I do? I'm leery of making an offer and falling into someone's legal trap. I wouldn't mind getting a chunk of cash out of the deal though."



From: ---
Sent: Friday, August 29, 2008 4:56 AM
To: ---
Subject: sell your domain ?

Dear Sir,

For my company I need the domain --- .
Is it possible to sell your domain to me?

Best Regards
N. de Robles
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Unsolicited Offer For My Personal Domain Name?

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:24PM (#24849331) Journal
    This is capitalism.

    Google bomb your url with their company name by creating a Slashdot user account with their name and submit thousands of stories each week with your url in the homepage. You can also drop the company's name with an href to your url in CNN comments and on comments for popular blogs to get your pagerank up.

    Then inform them that your Search Engine Optimization Chief just caused your URL to be at the top of Google's result list.

    If they fail to triple their offer, begin redirecting to goatse. You should see them quadruple their offer then. It's called hardball.
    • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:27PM (#24849401) Homepage Journal
      I believe the quote that best describes your views on life is "This is why we can't have nice people."

      The offer does seem legitimate, though. Go for it, submitter!
    • by Shakrai (717556) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:28PM (#24849419) Journal

      You should see them quadruple their offer then. It's called hardball.

      Or they bring out the lawyers and everybody loses. It wouldn't be the first time [nissan.com], either.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      This is a trademark issue. If you ask for money for a domain name that includes their trademark, then they have a legal case against you for domain squatting.

      In the end, like most ask slashdot posts, the submitter should go to a lawyer and ask their opinion. The company's offering to buy it, so I don't see any reason that the submitter shouldn't be able to legally ask what price they're willing to pay, but I don't know the particulars of the law.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by iMaple (769378) *

        Well, you can just write them a polite email informing that you use the domain and it is not up for sale. However if they really need the domain, and are willing to recompensate you for the hassle of moving to another domain, you would be willing to help them out.

        That way they can make an offer, are you get into no legal trouble (You clearly show that you do not wish to sell the domain, unless it is to help them out).

        • by gosand (234100) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:48PM (#24849845)

          And I would certainly mention that you own it because it is your name. That would give them the reason why you have it, and that you aren't trying to squat on it.

          Everyone's talking about lawyers and whatnot... what happened to just being polite? I guess lawyers have ruined that too.

          On that note, I wonder if it would hurt your case that you posted the question to Slashdot? It's not hard to figure out the site name as others have posted it already, which would turn up a search result... you get the picture.

          • by richardkelleher (1184251) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:54PM (#24849947) Homepage
            Lawyers do not get involved unless they are invited, but, there is always a lawyer who will take any stupid case that some idiot brings to their door.
            • by antijava (128456) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @05:24PM (#24850481)

              I thought that was vampires.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by joocemann (1273720)

              Lawyers do not get involved unless they are invited, but, there is always a lawyer who will take any stupid case that some idiot brings to their door.

              .. No... you're wrong. They are completely to blame, along with the judicial system that permits their heinous exploits.

          • by QuasiEvil (74356) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @05:25PM (#24850493)

            Everyone's talking about lawyers and whatnot... what happened to just being polite? I guess lawyers have ruined that too.

            Actually, I think you've hit on something there. If you go in with the intent of having a low-key, civil discussion, often times things you would say in the course of those discussions may damage your case if things escalate.

            In your case, I'd state that you own it because it is your name, and have used it for X number of years to provide services X, Y, and Z for yourself. That should help establish the legitimacy of your ownership, and may (IANAL) protect you against any trademark issues. Given that, you'd obviously be losing something of value and have a transition cost, and then invite them make a reasonable offer.

            • by Dare nMc (468959) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @09:27PM (#24853507)

              In your case, I'd state that

              Without legal advice I would be very hesitant to give any non-public information. Even giving public information, that they obviously already know, *might* even be used to imply in a court, by omission, that you have no other claims to the domain. Simply fishing for more information, without making any claims, or anything that might be lost in translation as a threat Would seam safer. (IE re-stating what they already know, may sound more like a "lets fight", than "I also know what you know.")

              Simply, "I have received your letter. I would be interested in receiving any information you are willing to share relating to any plans you may have relating to "mylastname.com" "

              simply to get a feel for "are they legit" and "are they just fishing." before assuming anything more.

          • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @05:53PM (#24850989) Journal

            And I would certainly mention that you own it because it is your name.

            That didn't work too well for Mike Rowe, of Mike Rowe Software. It was genuinely his name, but a certain agressive trademark defender made him give up his domain. (Ref:JFGI)

        • by Bert64 (520050) <bert@NoSPaM.slashdot.firenzee.com> on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @05:51PM (#24850955) Homepage

          If you use it for email, you could possibly request that they forward mail to your username for a certain period of time, as part of the sale agreement.

