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Domain Name Expires; City Believes Cyber Squatter Stole It

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I was intrigued by an article I read in the Morehead News, a newspaper based in Morehead, Kentucky. What was I doing reading a Kentucky-based newspaper?  Well, I received a Google News alert about a domain name theft and case of cybersquatting and I checked it out. The article references CityOfMorehead.com, the official city website for a number of years.

According to the article, city officials seem to think “their website was stolen via ‘cyber squatting.’” I did a bit of research on the domain name, and according to a Whois search on the last archive date where the domain name was owned by the city, the domain name was set to expire on November 26, 2009. It appears to me as if the domain name was not renewed and someone else acquired it.

The business of drop catching expiring domain names is completely legitimate – and it’s the reason companies like Snapnames and Namejet are in business.It’s also the reason why several high profile domain name investors became very wealthy. It’s not necessarily from selling the expired names back to the previous owner, but by using those names for their businesses. Godaddy also allows people to place backorders on domain names, on the off-chance the name isn’t renewed.

The article quotes Jason England of Premier Quest ISP, the website’s host (according to the news article). England believes it’s a case of cybersquatting. He mentioned that when a domain name expires, there are people who will try to register it immediately, especially  “folks typically from the same type of geography that the majority of the world’s spam and viruses come from.”

Incidentally, the Administrative Contact at the time the city owned the domain name was premierquest@pqisp.com. Had someone paid the annual renewal fee of somewhere around $10, the city would still presumably own the domain name. Based on my experience, Godaddy sends notices 90, 60, 30, and 15 days prior to a domain name’s expiration – and possibly even more frequently.

As far as I am aware, it’s perfectly legal to register domain names – especially geographic and non-trademarked domain names – after they expire. Just check out what a UDRP panelist said about geodomain names recently when he referenced, ““the general rule that geographic names are not subject to trademark protection.”

I will provide an example to equate this to physical real estate,. If someone in Morehead, Kentucky decides he doesn’t wish to pay property taxes this year, I am sure the city will go after his property, maybe file a lien, and perhaps even seize it. They may even put it up for auction for others to bid on it once it’s seized. Likewise, when someone doesn’t renew their domain name, the registrar can put the name up for auction.

If the City of Morehead wishes to have this domain name back so they don’t have to order hundreds of dollars worth of stationery, they should hope the owner would want to sell it to them. Otherwise, they will be forced to use new email addresses, change all inbound links, and probably spend in excess of the $10,000 figure they quoted in the article. They now also need to worry about confidential emails addressed to @cityofmorehead.com email addresses.

I honestly feel badly for the City. This is a very good example of why domain owners need to be the Administrative Contact email on their domain names so they can be sure the bill is paid each year.


About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of DomainInvesting.com. Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has sold seven figures worth of domain names in the last five years. Please read the DomainInvesting.com Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest.


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Comments (39)

    Belmassio

    LOL….I actually don’t feel sorry for them. Typical lazy-ass gov’t that can’t organize anything.

    Even the U.S Gov’t can’t even give simple orders to get food to Haiti right now. This, after Hurricane Katrina, the Gov’t still has not learned. Much of the food and supplies are still sitting in the ships at dock waiting for orders as I write this. How about they start firing the dumb people and promote the smart ones that get things done right. It’s really that simple, but to fire anyone from a U.S. Gov’t job is nearly impossible by design.

    This Jason England of Premier Quest is just as dumb as the Gov’t officials that let the domain expire.

    I just recently picked up a “City of” domain and the stats show almost everyone is looking for jobs with the city gov’t…..sanitation, water department, etc… :)

    January 16th, 2010 at 1:47 am

    Leonard Britt

    Twitter the terms “cybersquatter” “cyber squatter” “domain squatter” “domain squatters” etc & you will find ample criticism of individuals who register domains and don’t do anything with them. Some folks seem to feel entitled to such names because they want to create a blog on that name and just because someone else has it parked they have no legitimate right to use it. The domaining community needs to do a better job of communicating with bloggers, small business owners and web developers on why domain registration with the intent to resell is legit. What business doesn’t try to sell its product or service at a price which the market will bear?

    January 16th, 2010 at 2:21 am

      Dan

      “domain registration with the intent to resell is legit.”

      Actually it has not been legit since 1999. Squatting on domains with the intent to sell violates The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA).

      Domain resellers like HugeDomains.com count on the victim not going through the trouble to register a complaint with ICANN or deciding the it wasn’t worth the trouble to pay $1500 to file a complaint when they can pay the cybersquatter $1600 to achieve the same end.

