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The Internet Technology

Domain-Name Wars, Rise of the Cybersquatters 183

CWmike writes "When FreeLegoPorn.com began publishing pornographic images created with Lego toys, Lego acted quickly. "The content available on the site consisted of animated mini-figures doing very explicit things. We were not amused," says Peter Kjaer, an attorney for Denmark-based Lego. Lego didn't go to court. Instead it filed a complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organization, which ruled in its favor. The domain registrar for FreeLegoPorn.com, GoDaddy.com, eventually shut down the site and transferred the domain name to Lego under ICANN rules. But it's not just Lego and Verizon that are suffering. Green energy is a hot topic, so cybersquatters have been targeting wind and solar energy start-ups. And malicious sites can create havoc with a brand's reputation. Cybersquatting activity rose by 18% last year, with a documented 440,584 cybersquatting sites in the fourth quarter of last year alone, according to MarkMonitor's annual Brandjacking Index report. And WIPO cited an 8% jump in dispute filings in 2008, to 2,329 complaints — a new record. Now, ICANN is preparing to open a potentially unlimited number of new top-level domains as early as the first quarter of 2010."
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Domain-Name Wars, Rise of the Cybersquatters

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  • by Delusion_ ( 56114 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @04:25PM (#28487757) Homepage

    freelegoporn.com is not cybersquatting. It's parody. The difference is crucial.

    Just because a rights-holder says otherwise doesn't make it so.

    • As someone pointed out, courts are inconsistent.

      Unless FreeLegoPorn knew they judges they would face would rule against them due to locally-binding precedent, they should have sued to regain the name.

      This is parody.

      If the local judges were likely to rule against them they should have relocated their corporate headquarters to a more judicially friendly venue, picked a new similar equally-"infringing" name, and pre-emptively sued to declare that their use was not a trademark infringement. Then once they won

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Delusion_: freelegoporn.com is not cybersquatting. It's parody. The difference is crucial.

      Just because a rights-holder says otherwise doesn't make it so.

      Seconded. In fact, I remember another case where the court—wrongly—grabbed a domain name simply because of its resemblance to another site: etoy.com [etoy.com] vs. etoys.com [etoys.com]. etoy came first, but somehow eToys managed to suck up to a judge and lay claim to etoy.com, however temporarily. It may have had something to do with the fact that eToys thought i

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        Personally, I set up an etoy.com zone in my DNS server pointing to the rightful owners. Hardly a deadly counterattack, just my private protest of that very bad decision.

      • by hords ( 619030 )
        Years ago, a friend and I used to own sandels.com and we were selling shoes on it. Sandals Resorts filed a complaint on WIPO and ended up taking the domain from us. They must have let it go, because now some cybersquatter is using the domain to advertise travel, cruises, etc. Seems silly to spend so much money to get the domain, only to let it go again.
    • by Sorthum ( 123064 )

      Most definitely correct. This issue may become more and more relevant as soon as ICANN-has-more-domains.

  • IMHO (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jaysyn ( 203771 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @04:25PM (#28487765) Homepage Journal

    It sounds like LEGO are being IP bullies. If they can do that to FreeLegoPorn.com, they can probably do it to LEGOSucks.com.

    • Re:IMHO (Score:5, Funny)

      by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @04:34PM (#28487871)

      penismightier.com? Who will think of the pen companies?
      analbumcover.com? Who will think of the RIAA?
      therapists.com? Who will think if the US Therapy association?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by jonbryce ( 703250 )

        If you read the first one as a five letter word + eight letter word, it has nothing to do with pens.

        A bit like the Italian division of a company called Powergen.

    • by migla ( 1099771 )

      I do think "LEGO" should be allowed in any address, because "Free-You-know-what-plastic-figures-Porn" is silly.

      But they won't stop you from dedicating a site to animations of LEGO figures humping, as long as you don't have "LEGO" in the adress, right?