        • by elgatozorbas (783538) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @06:01PM (#24851131)

          Well, you can just write them a polite email informing that you use the domain and it is not up for sale. However if they really need the domain, and are willing to recompensate you for the hassle of moving to another domain, you would be willing to help them out.

          "It's not for sale, except if you offer me big $$$". What does that make you? Not respectable, I would say. Nothing against selling the name in itself, but don't play childish games (the only reason for which is fear of legal trouble, apparently).

          Only in the US could such a simple situation (one party wants to buy, the other wants to sell) be complicated by the fear of losing a lawsuit.
          (I know, say something bad about the US of A and be modded down, so be it.)

      • by Cyberax (705495) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:42PM (#24849707)

        No. The submitter has a legitimate cause to use this domain name. He's also free to sell it to anyone at whatever price he/she wishes.

        It's mikerowsoft.com all over again.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by zappepcs (820751)

          Exactly... when I think of such problems I always imagine a bespectacled political activist with messed up hair, staring intently at the screen of his computer. As the camera pans around to see what is on the screen you see him trying to register his name as a domain ....

          www.asshole.com

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by WoodstockJeff (568111)

        Yes, and the company should immediately stop using the name in the .NL TLD, because it is quite likely the poster had a legitimate claim on it going back hundreds of years, along with all variations on the theme for the way the name has been represented in written records as language evolved.

        Some years back, a national phone company wanted our company's domain, because it matched their stock ticker. We told them $25,000 buys it. Their stock was delisted (for falling below $1 for too long) before they came u

      • by ArTourter (991396) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @05:05PM (#24850105)

        There is an exception to this which is valid in this case. The trademark in question (if it is a trademark, as the submission is not explicit here), is the last name of the person owning the domain. In this case, the last name should take precedence over the trademark [wipo.int] unless it was registered "in bad faith".

        It appears that the Respondent registered the Domain Name in order to be identified by his surname, in line therefore with the provision of paragraph 4(c)(ii) of the Policy.[...]The use of one's own surname in a domain name corresponds to a legitimate customary practice and is, as a rule, sufficient evidence of a legitimate right or interest in the domain name. The scope of the Policy is limited to cybersquatting. Trademark owners shall not be allowed to use the Policy to dispossess summarily a third party of a domain name reflecting his or her surname (G.A. Modefine S.A. v. A. R. Mani, WIPO Case No.D2001-0537).

      • by rfc1394 (155777) <Paul@paul-robinson.us> on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @05:34PM (#24850687) Homepage Journal

        This is a trademark issue. If you ask for money for a domain name that includes their trademark, then they have a legal case against you for domain squatting.

        Not if they came to him first. And not if his name is the same as theirs. I can open a store called "Paul Robinson's Department Store" and the currently existing Robinson's Department Store (actually J.W. Robinson or Robinson-May depending on what part of the U.S. they're in) chain has no grounds to stop me (especially if I included the note "Not affiliated with the J.W. Robinson Co." on the entrance door of my store); one may always use one's birth name (or married name in the case of a woman, since men don't change their names when they get married) to do business even if it is identical to an existing company in the same line of business.

        Further, they would have to argue that they are well known in the United States and also that he has no legitimate use for the domain. As I just pointed out, one always has a legitimate use of one's own name.

        • by Zordak (123132) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @07:32PM (#24852357) Homepage Journal

          And not if his name is the same as theirs. I can open a store called "Paul Robinson's Department Store" and the currently existing Robinson's Department Store (actually J.W. Robinson or Robinson-May depending on what part of the U.S. they're in) chain has no grounds to stop me (especially if I included the note "Not affiliated with the J.W. Robinson Co." on the entrance door of my store); one may always use one's birth name (or married name in the case of a woman, since men don't change their names when they get married) to do business even if it is identical to an existing company in the same line of business

          This is not true. If you use a name that is confusingly similar to another's trademark, the fact that it is your own name does not make it okay. The whole point of trademark is to enable consumer's to identify the source of goods and services based on a known mark. If everybody with the last name of McDonald was able to open a burger joint called "McDonald's," that purpose would be frustrated. Consumers would be confused because they wouldn't know if this McDonald's was going to sell them a low-quality slapped-together microwaved piece of McCrap, or if this one happened to be some mom-and-pop knockoff instead.

          As for the domain name, if it's not that important, sell it. If they make a legitimate offer (like "We will buy your domain for $X") and you accept it, you have a contract. They can't then go to a court and say, "Look, he's trying to fleece us." (But that's not legal advice. Hire a lawyer)

    • Google bomb your url with their company name by creating a Slashdot user account with their name and submit thousands of stories each week with your url in the homepage. You can also drop the company's name with an href to your url in CNN comments and on comments for popular blogs to get your pagerank up.