      If the victim does file a complaint ICANN usually decides for the complainant. (Typically because the Respondent/Cybersquatter does not even respond to ICANN)

      In reply to Leonard Britt | October 13th, 2013 at 11:08 pm

      Elliot Silver

      Sorry, you are incorrect.

      It is certainly not legal to cybersquat on trademark domain names, like MicrosoftShop.com, GoogleGlasses.com, or something like that.

      It is perfectly legal to own a descriptive domain name like Shop.com, Glasses.com, and other keyword domain names, and the owners have the right to do whatever he wants with them.

      October 13th, 2013 at 11:11 pm

      Dan

      Sorry, sir, but you are incorrect.

      Under The Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA). One of the factors considered in determining whether a domain name has been registered in bad faith is the following:

      Offering to sell the domain name without having used, or having an intent to use, it in the bona fide offering of goods or services, or a prior pattern of such conduct. Language in the legislative history specifically indicates that this section is not supposed to apply to a party who registers a name with the bona fide intent to launch a new product or company but then abandons that plan and sells the name to a trademark holder.

      The law states “The defendant offered to transfer the registration of the identifier to the trademark owner or another person or entity in consideration for any thing of value.”

      The truth of the matter is these so called domain resellers do not own descriptive names like bike.com. They look for trademarked names then squat on them hoping a company with deep pockets will pay their extortion fee to get the domain.

      You can use the example of CityOfMoreHead.com. It can be argued the CityOfMoreHead is the the mark of the City Of MoreHead.

      According to the law since they do not register these domains with the intent to use it for bonafide goods or services, but to resell the domain. Then the registration was done in bad faith.

      In reply to Elliot Silver | October 13th, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    Soundly Reasoned

    The city of Morehead could purchase http://www.MoreheadKentucky.com for $3600 from Site Creations. It’s a more reasonable option for them and it contains the much larger searched term Kentucky. It’s also a much better name. The biggest things they lose out on is backlinks, indexed pages, sensative email addresses, and traffic from the old domain.

    Premier Quest ISP really screwed up on this.

    Google Keyword Tool (exact)

    City of Morehead > 56
    Morehead Kentucky> 5,400

    January 16th, 2010 at 3:08 am

    David J Castello

    Yep, sounds like Premier Quest ISP was the Administrator, didn’t renew the name and is now blaming the bogeyman to cover their tracks. If the city really understood what happened here they’d be suing the pants off Premier Quest. No one “stole” anything.

    January 16th, 2010 at 3:46 am

    Bill F

    If I were the owner of that name, I would consider suing the Morehead newspaper for libel. The new owner uses a public whois for a name he acquired legally, and he is being called a thief.

    Even more offensive is how this guy goes on about geographical areas with shady characters, as though slandering someone in Thailand to cover your own mistakes is not shady.

    Something really sucks in Morehead;)

    January 16th, 2010 at 4:17 am

    t

    Someones getting fired

    January 16th, 2010 at 4:59 am

    Paul J. Kapschock

    Would it be funny if their new domain: cityofmorehead.net does the same thing…drop without payment?

    They registered it for only two years @ godaddy.

    Maybe Elliot will have a “new” revised article about this in 2 plus years :)

    Paul

    January 16th, 2010 at 7:19 am

    Stephen Douglas

    What’s hilarious is that the hosting company and ISP, one of their reps, Jason England of Premier Quest hosting, is calling it “cybersquatting”, when this is the very person the City of Morehead was probably depending on to get their domain renewed. Jason England drops the ball, then decides to “demonize” the rightful process of buying “foreclosed” domains.

    Just another case of the guy in trouble pointing the finger at someone else and using outdated and incorrect scum words in order to place the blame elsewhere… like on the ISP, or administrator’s responsibility.

    Domainers should write to the editor of the local newspaper, and the chamber of commerce, and POINT THIS OUT… whose fault was it that this city lost their domain? The lazy hosting service? The domain’s administrator? There’s names for them too… they’re called “irresponsible and negligent – liable for their client’s losses and expenses to recover those losses.

    Idiots. Register your domain for 10 years and keep an email address open specifically dedicated for that domain, and forward all the email from that address to the MAYOR of the town’s secretary.

    Heck, do I have to show all the tips for free?

    This is basic Domain Ownership 101.

    January 16th, 2010 at 8:36 am

    Order Your Domain

    Actually you are incorrect on your theory here.

    The city domain was hijacked or sold, the latter probably not likely.