  • "The domain registrar for FreeLegoPorn.com, GoDaddy.com, eventually shut down the site and transferred the domain name to Lego under ICANN rules." So if a domain name uses a trademarked name in an 'offensive' manner, it's perfectly fine to strip ownership of the domain from the person who registered it and then give it to the company whose name was used? - Similar situation from 2003: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/04/nyregion/04AMBE.html [nytimes.com] There are a few domain names I wanted that the damn domain name res
    • Ever tried looking for something short, sweet, and pronouncable in a way that's unambiguous with respect to the way it's spelled, and that doesn't mean anything in particular? All such domains are gone. If you want something like 'google' you're going to have to pay extra for it. ( although googol/google is ambiguous spelling wise the fact that googol is alot and google indexes alot of sites counterbalances this negative )
    • You're not the first person to notice that the domain name system is under the control of an organisation that puts "intellectual property" rights above everything else. That's a situation that most people on Slashdot would normally be wary of. But proposals to put the control of the system under a more representative governance - for example, to hand it over to a representative international organization - are represented as attempts by the evil United Nations to "take over the internet".
  • The way it should be (Score:4, Interesting)

    by C_Kode ( 102755 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @04:32PM (#28487857) Journal

    They should make it where the price of a domain doubles for each domain you have registered.

    1. $35
    2. $70
    3. $105 ...etc.

    That would raise the annual price of owning two domains to $105 and $210 for three, $420 for four, $840 for five and so on. That keeps the price relatively cheap for people who just want a personal domain or small businesses, but the domain squaters will be rendered out of business for the most part.

    I want to see someone squat 1,000 domains at those prices.

    • Quite a few large businesses have many domains. For example, Ford might own each and every brand name they have as a domain. Similarly, food companies could own a domain for each and every food brand.
      • It would be worth it for Ford to pay for fifty domains.

        It would not be worth it for domain squatters to pay for hundreds, or even dozens.

        • It would be utterly unaffordable for Ford to pay for fifty domains.

          FTFT. http://www.google.com/search?q=2%5E50*35 [google.com]

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by gurps_npc ( 621217 )
          You are obviously not a math major. Doubling 50 times is prohibitively expensive. Try it at 1 cent. 1 =1, 2 = 2, 3 = 4, 4 = 8, 5 = 16, 6 = 32, 7 = 64, 8 = 128, 9 = 256, 10 = 512, 11 = $10 and 24 cents, drop the pennies. so each 10 = x1000. 21= $10,000 (plus change) 31= $10,000,000 (plus change) 41 = $10 billion (plus change) 51 would be $10 trillion (plus change). I doubt ford could pay for 30 domains using this silly idea, even starting at 1 penny.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by cortesoft ( 1150075 )

          Wow your math sucks. But don't worry, I will teach you math.. and it will only cost you a penny today, and then we will just double the cost every day after that for a month or so.

      • by bwhaley ( 410361 ) <<spam4ben> <at> <gmail.com>> on Friday June 26, 2009 @05:09PM (#28488379)

        One could argue that this is abusing the domain name system's original intent. To continue your example, why does Ford need taurus.com, fusion.com, mustang.com, etc? They should be using subdomains: taurus.ford.com. mustang.ford.com. The make and model are both instantly more recognizable, as is the Ford brand in general.

        The Internet would be a better place if the marketing people would focus on marketing problems and let the technology people implement solutions.

      • The first example I thought of was the movie production companies that pop yet another domain at the bottom of every movie trailer. They'd be paying quite a lot of cash for that service, or else they'd just buy them all with different proxies.

        The biggest problem with the proposed solution is that even if a company like Ford sticks with only a plain "ford" domain, it probably makes sense for them to own that domain in every country's top-level since they have an international presence.
    • .

      They should make it where the price of a domain doubles for each domain you have registered.

      1. $35
      2. $70
      3. $105 ...etc.