      That's a great way for the Dutch company to sue you in a federal court for trademark infringement, and they'll win if you follow this route. If you use their name, and your url, that's just asking for trou

    • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jesterzog (189797) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:41PM (#24849697) Homepage Journal

      If they fail to triple their offer, begin redirecting to goatse. You should see them quadruple their offer then. It's called hardball.

      If you wanted to be really evil and as much of a bastard as a typical domain squatter for some reason, then sure. But why? By doing what you've suggested, you also end up polluting Slashdot, CNN and Google with crap, which is no better than your average link spammer.

      There are many domains which people own that they're not particularly attached to and would be happy to sell. For someone looking in from outside, it's reasonable to think that this might be one of them, particularly if it's not immediately clear that the person's using it. (Lack of a website would imply this to some people.)

      All they've done so far is politely ask if they can buy it. The request was short on words but that looks more like translation issues rather than an angry demand to hand over from a corporation full of lawyers. It could just as easily be someone's small family business which thought it'd be useful to have .com on the end of their name. How else are they supposed to find out if the owner's interested in selling if not by asking?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by idontgno (624372)

      Another installment in the ongoing saga, "Why no one should ever, ever, ever Ask Slashdot".

      BTW, there is no URL. The domain in question is email only. So there's nothing to SEO. Kthxbye.

  • Trap (Score:3, Informative)

    by Jaysyn (203771) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `todhsals+nysyaj'> on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:25PM (#24849343) Homepage Journal

    Can they accuse you of domainsquatting if you ask for money or something like that?

    Seems like I've heard similar horror stories of people losing their domains because they asked someone to make an offer.

    • by Drakin020 (980931)
      I didn't think that was the case as long as the domain was actually in use, rather than just sitting.
    • Re:Trap (Score:4, Informative)

      by smilindog2000 (907665) <bill@billrocks.org> on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:34PM (#24849557) Homepage

      Since this is his actual name, it's technically not domain squatting. Here's what I'd do. Just ask for a few thousand dollars. It's not enough to piss off the buyer, or to convince him to send lawyers to take the domain by force.

      I know someone here in Chapel Hill, NC who realized how slow the South was picking up on the web. He bought several domain names, of local businesses, and asked for $2,000 any time they asked for the domain. The amount was too low to bother with lawyers, so they just paid it. It's slimy, and I wouldn't do such a thing, but in this case, the guy's just being asked for his personal domain.

      Here's my favorite domain related suit [digest.com]. This guy's name is Nissan, and so is his business.

  • On the condition... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DavidpFitz (136265) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:26PM (#24849373) Homepage Journal

    Sell it, on the condition that you can keep your email address on the domain.

    Win-win!

  • of transferring to your new domain. It might not amount to much, but it is something, and doesn't put you in the greedy category.

    you might also want to ask them about forwarding your mail for a period of time or sending a special bouncygram back with your new email address.

  • by Idaho (12907) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:28PM (#24849425)

    As you probably noticed yourself, it's likely a legal trap; if you show that you're interested in taking money for the domain name, they will then use that as an argument during legal proceedings that you're a domain name squatter.

    So simply don't respond.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by CogDissident (951207)
      Isn't it illegal to trick someone into doing something illegal?
      • by Awptimus Prime (695459) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:40PM (#24849655)

        This is /., people would rather get wrapped up in a 1/1,000,000 chance of something being a big trap than suggest this guy try and profit.

        I've sold three domains I was legitimately using and made a pretty nice wad of cash. They all initiated with similar emails. The highest one being $19k USD.

        Let fear reign and opportunity escape.

        • by sjf (3790) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @05:15PM (#24850285)

          This is the internet. If you're not browsing with your credibility threshold set to "999,999/1,000,000 offers are scams," then I've got some little blue pills I'd like to sell you - I'm the manager of an implausibly sounding bank in Nigeria, and if you'd just pay some advance fees, I can increase your bust size while you make money at home !

        • by bigtallmofo (695287) * on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @07:55PM (#24852593)
          I've sold three domains I was legitimately using and made a pretty nice wad of cash.

          I registered a domain name about 6 years ago with the intent of starting a company that offered a service pertinent to the domain. It was a mashup of two words that I created myself. About 3 months after registering it I got an email from someone in Israel asking me if I would consider selling it. My response was along the lines of, "No, I hadn't considered selling it but so that I can compare with what I had planned to do with it, could you let me know your offer?" He came back and said $1,000. That is not a lot of money, but I had a pipeline of about 20 other web projects in front of the one I was considering for this domain so I took it.

          We did an escrow.com jobby and everything worked flawlessly.
          • Escrow.com (Score:4, Interesting)

            by hedronist (233240) * on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @09:36PM (#24853589)

            +1 on escrow.com

            I sold a domain 2 years ago using escrow.com and everything went smooth as silk. To this day I do not know who the buyer was, but his agent handled a few details, and the money was wire transfered - ba da bing.

