Jill Hayward – North Thompson Star/Journal
Barriere and District Chamber of Commerce had a shock early last week when its website was compromised by cybersquatters, who had grabbed the site’s original domain name as it came up for renewal.
A domain name is like an international phone number; the domain name system provides an easy-to-spell address for those surfing the web and is purchased for a nominal cost on an annual basis from a reputable provider.
Domain squatting (often called cybersquatting) has existed since at least 1995 as a money-making strategy involving the domain names of large companies, politicians, entertainers, trademarks; anyone can experience cybersquatting.
Thousands of people have missed out on registering the perfect domain name because it’s already been taken by a squatter. Thousands more have lost domains they have previously purchased because they miss a renewal deadline.
This was the case in regards to Barriere Chamber of Commerce. Chamber manager Marie Downing says they had requested their site be renewed automatically, but unfortunately this was not the case, and as a result their domain name was immediately scooped and quickly became a vile and disgusting porn site, which caused the Chamber to immediately go into damage control.
However, when the Chamber contacted the company that had taken the domain name they were told it would cost close to $10,000 to buy the name back.
Some people felt the site should be purchased back, while others were adamant it should not.
“The word ‘extortion’ definitely comes to mind,” commented a local business owner and Chamber member (who asked not to be named) when she heard this had happened.
“You would have to be out of your mind to pay anything to those people to get that web address back. You are enabling criminal activity.”
It didn’t take long for the decision to be made, and by last Friday the Chamber had notified all of its members, the municipality and its associates that the organization’s new website address is now: www.barrierechamberofcommerce.com.
The Barriere Chamber’s website was actually only out of commission for just over a day, and Downing says it is now back to business as usual.
“In order for this new address to be at the top of the Google search engines it takes up to 90 days to propagate and the more times people type it in the
navigation bar the quicker it will take effect,” said Downing, “Do not use the search engine bar to find the website as this will take you to the old site. Please make sure to change any links you may have on your websites linking to our previous Chamber site, which was www.barrierechamber.com.”
If there is a message here for others with websites of their own it is to double-check and triple-check that your domain name cannot be compromised.
Wikipedia notes, “Cybersquatting (also known as domain squatting), according to the United States federal law known as the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, is registering, trafficking in, or using an Internet domain name with bad faith intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else. The cybersquatter then offers to sell the domain to the person or company who owns a trademark contained within the name at an inflated price. The term is derived from “squatting”, which is the act of occupying an abandoned or unoccupied space or building that the squatter does not own, rent, or otherwise have permission to use.”
Domain name disputes are governed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ uniform dispute resolution policy.
In 1999, ICANN adopted and began implementing the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDNDRP), a policy for resolution of domain name disputes. This international policy results in an arbitration of the dispute, not litigation. An action can be brought by any person who complains (referred to by ICANN as the “complainant”) that:
• a domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights
• the domain name owner has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name, and
• the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
All of these elements must be established in order for the complainant to prevail. If the complainant prevails, the domain name will be canceled or transferred to the complainant.
However, financial remedies are not available under the UDNDRP. Information about initiating a complaint is provided at the ICANN website.