Cybersquatting cases are making a comeback! And this time around, the stakes are higher. Instead of holding domains ransom for a big pay day, today’s cybersquatters are using stolen domains for more nefarious means.
Is Cybersquatting Legal?
To set the record straight: cybersquatting is a civil offense. During the dawn of the Web, a class of enterprising early adopters and out-of-the-box thinkers made a killing by buying up, then selling back, trademarked and common phrase domains.
But corporations quickly called their representatives – and K Street connections – which resulted in the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. An extension of the Lanham Act, and passed in 1999, the ACPA essentially extended trademark rights to domain names. To wit, it’s the bill that made nike.com the automatic property of Nike, Inc.
Why is there an uptick in the amount of cybersquatting cases in recent months?
Both the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the FBI have noted an increase in criminal cybersquatting cases over the past two years.
For starters, in the last decade, the price of domain names has increased. As such, it’s not cost effective, for criminals, to purchase URLs. Couple that with the “virus industry” – and you’ve got a perfect storm for malicious cybersquatting.
What are the new generation of cybersquatters doing with the stolen domains?
In the past, most cybersquatters were just looking to make money. These days, many of them are looking to wreak havoc. Victims have reported acts of:
- Domain reselling;
- Portal manipulation;
- Malware Distribution; and
- PPC Schemes.
Advanced cybersquatters are also hijacking domains and re-routing URLS to china, Russia, and Eastern Europe, where they are then used for nefarious financial transactions and other types of cyber criminality. There have even been reports that overseas “organized crime” organizations are hiring cybersquatters.
Authority Squabbles: Who Has Authority?
This new wave of cybersquatting may last quite some time. Why? Because nobody can agree on who is responsible for combating the problem. Law enforcement officials say the Internet Company of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has the international authority to combat this type of cybersquatting, but ICANN disagrees. Basically, officials are playing a game of hot potato when it comes to enforcement.
Speak with a cybersquatting Attorney
Cybersquatting can take a huge toll on a business and cause considerable financial strain for attacked companies.
Kelly / Warner has successfully handled all manners of cybersquatting cases. As an Internet law firm, our attorneys are well versed in domain dispute law. To learn more about the firm, please go here. To set up a consultation, click here. To send a message, head here.