            This was a domain I registered back in 1992 and I got an ridiculous amount for it. But if I knew then what I know now ... Sigh. I could have had sex.com, auto.com, business.com, etc.com. Sigh. Back to working on the perpetual motion machine.

    • by cecom (698048) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:40PM (#24849659) Homepage Journal
      I saw this in several comments already. Think, people, think ! :-) How the f*ck can be considered a domain name squatter if the domain carries his own name ??
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by swillden (191260)

        I saw this in several comments already. Think, people, think ! :-) How the f*ck can be considered a domain name squatter if the domain carries his own name ??

        That's what I tried to tell the judge when he took away my son's domain name. I mean if it's your NAME don't you have some right to it?

        On an unrelated note, my son's name is mircosoft.

    • No, not likely (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:49PM (#24849859)

      Legal proceedings are expensive, lengthy, and not guaranteed. Thus a company would rather pay a reasonable sum to just get what they want, rather than have a fight. If you make them a reasonable offer, maybe a grand or two for your trouble, they'll likely accept.

      The company my father used to work for went through this. They wanted a domain that a guy had. So they contacted him and offered him $10,000. They figured, as it was just a personal site, that he'd jump at it. It was an easy way to get what they wanted, and not a lot of money in the scheme of a company's operations. However, the guy decided that he wanted millions. Well, then they took him to court and won. However it probably cost them over $10,000 in legal fees.

      So, if you respond with something like "Yes I'd be willing to sell my domain. However, there is going to be some inconvenience in dealing with a transition. So if you'd agree to $2000 to cover my expenses, I'd be happy to sell." I'd bet they go for it. That's not expensive to a company, and it makes everything real easy.

      • Re:No, not likely (Score:4, Informative)

        by tsalmark (1265778) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @05:07PM (#24850139) Homepage
        In all correspondence I'd use the term transfer in place of sell.
      • Re:No, not likely (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fermion (181285) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @05:24PM (#24850477) Homepage Journal
        So, it is as the consensus of the comments suggest. If you sell it for inconvenience money, then they will probably pay the money and go away. If you choose not to sell it for a price they wish to pay, then they may take you to court. If you were foolish enough to fall into their trap and offer to sell, then they will use this to take away your property even if you don't wish to sell it.

        What people don't seem to understand is that really, in the scheme of things, if I own something it is mine. The legal system should protect that. If I don't want to sell it, then I don't, in most cases, have to. One way of saying I don't want to sell it is to offer it for an insane amount of money.

        Taking used to be used primarily for government sponsored project. Now it is used because some random company thinks that just because they can make money with a property, they should own it. This is why this question came up, and why the guy should try to protect himself. It is your domain name, fair in square. Even if you are squatting, there is a element of possession being nine tenth of the law. As the parent indicate, there are people who will do anything to take things that they want, unless the owner is willing to accept a token amount to 'voluntarily surrender the property'. This is not good. Sure, maybe trademarks need to be protected, but if my name is Coke, is there some fundamental reason why the beverage company has a higher claim on it than I do? If I had the foresight to register the domain, should I not be allowed to profit off that foresight? Is there something in the free market that one is allowed to make money unless it pisses off the multinationals?

        • Re:No, not likely (Score:4, Interesting)

          by ultranova (717540) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @06:30PM (#24851543)

          Sure, maybe trademarks need to be protected, but if my name is Coke, is there some fundamental reason why the beverage company has a higher claim on it than I do?

          Yes: supreme power. In the end, that's the only thing that truly matters. Everything else is just philosophy, which is fine as long as everyone plays along nicely; but when it goes down to a fight, might wins over right.

          Is there something in the free market that one is allowed to make money unless it pisses off the multinationals?

          "Free market" is also free in the sense that the 500-pound gorillas are free to squeeze you underfoot. That's why I lean towards socialism myself; a single gorilla - the government - is easier to handle and if necessary distract than the small number of King Kong corporations of libertarianism or the endless hordes of rampaging killer apes of anarchism.

          Yes, I'm very cynical.

  • by qoncept (599709)
    I don't know what to do about squeezing them for money, but I wouldn't get any a domain under any TLD other than .com for email. People are idiots and couldn't find my domain (at .org) even after I added .org to the application's name that the site hosted (after taking a cue from open office).
  • www.zerba.com (Score:5, Informative)

    by Stubtify (610318) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:31PM (#24849505)

    I think this is the website in question.

    Don't know if I crossed a line, but it took all of 1 second on the google.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:32PM (#24849515)

    A lonely girl has sent me an email seeking a relationship. I am a man and this sounds good. Should I seek to get into a relationship with this unknown but self admitted pretty girl?