      $70 * 2 = $105? Maybe for extremely small values of $70 :)

      I think yoyu mean that the cost for all your domains doubles each time you add another domain. This formula would be:

      Cost = $35*2^(n-1) where n = the number of domains registered.

      The problem with this is that legitimate companies' costs would skyrocket for no reason. Consider a small US firm with three brands. Just based

    • by Minwee ( 522556 ) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Friday June 26, 2009 @05:00PM (#28488229) Homepage
      Well, it's a good thing there are 10,000 other domain squatters with very similar names all sharing the same PO box with me. This way we can each just buy one for the lowest price.
      • Let's hope all 10,000 of your similarly named friends have their own credit card then. :)

        Not that I endorse the original idea. I'd hate for the eight domain names I own (for various mostly non-business reasons) to suddenly skyrocket in price.

    • That is stupid. What about misspellings? It makes perfect sense certain things to certain domains. If you have a UK site that is really uk.yourdomain.com, it might make sense to register yourdomain.uk that redirects to uk.yourdomain.com. Plus, what about misspellings? And the fact that different products go to the same company, for example, Nintendo might own nintendo.com, metroidprime3.com, fireemblem.com, mother3.com, etc.
    • Right, cause faking multiple users for that would be somehow harder than faking multiple users for every other service that has some retarded per-user limit that I use.

    • They should make it where the price of a domain doubles for each domain you have registered.

      Who are they? There are many companies which provide domain name registration service. If one of them implemented the scheme you describe, business would simply go elsewhere. Why would any registrar want to do this? It would only cost them business.

    • Yeah because it's totally impossible for people to fake their whois information. ICANN is shitty enough already, we don't need to make it worse.

    • Pick the right state, and you can incorporate for around $25, so it would be $35 for the first domain in your name, then $60 per subsequent domain ($35 for the domain, $25 for a corporation to register it).
  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @04:35PM (#28487893)
    Cant afford to send a legal team to Sweden? Then you lose. Company I work for had their domain (and thus their company name) taken away, not because it was being misused or anything like that, but because we couldn't afford to go defend ourselves. Now if you go to the domain there's just a diatribe against us full of false claims and BS.
    • Cant afford to send a legal team to Sweden? Then you lose. Company I work for had their domain (and thus their company name) taken away, not because it was being misused or anything like that, but because we couldn't afford to go defend ourselves.

      Why would you even send a legal team to Sweden? Wouldn't it be kind of expensive and kind of long to have your lawyers learn a new language and be retrained in a new set of laws. Hiring a lawyer in the jurisdiction that you're being sued in, without going there yo

    • by ACMENEWSLLC ( 940904 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @05:58PM (#28488907) Homepage

      I went through WIPO arbitration. Someone wanted to take one of my domains away from me. I replied with a proper reply and ended up keeping my domain.

      The arbitration goes to an individual or multiple individuals. It really depends on the individual you get. Looking through prior arbitration, I saw how mine could have gone either way.

  • but cybersquatters should have their legs broken. Off.


    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by JCSoRocks ( 1142053 )
      I agree. Anyone have any idea how much it costs to take a cybersquatter to court? My band's domain name is currently being squatted on. There are alternatives but nothing that's any good is available. I registered something that's a mediocre replacement at best just as a back up, but it'd be nice to be able get the name I want seeing as how no one is actually using it.
      • by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @06:01PM (#28488947) Journal
        I hear you. I've got a product I'd like to sell, I could think up a dozen decent domain names for the site, and every one of them is taken, and parked. Not being used, just sitting there. I contacted the owner of my favorite, and he wanted $20,000 to sell the domain. I offered $300. I just don't think the system is supposed to work like that. There needs to be some kind of regulation that you have to register a domain with the intent of doing something with it, and not merely speculating on price. The domain name system should not be the New York Stock Exchange.
  • Citation Needed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kbolino ( 920292 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @04:41PM (#28487963)

    "And malicious sites can create havoc with a brand's reputation."

    Apparently, proving this statement is left as an exercise for the reader.

