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Man charged in $111k domain name theft

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A New Jersey man has been charged with stealing the p2p.com domain name and selling it to a professional basketball player for more than $111,000 in the first US indictment for domain name theft.

In May 2006, Daniel Goncalves, now 25, of Union City, illegally accessed accounts of domain name registrar GoDaddy "for the purpose of altering registration information for 'p2p.com,' to fraudulently transfer registration of 'p2p.com from its lawful registrant," according to the indictment, which was filed by the New Jersey Attorney General's office.

Once in possession of the domain name, Goncalves allegedly auctioned it on eBay, where it was purchased for $111,211.11 by Mark Madsen, a basketball player for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who was unaware of the theft allegations. P2p.com was the name of a business owned by three entrepreneurs, who maintain that the domain name was worth from $160,000 to $200,000 because of its short length and topical relation to peer-to-peer file sharing.

The case is a throwback to earlier days when domain names such as business.com and sex.com regularly fetched seven-figure prices. The most famous of those cases is the saga of sex.com, which was registered by Match.com founder Gary Kremen and later transferred to Stephen M Cohen. Following lengthy court proceedings, Kremen regained control of the name.

In the process, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that domain name owners hold property rights.

The Attorney General's filing isn't clear about how Goncalves breached the GoDaddy account, but documents filed in US District Court in Newark in a private lawsuit may provide a clue. They claim Goncalves and a brother "developed a specialty hacking into AOL accounts and stealing user screen names" and "regularly participated in efforts to crack open the AOL accounts of others". ®

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