When Bad Guys Inspire Good Ideas

Pj2.com for saleThe other day I read about the first arrest for domain theft and it inspired me. First a bit of background then the resulting inspiration.

I have had several domains stolen from me in the early years (circa 1995-1996) but the lack of federal laws forced me to make a business decision and thus not pursue the courts for remedies.

President Steals Domain

The first time it happened it was an inside job and a break in fiduciary duty per the then president of The Avanti Group, Inc. This man was registering domains for Avanti and Avanti customers through Network Solutions. I paid the domain invoices and signed the checks. I’ll skip the story about questionable ethics and cut to the chase.

Ultimately I bought-out this turkey and took over full control of The Avanti Group, Inc. Even renewed some of the domains and paid for those with Avanti checks as well. But when I went to transfer some of those domains from Network Solutions* to a new domain registrar, I was horrified to learn that the legal owner of the domains (per Network Solutions and ICANN terms) was the person listed as the domain’s admin contact.

Even though I had signed legal papers where the former president relinquished any and all claims to Avanti Intellectual Properties (including domain names), Network Solutions refused to honor Avanti as the legal owner – despite the notarized facsimiles sent from our legal team and copies of the canceled checks.

ISP Steals Domain Name

The next domain name theft happened around the same time when one of Avanti’s early Internet Service Provider (ISP) tanked and held hostage a couple domains as this ISP also registered our domains and listed themselves as the Admin Contact.

Fortunately, the domains stolen were minor in that they were project domains on deck and not client or active domains in use, so I decided not to pay the $20,000 in legal advances and dropped the issue. I also immediately audited all our domains to make sure the admin contacts were correct and then invested in our own DNS and Name Servers. Even today, all our domains are locked down by our registrar but I digress.

Now for the inspiration part of the eBay theft.

A month ago we parted ways with Sedo.com as their domain parking and PPC (pay per click) service is highly questionable but I’ll save that story for another post. So here I was moving 100-plus parked domains to Google’s awesome ad sense domain parking program when I read about the p2p.com theft and eBay sale for $100,000.

I’ve bought and sold five-figure domains for many clients and for Avanti’s portfolio but have never used eBay. So I dusted off our three-letter dot com, Pj2.com, and last night put it on eBay.

I’ll let you know how it goes with eBay as I certainly would never recommend most of the domain name auction sites, like Sedo.com, which I’ll explain later!

To be continued …

PS and Another Thing

PS – here is a link to the original article in the LA Times about Donald Gonclave who was arrested for selling the stolen P2p.com domain to L.A. Clippers forward Mark Madsen on eBay for $110,000

*Network Solutions was no angel either and played dirty pool too on a separate occasion – in that when we put in the transfer request to move our domains, they promptly changed the name servers to point to a foreign network thus effectively shut down our web sites (and email) so we were out of business for almost a week before the transfer to the new register took place. Sure, we heard many stories like this from others about Network Solutions’ tactics and stooping to being unethical. After all, they were charging $100 per domain for years until we found a new domain registrar in Canada who only charged us $15/domain, so one could understand Network Solutions’ anger and being checkmated by more agile competitors.

Even years later when this new registrar was purchased by Network Solutions, I promptly instructed our team to find a new registrar and immediately transfer all our domains. After all, the expression goes something like – “First time shame on you, second time shame on me.” So when it comes to Network Solutions, it will forever be “shame on them.”

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