    The way you can tell is by going not to past records in the WHOIS but the actual WHOIS database.

    To give a little background, if a domain expires, once it is registered again, the Creation date begins all over from the date it was re-registered.

    The WHOIS info:

    Domain Name: CITYOFMOREHEAD.COM
    Created on: 26-Nov-01
    Expires on: 26-Nov-10
    Last Updated on: 07-Jan-10

    Since the domain never started with a new creation date but rather reflects back to 26-Nov-01 proves it never expired hence was either sold or stolen prior to the expiration date and simply renewed!

    Bruce

    January 16th, 2010 at 9:43 am

      Elliot

      @ Bruce

      Unfortunately, you are wrong. When a domain name is auctioned on Snapnames or Namejet, it generally retains its creation date, which is one of the advantages of buying a domain name from a drop auction (Google tends to give better rankings to older domain names rather than new registrations). **Update** I would imagine the same thing is true when a domain name is back-ordered at Godaddy and sold to the party who back orders it.

      In fact, I purchased TequilaFest.com at a Snapnames auction last year and the creation date is listed as 2004.

      http://whois.domaintools.com/tequilafest.com

      Record created on: 2004-10-07 17:49:55.0
      Database last updated on: 2010-01-03 19:15:56.67
      Domain Expires on: 2011-10-07 17:49:55.0

      January 16th, 2010 at 9:48 am

    John B

    All undeveloped land should be seized and be handed over to developers.

    Owners of undeveloped land should be sued or imprisoned as they are engaged in deceptive practices.

    Yes, this is sarcasm, hold your flames.

    I related virtual real estate (domains) to physical real estate, it conveys the same rights and priviliges, perhaps even more as there is no zoning.

    A few sad people just don’t get it, the internet is too big and too scary. The guy getting called a cybersquatter should sue, the guy at Morehead City should get fired.

    Side note; I wish I had a dollar for every url I have purchased and then received an email from someone claiming to be a previous owner, “Oh, I was developing that, can I buy it back for reg fee?”

    That, by the way, is almost always a lie. 99 times out of a 100 it’s some slob hoping to scam you out of a useful or valuable domain using your sense of fair play as a weapon against you.

    January 16th, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Lee H.

    Domains that are auction during the first 45 days (Pre-release) of a domain’s expiration by the registrar (GoDaddy Auctions) or the registrar’s auction partner (Snapnames, Namejet, etc…) will not have their creation date changed as Elliot mentioned. If they go beyond the 45 day period and go into a true registry redemption -> pending delete -> backorder captured, then the creation date will change.

    This is a gift IMO by ICANN/Verisign. The registrars get to keep anything beyond the normal renewal rate of around $7.

    January 16th, 2010 at 11:08 am

    StevenH

    If the domain had expired the website and all of their emails would have been crashed during the buy back period of 45 days. If the city had indeed dropped the ball they would have had ample time to register it back. Thats why the grace period exists. On the other hand, if the domain was stolen this would explain why they hadn’t a clue. One minutes it’s theirs the next it isn’t.

    There’s something screwy with this entire story, IMHO.

    If they simply “let it go” then stupidity reigned and became another reason why you register for more than a year at a time! Maybe the city needed to save the $8 😛

    January 16th, 2010 at 11:14 am

      Elliot

      @ StevenH

      Right now, I have a domain name in my Moniker account that expired in December since I chose not to renew it. During the 45 day grace period, everything (including forwarding but probably also email) is still working. Since the Admin contact was the hosting company, the city may not have known the domain name was going to expire.

      My bet would be that the current owner placed a back-order on the domain name, and when the name was not renewed, Godaddy awarded it to him.

      Keep one important thing in mind right now. The domain name wasn’t transferred from Godaddy – it’s still registered there. If the domain name was stolen, they would probably be able to email legal@godaddy.com, tell them it was stolen, and Godaddy would hand it back after an internal investigation. Of course, since I presume it’s an issue of non-renewal, the domain name was not stolen and the new owner has rights to it.

      The city could then file a UDRP, but I don’t think they would have much of a case because the UDRP panels would understand the expiring domain process as well as the fact that it’s a geodomain name, which is not subject to trademark protection.

      January 16th, 2010 at 11:22 am

    StevenH

    Hi Elliot,

    I have never allowed anyone other than myself or my partner to be the administrative contacts for any of our domains.

