The issues with Domain Squatting
You’ve got the perfect idea for a website. You spend months planning and designing the site until you finally decide to go ahead and register the domain name – only to find that it’s not available. But then you visit the site and discover that it’s only being used to advertise itself for sale, for hundreds & even thousands of dollars instead of the usual amount a domain should cost.
You’ve unwittingly become a victim of Domain Squatting!
So what is Domain Squatting?
Domain squatting is the name given to the process of buying a domain name that you think might be valuable to someone else, then selling it to them for a profit. It’s generally frowned upon across the internet community as it ties up millions of potentially legitimate domain names.
Here are a few strategies that domain squatters use:
- researching new companies about to expand into different countries and buying their equivalent in that country-ie microsoft.com.au, microsoft.co.nz etc
- buying names that people might accidentally type instead of the main name- ie googal, googol, googel, gugl etc
- checking for domain names that are about to expire and quickly buying them before the owner can renew it- There is software that automates the checking and registration process that is abused by domain squatters
Often the domain squatter will host advertising on the site, especially if it has a high volume of traffic – some common typos of popular sites have been used in this way. Some domain squatters have been known to post derogatory comments about the site they are targeting in order to encourage their target to buy the domain name from them… but mostly domain squatters will buy up names in bulk that are either recently expired or potentially popular and try to make a profit from them.
What’s the big deal with Domain Squatting anyway?
There are two sides to this argument. There is a wide-spread disgust for squatters throughout the internet community as they make creating your web presence that more difficult, and expensive. Personal names, in particular, are often targeted by domain squatters (though some countries legislate against this practice – see below) as being highly sought-after – especially by people who share that name!
Some people though suggest that this is a legitimate business practice, rather akin to buying property as an investment for future price rises in that area. Up-and-coming localities could have a larger proportion of vacant houses being ‘sat on’ whilst demand increases and prices rise…
Legal – but is it ethical?
Legalities of Domain Squatting
Some countries have created legislation for domain squatting. Australia requires people to have a connection to the domain name they are registering – especially personal names. A case recently involving a model resulted in the domain name www.mirandakerr.com.au being deregistered from the squatter and made available to the model. Many other countries have similar legislation.
They also generally require that the defendant of the disputed domain name has acted in bad faith – that is, with the intention of withholding it from the plaintiff. If the defendant can demonstrate a legitimate reason for selecting the domain name then the domain authority will allow the domain squatting to occur.
So what can I do about Domain Squatting?
1. If you think you are the victim of a domain squatter then contact the domain authority in your country.
- auDA in Australia
- CIRA in Canada
- ICANN in the USA
Register alternative Top Level Domains, ie .net instead of .com
Seek alternative domain names that may still be relevant to your website www.johncitizenaccounting.com instead of www.johncitizen.com
There is so much money involved in domain names these days that it is vital to protect your domain name.