  • Sales 101 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kagato (116051) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:42PM (#24849711)

    Tell them you'll entertain offers. If they throw out a number, it can only go up. If you throw out a number, it can only go down.

    • by Solandri (704621) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @05:50PM (#24850929)

      If the domain were just his name, none of this would matter. But the fact that the company's name matches the domain makes it a potential trademark dispute, so you must be mindful of ICANN's Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy [icann.org]. It explicitly lists several types of "bad faith" registrations, and the first one is acquiring a domain primarily for the purposes of selling it. If you throw out a number, that can be interpreted as evidence of intent to sell, and thus bad faith and grounds for losing your domain.

      Instead, get them to make an offer first. Something like, "I hadn't really thought about selling it, but my bills have been getting kind of high recently. How much were you thinking?" Although the most bulletproof is, "Sorry, not interested" and hope they make an offer.

      Go to Moniker's domain auction site [moniker.com] for some ballpark figures of how much domains similar to yours are selling for.

  • Offer to Post Link (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Deton8 (522248) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:43PM (#24849741)
    As others have noted, offering to sell your domain to them can be used as evidence of bad faith if there is other evidence you are cybersquatting. However, you can write them a letter and say you aren't really interested in selling the domain, what with the heavy email use you've been making with it for years, but if they request it you will put a link on the front page which says "Looking for Zerba the fashion designer? Click: www.zerba.nl" You could also offer to forward email to specific accounts to them if applicable -- in my case I have the dot-com for a name which some bloodsucking lawyer has the dot-net for, and people are forever sending me his mail. I have set up auto-forwards for all the accounts that seem popular at his office (so that I'm not accused of looking at private legal mail).
  • DNS is your friend (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:48PM (#24849855) Homepage Journal

    Keep it, but offer to lease DNS records to them. Basically, rent "www IN A ....." while keeping control of the domain itself.

  • I had a good sale (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:50PM (#24849883)

    I recently sold my domain to a french company that reached me in a similar way. I told them i had no interest in selling the domain as I use it for personal and business reasons. I told them if they wanted to buy my company, then to make a reasonable offer (but again I had no interest in selling the domain at this time).

    They provided a very attractive offer and I did end up selling the domain. They simply redirect the .com to their french site. I got 6 months of email forwarding.

    My experience was good, but that does not seem to be what people here are saying...

  • by zchang (1068706) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:52PM (#24849923)
    You may be using it for email now, but who's to say whether you or any of your relations will develop some sort of product in the future that can be marketed via your .com address. It is, after all, your own name so you have sufficient right to hold the address without anyone accusing you of cyber squatting.

    Similarly, there's a chance that the company will grow much larger in the future and their buy out offer will increase. Consider it an investment.

    Simply add a redirect link at the top of the page. "Perhaps you were looking for company X? They can be found at [their URL]."
  • Be smart (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AeiwiMaster (20560) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:52PM (#24849929)

    If you only use the email then
    keep the MX record pointed on you server.

    An the rent them the domain for there web server.

  • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:57PM (#24849979)

    ......a dick.

    Seriously. We all complain about the bullshit that surrounds us on a daily basis here at /. yet we see posts like the 1st one up. I am hoping he was being funny/sarcastic (as he was properly modded).

    Try being the good guy, write them an HONEST email explaining your concerns, and ask them for a reasonable offer. You will always retain the right to reject (unless you foolishly give it away). So, what have you got to lose by being honest about things up front? IF, and I emphasize, IF, it ends up in a courtroom, you will have already scored some points in that you will be able to prove a good-faith effort to remedy the situation.

    While I can agree with the "talk to a lawyer" suggestions, to some extent, I do feel that lawyers are sometimes wholly unnecessary and are merely a moneypit. Send the email, get a response, and then decide whether or not a lawyer is called for. And don't forget your gut. It talks to you. Listen.

  • by MarkvW (1037596) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @04:57PM (#24849995)

    The letter is very unbusinesslike. Its grammar is poor. It doesn't have the 'look and feel' of something legitimate. Most interestingly, the email conveys absolutely nothing to identify the potential purchaser.

    If somebody doesn't have the time or ability to compose a good email, I would suspect that they wouldn't have the money to fund a substantial domain name purchase either.

    If somebody isn't going to tell you (verifiably) who they are, why would you want to do business with them?

    This smells bad.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by poptaart (1332969)

      Actually the style of the email and the grammatical errors are very Dinglish. (Dutch + English). Especially the closing and the way he signed his full (first initial last name). Most dutch people rarely include their full first name in correspondence, usually using only their first few initials. This is proper business etiquette. On the flip side, in the news, the first name last initial is commonly used to "anonymously" name suspected criminals who want to stay anon, for example Ali G.