    Let me reference this – When the owner of a domain does not renew that name by the renewal date, that domain name will go into an expired status. For the next 40 days the domain will stay in a grace period where all services of that domain are turned off – however the domain owner still has the option to renew the domain by paying the standard renewal fee. -end

    It might appear that your emails and website is working if you run your own network. To the outside world everything should be dead.

    If what you said might have happened, then I’d think the city has a solid case to sue the hosting company for negligence, wouldn’t you agree? Unless of course the hosting company has a trail of email notifications that went ignored.

    If the later is the case then I’d revert to my last opinion that it became just another good reason to register for more than a year at a time.

    In any event, someone screwed up and this will probably land in a court somewhere.

    Cheers

    January 16th, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Elliot

    @ StevenH

    I can tell you that a name I own that expired in December 2009 still forwards to the same website as before. I believe I can still renew as it shows up in my Moniker account, but the forwarding service is still working. I don’t have emails on that domain name, so I can’t say whether or not that would be working.

    January 16th, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    Chris

    It’s very unfortunate that the city of Morehead could make such a mistake, however it must be quite a concirn for all involved and I think the right thing to do in this case would be to open some dialogue between the two parties and find a way forward. I’m not against drop catching it’s the a game we all play, well done to the catcher, however there’s a line that should be draw in such cases, personally I would hand the Domain Name back for a nominal fee, just my opinion.

    January 16th, 2010 at 12:46 pm

      Elliot

      @ Chris

      Thanks for the comment here. I would also personally hand it back as a good will gesture if I won it – unless I had immediate plans for it. I would simply ask to have my fees paid, and I would also expect to see a retraction in the newspaper and an apology since it looks like it was human error that caused the name to be dropped.

      January 16th, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    John

    Here’s something that really bothers me. I’ve discovered this past two months that on one of my emails which works fine and is suppose to receive notifications, and confirmations from godaddy, does not recieve anything from godaddy anymore. I’ve tested again and again, I get nothing from Godaddy. I had to change my email within godaddy to start receiving again. BTW they did not go into my junk or spam folder.

    If I hadn’t kept track of these domain names when they expired and had relied on receiving notifications by email, I would have never known.

    Could it be that the admin had the same problem? Godaddy supposedly sent notifications but the admin actually never received it due to the same glitch godaddy had with my email?

    Has anyone else experienced that same anomaly?

    January 16th, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    StevenH

    I’ve never had an issue with receiving emails from Godaddy, however this isn’t to say there’s not a problem. Also, being that I’m a member of the domain club may have different implications in the handling of my notifications.

    In any case, email notifications are really a courtesy and should never be relied upon.

    January 16th, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Belmassio

    @SteveH …… email will not necessarily stop even when a domain expires. In some cases it will allow the email to function right up to day 45.

    Why? It has to do with how a domain owner sets up the domain for email and DNS. If they do not use the standard DNS string…..which everyone reading this is probably familiar with, meaning ns1.site-name.com, ns2.site-name.com, and instead set up their C Sever then email and DNS functions can continue on until the very last second when the new domain owner changes the DNS string.

    When Godaddy takes back a domain they will change the ns1.site-name.com to ns1.secureserver.com and follows the same logic with ns1.site-name.com. HOWEVER, they do not mess with any of the setting on the C Server. So, if the site was configured as such, the site continues on and all related functions continue on for the previous owner……EVEN after the new owner has taken control of the domain.

    This is an anomaly b/c most folks use the DNS strings, but this would explain how it suddenly “switched” off.

    I can say I have seen this less than five times in all the years working drop lists……but it does exist.

    One domain I won at GoDaddy still had owner’s site up after I took control of it.

    If I had won that domain I would not give it back and I would sue for slander. Maybe it’s my German blood but I have little mercy or patience for total incompetence and simply don’t feel sorry anyone here, except maybe the new domain owner.

    January 16th, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Belmassio

    I meant to add that with GoDaddy the domain with the http://www.site-name.com will show the standard GoDaddy expired page with ads, but without the www, simply site-name.com will still resolve to the old owners website.

    January 16th, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Belmassio

    Your site added http:// to my last comment when I simply meant www. Trivial, but I thought I would point it out. :)

    January 16th, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    John

    @Elliot
    Having just bought a name last week from a GoDaddy auction I can indeed confirm that the creation date holds up since this name says 2004 right now.

    Oddly enough the previous owner registered their old name, but with an S on the end, shortly before the auction started. There were 2 other bidders, but I won, obviously. Finally the other day someone, possibly the original owner, offered me $100 via GoDaddy. Low offer and I got a site up already – no thanks.

