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Cybersquatting

Cybersquatting is a derogatory term used to describe the practice of registering and claiming rights over internet domain names which are, arguably, not for the taking. The cybersquatter then offers the domain to the rightful owner at an inflated price, an act which some deem to be extortion.

Often, cybersquatters take such names and hold them "ransom". That is, they offer the domain for sale to the person or corporation who should rightfully have the domain. They usually ask for a high price, much greater than the actual cost of the domain when it was available. Some cybersquatters put derogatory remarks on the registered domain about the person or company it is meant to represent in an effort to encourage the subject in question to buy the site.

Many cybersquatters register most variants of a domain as well to prevent the subjects from registering them instead. For example, a cybersquatter squatting on eFingernail.com may also squat on eFingernail.net, ElectronicFingernail.com, ElectronicFingernail.net and many other logical variants he can devise.

The courts have generallly ruled in favor of individuals versus cybersquatters who register the domain names of celebrities. One high profile case involved Julia Roberts who sued a squatter who had registered JuliaRoberts.com to himself.

Domain name disputes are typically resolved using the UDRP[?] process develoepd by the World Intellectual Property Organization. Critics claim that the UDRP process favors large corporations and uses alleged cybersquatting as an argument against legitimate websites (e.g. a website owner who was willing to sell his domain name is assumed to act in "bad faith" under the UDRP process, even if he previously used the domain name for an active website).

An Example

A cybersquatter discovers that there is a new company called Big French Fries starting and registers the domain BigFrenchFries.com to himself for US$50. When the company then tries to buy the domain BigFrenchFries.com, they find it is registered and contacts the owner (the squatter). The squatter then informs the company that they can buy the domain from him for $25,000. The company then has to pay the "ransom" fee or forgo ownership of the domain to the squatter. Alternatively, the company can seek to obtain the domain through legal action or the UDRP process.

See also: DNS, top-level domain, URL



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