      Seeing as he comes fr

    • Alternate hypothesis (Score:4, Interesting)

      by rewt66 (738525) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @05:15PM (#24850297)

      Maybe the sender is:
      - a person who does not have English as their first language, and/or
      - a techie?

      That would account for the rough grammar and the informality.

      I mean, seriously, if an IT guy from .NL wrote it, would you really expect it to read like an American lawyer wrote it?

  • by lakeland (218447) <lakeland@acm.org> on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @05:08PM (#24850165) Homepage

    Think about it from their perspective. They're probably worried they're missing out on a small number of customers who inadvertantly go to your site instead of theirs.

    I would guess their lost revenue is low to very low, so don't get greedy. There are plenty of reasonable alternatives that could be worked out to make you both happy. Examples:

    A priminent link on your website to theirs would be my favourite - sell it to them as 'advertising space' or donate it if they seem nice and you can't be bothered collecting a few dollars.

    Offer to sell them a HTTP redirect service and keep the domain yourself.

    Sell them the www subdomain but keep the MX pointing to you.

    Sell them the domain and ask for an email alias.

    Think of it as a normal business transaction between two individuals. Bargain in good faith and you're not opening yourself up to much legally. Try to charge something outrageous and you're likely to fall foul of the squatter rules.

  • by Spazmania (174582) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @05:13PM (#24850263) Homepage

    This happened to me back in 1999. Actually, it happened to me a lot, but 1999 was when I finally won the domain name lottery.

    I told him the same thing I tell everyone who asks: "Well, I'm not really looking to sell my domain name but feel free to make me an offer."

    He said, "I'll give you $5000."

    I said, "That's a reasonable offer, but I have both the .com and the .org and I'd want to sell them as a pair."

    He said, "Okay, I'll give you $5000 each."

    I said, "That's a very fair offer. I need to think about what it would take me to change my address and migrate everything off the name."

    A week later he called and asked for my decision. I said, "You made me a very fair offer. I'm still thinking it through. Give me a little more time."

    A few days later he called and asked for my decision. I said, "You made me a very fair offer. I'm still thinking it through. Give me a little more time."

    He said, "Look, I need to move forward, have graphics made for my business and so on. If you'll decide now, I'll double my offer."

    I said, "Give me one hour. I'll call you back in an hour."

    An hour later I said, "$20k? Done."

    Down payment on my house, right before the real estate market headed for the sky.

  • by rfc1394 (155777) <Paul@paul-robinson.us> on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @05:23PM (#24850467) Homepage Journal

    Several years ago I registered a domain name for something I was trying which I was thinking about. Some guy, whose last name was the same as the domain I registered asked me if I'd be interested in selling it. Well, I needed the money so I quoted a reasonable offer. After the check cleared I did a change of the owner from me to him.

    I took his personal check because he was in the U.S., the rules are very different when it's an international transaction. (I once paid for a shareware registration to a guy in Canada using a personal check drawn on a U.S. bank, I presume Canadian banks have no problem handling those; but I wouldn't accept anything but a guaranteed payment for an international transaction.)

    Since the possibility of fraud is high when the buyer is outside the same country (on low value transactions where there's no money to chase them if you can't recover it), you make sure it's a guaranteed payment. I would suggest either wire transfer (and make sure the payment additionally includes your bank's incoming wire transfer fee) or Western Union for the same reason scammers use them: so the money is guaranteed and can't be revoked or a fraudulent transfer such as a forged check. Especially since the funds transfer is from a foreign country, it might cost you $30 or more to clear a check issued on a bank in some other country, presuming you don't get the check back in six or eight weeks as a forgery. If they want a written bill of sale or something, fine. But you get guaranteed payment before they get the domain.

    Another option if the amount of the sale is not over the limit: set up a new, fresh account using Paypal or Google Checkout that goes to a new checking account at a bank (other than the one you do business with now) that will allow you to open one with no monthly fee (and check the paperwork they give you, sometimes they sneak fees in there), then, once the transfer clears, take all the money out except a token amount ($1) in cash, and then deposit the cash in your other account. Or close the account as you no longer need it.

    This way, they can't undo the transaction and you've got the cash. Even if they try to reverse the transaction, the bank can't reverse it because you didn't use paper; if you took a bank check from them they could reverse the payment to your bank. Also you don't want to use the same bank as your own because they can use set off if the other side tries to renege on the transaction.

    In fact, if they are going to use wire transfer, use a new account because I suspect the information needed for an incoming wire is the same as could be used for an outgoing one, and they might be able to siphon money out of your account. Or check with your bank to find out how to have a wire transfer that doesn't allow them to extract money from you, but I think wire transfers are ridiculous because of the fact that your bank charges you for the incoming transfer as well.