    January 17th, 2010 at 12:26 am

    sc

    Like my Golden Retriever says: There is the dog with the ball and the rest of the dogs.

    I supposed the whiners want the bank to let them own their house after defaqult and hold it indefinitely if they want to start making payments again?

    Hogwash.

    January 17th, 2010 at 10:36 am

      Elliot

      @ sc

      I like that one… LOL

      Usually my dog has the ball and everyone chases her. It’s really frustrating when she grabs an old lady’s ball and doesn’t give it back. Good times.

      January 17th, 2010 at 10:47 am

    sc

    That’s what my coon dog does. He get it from the retriever on the way back to me and plays keep away.

    I was going to add to my post.

    The crying of cybersquatter before any research or communication to the new owner just places the entire thing into a hostile negotiation. It’s bad for business.

    I have been known to grab a name a drop like that and give it back to the deserving organization. It’s just good business.

    Choices have a profound effect. Make them with care.

    Now back to the ball.

    January 17th, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Marg

    Interesting article. Sounds like a lot of backside covering from Jason of Premier Quest. The fact that the current registrant is in Thailand helps his story, as it’s easier to pitch a line about “evil foreigners” (not a direct quote) stealing the name.

    Elliot, would you consider emailing a link to this post / comments to the Morehead News and Morehead City Council? At the very least, Premier Quest should look to buying the dot com back again for the City of Morehead. Since they’ve stirred it royally by accusing the current owner of being a thief, I hope the price will reflect this.

    January 17th, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Dave

    If a business lets there name going into deletion and you pick it up, will you be able to keep it or should you just try and sell it back to them?

    January 18th, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    Ernest Ryder

    None of the above statements are correct-
    1) trademarks- are proved by first in use,use and /or by filing-but if you file and dont use or use in bad faith you can loose trademark.
    2) City-as registrared corperation-has all rights to its business name or names-whether on the internet or not.
    3) Federal offense to steal Government Filed Identity
    4) U.S.Postal Investigation Dept.-U.S. section 18 usc-
    if an un-authorized person(false Registrant) steals and/or alters an known operating companies or Persons mailing address or email address or electronic mail- is punishable by 5 to 20 years
    5) even if they forgot to re-registrar,no one else can use their domains or emails, or publish any data on them!
    6) domain registrars- many as domain Squatters-GoDaddy and Dotster,included, seem to forget the above laws have been in existance for 20 years +
    Ernest Ryder
    ErnestRyder@RyderTechnology.com

    March 7th, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Elliot

    @ Ernest

    Which statements are incorrect? You lost me since none of what you mentioned was discussed in my article.

    March 7th, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Ernest Ryder

    Elliot, most were trying to state how domain was taken and not why it was taken. If Registrar is honest then there is no problem,returning their legal business or personal name.
    but many business and personal names get front run or picked up at expiration(or before) by domainers and registrars using third parties as shells, I ran test for 12 months and collected lot evidence,using key logger on my keyboard, copying reciepts, checking registrars thru centralops.net(hexillion) as to who picked up the .com’s(front ran),many were taken directly inside registrars program (70%) where transaction was canceled or taken after 1 to 3 minutes, showed up at Registrars subsiduary or another registrar(partner) for sale,with false registration date earlier, 30% taken by third parties using spyware (and/or adware)on person looking up the domain name. I collected 10 inches high of hard copy proof.
    Dotster(dotregistrar.com) even put money back into my business account (3 times)and altered registry data, but I had key logger and hidden files to back up in hard copy.
    I cant comment on GoDaddy as possible pending lawsuit.
    Ernest Ryder

    March 8th, 2010 at 9:10 am

    Ernest Ryder

    Elliot , forgot to mention,

    Keep up the good editorial work!
    very well written and allowing space for good comments : domainers,people with registrar problems , legal issues with internet.

    Your blog may bring up some good solutions!
    Ernest Ryder

    March 8th, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Ernest Ryder

    To: Young Domainers- dont get sucked in by registrars telling you a name is valuable!! check out legal first, then uniqueness and keyword and generic keywords, the simplier the word the better,you can join some words to double hits. look for words no one has used. really comes down to sweat and creativeness-have to work on website to see what makes website most interesting,include lots of keywords in searches.
    The days of front running and brand jacking going to disappear within next 12 to 24 months, as Icann has been
    falling short on,but improving on laws of domains, still have to remove corruption from ICANN, and favored Registrars.
    Ernest Ryder

    March 8th, 2010 at 11:36 am

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