Not Masters Of Their Domains

Houston Chronicle:

If a thief steals a car, authorities usually return it to the rightful owner if they find it.

But if a prime piece of online real estate – a domain name – is stolen, it may not be as simple to get back.

Just ask Marc Ostrofsky.

The Houston dot-com figure, known for selling the Web domain for $7.5 million, says he and his partners have spent 30 months and $150,000 trying to recover the allegedly stolen name

Ostrofsky’s experience illustrates that a lack of criminal prosecutions in such cases and laws in the area can make getting stolen sites to the rightful owners difficult.

Getting a stolen domain name back proves difficult because unlike the theft of cars and other property, there’s been little prosecution for theft of such Internet real estate.

Jeff Becker, an intellectual property attorney in Dallas, has recovered names that infringed on trademarks through civil lawsuits and the use of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, specifically designed to protect companies from such violations.

But’s case is about stolen property, not trademark infringement, he noted.

Adding to the difficulty is that domain names aren’t physical property, but a right to contract, he said, because owners pay for the right to use the name.

“Here it’s allegedly stolen property,” he said. “It will be novel issue.”

Photo by svilen001.

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