    Automatic red flag: if they offer you more and want you to arrange something to send them money back. 99.9999999999999999999999999999999% of the time it's a scam for them to rip someone else off and leave you on the hook to make the person they stole from whole, since they can't be found, but you can.

    I just went and looked it up for an example transaction, a Western Union transfer of $1,000 from Netherlands to the U.S. is about 711 Euros and costs around 41 Euros for the transaction, probably less than it would cost them for both ends of a wire transfer. If you're charging less than $1000 for the domain, the transfer fee to them will probably be less.

    If you do these things and the transaction goes through, it hasn't cost you anything but a little time and you've protected yourself.

    Otherwise it's no different from selling anything you own to someone else. A domain name has a registered owner, you transfer the registration to someone else, they own it. Most personal property doesn't have registered owners, if you sell something they just t

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by merreborn (853723)

      then, once the transfer clears, take all the money out except a token amount ($1) in cash, and then deposit the cash in your other account. Or close the account as you no longer need it.

      This way, they can't undo the transaction and you've got the cash. Even if they try to reverse the transaction, the bank can't reverse it because you didn't use paper; if you took a bank check from them they could reverse the payment to your bank. Also you don't want to use the same bank as your own because they can use set

  • by drgreening (594381) * <dan AT greening DOT org> on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @05:54PM (#24850995) Homepage

    You should solidify your ownership of the domain immediately, and consider specifics about offers, etc. later.

    I had an interesting challenge to my ownership of the Chaco.com domain. We were using it legitimately to host material on Chaco Canyon, as well as hosting our MUD client (formerly owned by our company Chaco Communications). And yet, we were challenged by Chaco Sandals. The challenge was close; we almost lost the domain, just because we were a little sloppy.

    The details are here:

    http://domains.adrforum.com/domains/decisions/791739.htm [adrforum.com]

    Based on my experience, I would suggest that you get all the domain ownership issues in a solid form: Use your own name, make sure the addresses are correct and usable, don't use a "privacy filter" like GoDaddy sells to hide your identity.

    Good luck.

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @06:59PM (#24851921) Journal

    First - ignore it. If they're really interested and legitimate, they'll ask again, more than likely with a number attached.

    If they contact you a second time (and they will if there's a CEO prodding an underling to get the name), tell them that you are not interested, as you currently are using the domain for (insert several uses here) and after (length of time you've owed it) of regular use, the effort to switch to another name would be a significant burden.

    Rinse and repeat until either the number they throw at you is large enough to cover your legal bills for escrow, transfer agreements and execution (I would budget $5-10k) and clear enough to really make a difference in your finances. That might be $10k or $100k or more depending on your situation. If they don't come back, then you get to keep your domain.

    If you get close to an agreement, I would seriously consider leasing the domain name as suggested above instead of selling, if you can't give up your email address. Put a 10 year lease on it with an option to purchase at the end. You can then get - and transfer - all your stuff over to a .us (or other) domain during that time, while requiring through the lease deal that they use forwarding to keep your emails coming at least during the lease period. Having had my domain for a decade, and having missed my .com by 3 months, I would opt for the lease or nothing short of $100k.

  • by stonewolf (234392) on Tuesday September 02, 2008 @07:18PM (#24852167) Homepage

    I also own the .com version of my name. In my case my last name is the name of a company that does about $100 million a year and has had a trademark on my name and a few versions of it for over a 100 years.

    I can tell you for a fact that companies that are serious about getting your domain name do not send you a polite email asking to buy it. They have their agent or lawyer send a registered letter and follow up with a phone call.

    Most likely the guy who contacted you won't pay you enough to make it worth the hassle of changing your email address. But, speaking as someone who has turned down offers ranging from a couple of shirts (no, I am not making that up, they were very nice wool shirts...) to $20,000 for my domain name and as someone who has been threatened with being sued over my ownership and use of the domain name 6 times over the last 12 years here are a few things to think about.

    1) It is your name. (The web cred for being first-name @ last-name . com is incredible.)

    2) It will only become more valuable with time.

    3) Don't fall into the nice guy trap. You are not doing this guy a favor, he doesn't give a shit about you. This is no different than if someone walked up and offered to buy your truck. (That has happened to me too.) You have something he wants, but you want it too. You do not have to share.

    4) Research the company. What does D&B say about them? How much can they afford to spend? How much is the domain really worth to them?

    5) Never never never tell them what you will sell it for. No matter what price you mention they will make a lower counter offer and will never (well... almost never) pay what you ask. More importantly, they will pay *no more* than what they *think* it is worth to them. If you quote a price that price will be the maximum they will pay. If they quote the first price that price will be the minimum they will pay.

    6) If the sale is contingent on your getting a .us domain then make sure you have that domain before you finish the deal. My dear friends went out and grabbed all the names I might want as an alternate domain just so they could use them as bargaining chips.

