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Hijacked domain returned to rightful owner

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The case of the dropped domain and the PR company that we covered last week has been sorted out - with it returning to the original owners.

Last Monday, we revealed how Portfolio Metrica were aghast when their company Web site disappeared to be replaced with an American site offering free ISP access. We spoke to the site's new owner, Mark Duance, who claimed he had grabbed the domain www.portfoliocomms.com legally. On the Wednesday, he put the domain up for auction on eBay.

Over the weekend, Portfolio Metrica managed to take back the domain and replace its original site by proving to Tucows (the new registrar) who they were. Mark Duane emailed us to register his displeasure.

There are clearly several questions here: Was the domain legally re-registered? How does the change take place first of all? And what can companies and individuals do to make sure they don't wake up to the same scenario?

Portfolio Metrica clearly feels it was badly done by and is overjoyed it has its domain back. "Our domain name was taken unlawfully," said company director Mark Westaby, "but we've got it back and we're very pleased about that."

It would also appear that despite Mr Duane's assurance he did nothing wrong that the name was not legitimately taken. The problem lies in renewal notices. Because Portfolio Metrica's original registrar had gone bust, the forwarding information was somehow lost. Mr Duane re-registered one of Portfolio's domains and subsequently received the renewal notices. Thus he became aware of the other domains that Portfolio had registered - including portfoliocomms.com.

Obviously this raises an enormous number of legal and protocol questions. One apparent expert on such matters backed up the resulting decision to hand back the domain to Portfolio. The new whois did not offer a new registration date. "The domain was re-registered on opensrs," said Domaingator on Afternic.com. "Opensrs automatically creates a NEW date the date it was re-registered if the name was actually expired (ie., released by Network Solutions Inc). No exceptions. The April date likewise is suspicious. The name was ON Hold for Payment but was not yet released by NSI. Case closed."

Despite this, it would seem that we are looking in the mouth of an enormous increase in these types of problems as the two-year renewal date arrives for most companies' Web sites. Software is freely available on the Internet which, with a bit of know-how, can get you first to any dropped names. It is clear that the Internet's DNS is not sufficiently water-tight to prevent argument of rightful owner of a particular Web site.

Unless someone - the NSI basically - gets their act in order, this will become a big, big problem (maybe NSI is too busy working out how it entrench itself in the .com domain to bother actually running it).

You heard it here first. ®

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