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The domain of PR company Portfolio Metrica that mysteriously disappeared on Monday to be replaced by an American free ISP is now up for sale on eBay.

We reported on Tuesday that according to the whois, the site www.portfoliocomms.com is now owned by one M. Duane from Wisconsin. The PR company was confused by the sudden vanishing of its Web site and set forth the legal beagles to find out what was going on.

Since then M. Duane has been in touch. M actually stands for Mark and it was his wife's voice we heard. Mark claims he is unconcerned by the threat of legal representatives and says he picked up the domain legitimately once Portfolio Metrica has failed to pay the renewal fee. He also pointed out to us other domains owned by the company that were up for very recent renewal (Portfolio Metrica has since renewed them).

Mark, it seems, knows a thing or two about picking up dropped domains and this is a topic that looks set to become a major issue in the next six months. But more of that tomorrow.

Portfolio Metrica remain bemused by the sudden transition. They are sure that the site was not yet up for renewal and they hadn't received a renewal notice from their registrar. It is possible that the URL did go beyond its date and that its original registrar failed to ask for a renewal fee because it has gone out of business, but the company remains unconvinced and said it was looking into the legal situation.

Meanwhile, Mark - who has posted details of how to get hold of dropped URLs on one of his Web sites - has mischievously put the URL up for sale on eBay, and sent Portfolio Metrica an email informing them of the fact. The domain is still at the first bid of $15, and the description explains: "We acquired this domain name because some Company in the UK does not understand IT or just does not wish to accept they lost it", before listing our previous story.

A spokesman for the company told us it was minded to let the whole matter drop and rebuild their Web presence around a new Web site. An interim site can be found at www.portmet.co.uk. As he pointed out "this is a very grey area legally". ®

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