    7) If they make an offer get a lawyer. Do not reply to an offer until you have a lawyer. BTW, a *good* intellectual property lawyer is not cheap The first one I tried to talk to wanted a $30,000 retainer. So, I had to go with a not very good lawyer... BTW, you should note that the cost of a *good* lawyer started out $10,000 higher than anyone ever offered for the name.

    My best advice is to send back a polite email asking what he is offering. When the reply turns out to be less than $100 you can laugh, tell the guy to blow you, and at least know you had the fun of getting a personal question posted on /.

    Oh yeah... in the end I still own the name and I am in the hole a few thousand for legal bills. I am pretty happy about that. They could have sued (even though they would have lost) and bankrupted me with the legal fees of winning the suit.

    Stonewolf

  • Spam (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ChameleonDave (1041178) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @12:09AM (#24854817) Homepage

    Is that one e-mail all the correspondence you have?

    Why are you assuming that this is real? I had an offer for my website a while ago, and I replied, but got no further response.

    It became clear to me that it was simply spam, probably sent to the "contact@" address of thousands of sites. By replying, I simply confirmed the e-mail address, and made it slightly more valuable for spam.

  • by PhotoGuy (189467) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @01:29AM (#24855297) Homepage

    Until you find out how much they are willing to offer. Just tell them "there is no set price, but you're open to offers."

    I've received inquiries like this all the time for some domains I own. The typical offer is about $100.

    Foreign entities that happen to match your name (unless your name is Coke or Nike) are unlikely to be multinational fortune 500 companies.

    It never hurts to ask for offers, but in all likelihood, you're not going to get rich, nor is it even going to be worth the technical trouble involved in a transition.

  • Be careful (Score:3, Informative)

    by jamie (78724) * Works for Slashdot <jamie@slashdot.org> on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @08:43AM (#24857479) Journal

    It's been some [slashdot.org] time [slashdot.org] since I've followed WIPO domain-name issues...

    ...but I think I still know the most important rules.

    The deck is stacked against you. But, you can still "win" (trade your domain for some money) if you know the rules.

    The most important two rules are:

    (1) Be prepared to document your legitimate uses of the site.

    Since you've already been contacted, it won't help you now to put a bunch of "real content" up at the site's web address. But it sounds like you've been using it for email for some time now. You may want to search mailing list archives online to find old examples of your sending legitimate emails using the domain. If any are for vaguely-business purposes, so much the better.

    I don't imagine you'll need notarized statements from friends and relatives confirming that you've been emailing them from this domain for X period of time. But if this goes to a UDRP action, you may want to get them anyway!

    You're already on pretty good ground here if the domain really is just your last name. But it still doesn't hurt to have documentation ready.

    (2) Don't make careless offers; know what "bad faith" is.

    The other company approaching you is great. You don't have to do anything, they're the ones putting themselves out there.

    But if you write back and say "I'll take a million dollars for it," or "how about a hundred dollars," you're putting yourself at a little risk. The risk in both cases is that now WIPO will treat you as attempting to profit from the domain. The specific risk of making an outrageously high offer is that you can be treated as not bargaining in good faith; the specific risk of making a lowball offer is that they may accept it and you'll (in the end) have to give it up for that.

    Be very cagy about even beginning the bargaining process. Instead of naming a price, or even stating your serious intent to sell, you might begin with

    "I wasn't planning on selling it, so I didn't have a price in mind. I'm using it and it would be inconvenient to give it up. But if you're really interested, make me an offer."

    This establishes from the beginning that your purpose in originally acquiring the domain was not to profit by reselling it. In particular, not to profit by reselling it to someone who holds a trademark on the domain name -- that will definitely get it taken away from you on grounds of "bad faith." You further establish this by not stating a price, which could also be taken as evidence of bad faith.

    If you get an offer that you're willing to accept, get them to send it in writing, not email, of course. Depending on how much money it is, it may be worth a trademark lawyer's fee to either draw up a quick contract or confirm that their offer is something you'd be willing to sign. (And do find a lawyer who knows something about trademark.)

    If you get an offer that you're not willing to accept, do not make a counteroffer with a specific price. Don't even say you'd sell it for a higher amount. Say rather something like,

    "I'm not interested in selling the domain at that price. If you'd like to make another offer, I'd be willing to consider it."

    Until you have their signature on paper, your primary goal is not to do or say anything that could be taken as evidence that you have either registered or used the domain in bad faith, because that will let them simply take it away from you and you'll get nothing. And if they hold a trademark on your name, your asking for money is evidence of bad faith.

    If you think you're able to bargain while following those rules, then first go read about the UDRP and get the real, formal definitions of the rules instead of my paraphrases. I'll let you google it; also, google on [udrp site:slashdot.org] for examples of how the deck has been stacked against individuals like yourself since 1999. Good luck.

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