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WorldTradeCenter.com on the block

Domain name sale just weeks before 9/11 anniversary

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The owner of the internet domain name WorldTradeCenter.com is planning to sell it, just weeks before the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Aftermarket.com, a domain brokerage firm, announced today that it is looking for an "appropriate" buyer for the address, on behalf of its current owner.

Potential buyers include "government agencies, entities and organizations that aim to memorialize the world-renowned structure, as well as businesses and developers looking to revitalize the site", the company said in a press release.

An undisclosed portion of the proceeds of the sale will be donated to a 9/11 victims' charity.

From possibly as early as 1996, and at least since 2002, the owner of WorldTradeCenter.com was listed in Whois records as a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, company called Earth Plaza.

However, less than two weeks ago, on July 15, the Whois record for the domain started showing the name of a privacy-protection service instead.

The possible sale, and its timing, are certain to split opinions.

Aftermarket.com acknowledged the "delicate" nature of the sale and said that it is "imperative that all matters are handled with respect for the victims and all those affected".

The Internet Commerce Association, the closest thing the domain investor community has to a trade association, has a Code of Conduct for its members that addresses domains linked to tragedies:

Respect for Human Suffering and Victims of Tragedy: A registrant should be respectful of persons and communities involved in tragedy. A registrant should not intentionally register a domain name related to a current or historical event involving human suffering or tragedy where the primary purpose of such registration is commercial profit.

While the owner of WorldTradeCenter.com, who will almost certainly profit if the domain is sold, may not be signed up to the ICA and its Code, broker Aftermarket.com is owned by Thought Convergence, which is a card-carrying platinum sponsor.

ICA counsel Phil Corwin, speaking in his personal capacity rather than for the ICA board or its members, said: "I believe that the domain is not exploitative on its face."

The Code of Conduct "was targeted at domains that attempt to illicitly exploit tragedies in their immediate aftermath," he said, giving the recent terrorist attack in Norway as an example.

It's quite common for fraudsters to register domains connected to major tragedies, such as earthquakes and tsunamis, in order to solicit "donations" under false pretences.

"I don't see [WorldTradeCenter.com] as inherently exploitative of human tragedy and suffering in and of itself, any more than titanic.com or gettysburg.com would be, or even holocaust.com," Corwin said. "Such sites, removed in time from the tragic event, might well be educational and historical in nature, and are unlikely to be sought out for charitable giving purposes."

It will depend on what the buyer uses the domain for, in other words.

"[The World Trade Center] has many more associations than just human suffering – there's also heroism, patriotism, rebuilding in defiance of terrorism, etcetera," he added. ®

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