Nominet wins UK domain scammers case in Australia

Dodgy invoices

An Aussie judge has branded the actions of two internet domain conmen as "nothing less than deceitful" after they sent out 50,000 fake invoices to domain name holders in the UK.

The dodgy invoices from UK Internet Registry were sent out last year after Chesley Rafferty, Bradley Norrish and their three companies had hoovered up the details of thousands of domain name holders following a data mining attack on the .uk WHOIS database.

The attack in February 2003 was so bad it forced Nominet - the .uk Internet domain name registry - to suspend its WHOIS database for nine hours to prevent the theft of further details.

After pursuing UK Internet Registry for 18 months, Nominet has won a milestone legal battle that centres on infringement of copyright, a breach of Australian fair trade laws and the issuing of misleading notices.

Just before the hearing at the Federal Court of Australia, four of the five respondents coughed to the scam. As a result, the trial went ahead against Norrish pnly. The judge found he had authorised copyright infringement, and was involved in misleading or deceptive conduct.

Justice French said that the notices sent by UK Internet Registry were "nothing less than deceitful. It lies beyond the limits of credulity to suppose that Mr Norrish...had no idea of [what was going on]. ...He was in the scheme with Mr Rafferty."

For Nominet, the ruling confirms its right to prevent information on its databases being ripped off by others. It also reinforces Nominet's authority to impose terms and conditions on the use of the data it holds.

Nominet MD Lesley Cowley is "delighted by this result, particularly as it upholds our ability to protect information relating to .uk registrants.

"Naturally, we want to control use of the intellectual property that we hold and to have succeeded in protecting our copyright ownership is a significant outcome for us, the industry globally and for registrants who do not want to receive scam notices.

"By fighting, and winning, this case we are saying very clearly that scamming is a serious industry issue which will not be tolerated and anyone caught doing it will be pursued and brought to justice."

With the ruling in its favour, Nominet now plans to pursue Mr Rafferty, Mr Norrish and their companies for costs and damages. It will also seek additional damages for the "flagrancy and extent of the copyright infringement". ®

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