    • +1 Insightful.
    • Actually, if I remember correctly there was a misspelling of Google that used to direct you to a site full of adware and other forms of malware. Not sure how much it really hurt Google but I imagine it was a pain for many users at that time.
    • by Jack9 ( 11421 )


      Back in the 90's ppl would hear about the language, see it was some other kind of site and would use perl or some other cgi language. Not sure how or why you would want to cite 2+2=4, as if that would give it more credibility.

  • In the US we're used to being able to parody anything without fear of copyright or trademark litigation issues. It's sad that the ICANN doesn't work the same way. It really should.
  • I think cybersquatting should become increasingly costly over time, with crowd ratings as the determining factor as to whether someone is in fact squatting. If, say, 85% of people say a domain is being squatted, then the squatter's registration fee should double each successive year.

    • This would be nice but 85% of what people? The same scummy types of people that squat also run botnets. Botnet + any sort of voting system = botnet wins. The closest thing I've seen to a decent solution is the increasing price model that someone mentioned above; although I could see squatters getting around that by using fake names and such to just keep on registering 1 domain.
  • by Adrian Lopez ( 2615 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @04:48PM (#28488045) Homepage

    Whether Lego -- which I generally perceive as far too litigious -- was right or wrong in its action against FreeLegoPorn.com, at least that was being used to host legitimate content. What really bugs me is domain owners who buy up a bunch of domain names to extort money out of those with a legitimate interest in them, or those who buy up a bunch of domain names for no other reason than to host advertising pages (which I consider a form of DNS spam).

    • Lego has a history of abusing and trying to abuse IP law. My favourite example was trying to prevent people making compatible bricks by trademarking the layout on the top (fortunately, they lost this). Maybe we should boycott them; I think Lego is one of the few companies that would be affected by geeks boycotting them.
  • Surely they are only doing this so they can make more money? Cybersquatters must be a huge source of revenue for them.

    ICANN needs to be replaced with something more non-for-profit and preferably international, because they're just taking the piss.
    • ICANN needs to really put freedoms in front of money. For example, you should be able to register a trademarked domain name if

      a) The site hosts content about that product
      b) Does not mislead visitors
      c) Has an alternative meaning (such as Apple.com being a site about different types of Apples)
      d) If the actual business has at least three "high profile" domain names of the same thing (such as .com, .net, .org, or a high-profile country code such as .us, .uk, .de, .jp, etc.) so if Apple had registered a
  • Crap! Why didn't someone tell me!? Is this site now operating under a different name? I expect this is a very funny thing to see. Is there a mirror or cache or wayback or anything of this site?

    • They probably relocated to FreeDuploPorn.com. Much larger figures so you can see more detail, it's like an HD version of their previous content
  • Now, ICANN is preparing to open a potentially unlimited number of new top-level domains as early as the first quarter of 2010.

    Well, this should prove interesting, since the alt root I'm associated with (OpenNIC [opennicproject.org]) hasn't received notification from ICANN as to how colliding TLDs will be handled. And I don't know of any other alternate roots that have been contacted either.

  • IMO the idea of the domain name is so ten years ago. The explosion of TLDs makes it more so, as it's no longer possible to get true exclusivity on a term. In the age of Google and SEO, what matters is the number of inbound links, the naming of file names, and such. Not the domain name. I say this as someone who once made $10,000 by cyber-squatting on entegris.com back in the day (thank you Network Solutions and the ability to reserve a name 30 days before you paid for it or it just lapsed) .
  • by Rovastar ( 822365 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @05:13PM (#28488423)

    According to netcraft in the last year there has been about 40% increase in fully qualified domain names out there (includes subdomains not just top level so not a perfect stat but a good indication)

    June 2008 172,338,726 FQDNs (http://news.netcraft.com/archives/2008/06/index.html)
    June 2009 238,027,855 FQDNs (http://news.netcraft.com/archives/2009/06/17/june_2009_web_server_survey.html)

    So really you could say that cyber squatting is decreasing relative to the increase in domain names........

    Not really increasing compared to domain names

  • by tonyreadsnews ( 1134939 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @05:27PM (#28488577)
    I honestly don't quite get the beef everyone has with cybersquatters. At least not the point where their legs should broken, etc...
    Sure, they may not be making as good a use as you might, but why should that be the determination of who gets to take it away.
    Now, if it is a site that is fraudulent, I can understand that, but that is a different allegation then cybersquatting. I can also understand trademark infringement (to some extent) but this whole "my brand is x so anyone with an x in their domain name should belong to me" seems a little over the top.
    • by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Friday June 26, 2009 @06:20PM (#28489133) Journal
      The problem is that their activities are contrary to the intended use of the DNS system. The idea is you register a domain name so people can easily find your home page/product/service/university/chess club/whatever. Instead, you have squatters and domain speculators who have bought up, for $10 each, every possible name they can think of that might, some day, be worth something, and they're holding it for ransom.

      Imagine you come up with the name for a business you'd like to start or a product you'd like to sell. It's the perfect name! So clever and unique! And you go to register the domain..and find it's taken. And so are the 18 variations of it you can think of that might work, too. And they're not being used, at all. It's not like somebody else just "got to it first" and is using it to sell their product. No, they're just hoping to extort some money out of someone who actually wants to do something with it. And they want an obscene amount of money. Like $20,000 for a return on their $10 investment. Can you understand how that experience might make you want to break their legs?

      These people aren't doing anything useful, they're not providing any service, they're just dicks.
    • by selven ( 1556643 )
      Congratulations, you have encountered an Internet tough guy (fortis anonymus), Internet tough guys are known to lash out at others with dire threats from behind cover but are extremely docile when their actions have any consequences whatsoever. They often enjoy the thought of violence against those who annoy them but are rarely willing to carry it out. This species's preferred habitat is the mother's basement.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Burpmaster ( 598437 )

      They profit without contributing anything to society. They're parasites. Society does not like parasites.

    • by nadaou ( 535365 )

      They are playing the role of the glazier in The Broken Window Fallacy [wikipedia.org]. In this way they are economic leeches which cause a net harm to both the economy and society.

  • people see a market and grabbed up something they believed would be of value later. Big deal.

    And ICANN shutting down that brick based porn cite is a shame. Completly outside the point of trademark and copyright. It was a blow to free speech.

    I bunch of companies whining that they didn't have the foresight to get a domain and they get to just shut people down for the sole reason that they are a big company.

    It's a shame.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Cybersquatters are people/companies who grab domain names and then fail to use them for legitimate sites that match the domain name. If the Lego corporation grabs freelegoporn.com and fails to use it to host free Lego porn, then the Lego corporation is guilty of cybersquatting.

  • Unless Lego has gone into the porn business themselves (have they?), Lego is clearly in the wrong here; they had no right to shut down FreeLegoPorn.com What they should be "suffering" from is a serious lawsuit for abuse of trademark law.

  • MarkMonitor should elicit the same kind of response in your brain as "Media Sentry".

  • ... after the new TLDs are sold and name resolution turns to arbitrary mish-mash. Add to that the fantastic new spamming opportunities and just wait to see what a fantastic clusterfuck ICANN is about to unleash upon us. Why on earth we aren't storming the compound with torches and picks I don't know; once this goes down there is no undoing the damage.
  • the World Intellectual Property Organization, which ruled in its favor

    No shit? Who would have thought, that an organization, who names itself after something that does not exist, is 100% biased? ^^

    On the other hand: Who are they, and how can they "rule" anything? Sure, they can all sit down, play important, and sing a scrap of paper. So what?

    My answer would be, what the composer Brahms responded to a review of his latest symphony: "Dear sir: I am seated in the smallest room in my house. I have your review in front of me, and very soon it will be behind me."

Money can't buy love, but it improves your bargaining position. -- Christopher Marlowe