Domain name squatting advice
July 21, 2015 3:58 AM   Subscribe

ABC Street Association would like to have new website: www.abcstreet.com Business X, located on the street, currently owns www.abcstreet.com.au, and would like ABC Street Association to pay $20k for the address. Business X has not updated www.abcstreet.com.au in over 2 years. What should we do?

I'm helping a NFP (a main street association) with their website. They don't own the rights to abcstreet.com.au - one of the member businesses on the road bought the domain some years ago when the NFP asked them for advice on websites. Anticipating some easy money, they built up a business directory on the site, but then subsequently stopped updating it over two years ago when they realised the NFP wouldn't buy it off of them (they wanted $20k). They still own the website address.

I would like to launch the new website under abcstreet.com however am worried about the legal repercussions. I understand the previous developer tried doing something similar and the NFP got slapped with a cease and desist.

The member business works in the IT industry, and doesn't have an interest in the mainstreet name apart from existing physically on the road. The main street association is known as ABC Street Association. Should they go through the ICANN process (and if so, what do you think their chances are?), or look at creating another web address?
posted by travellingincognito to Technology (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Best answer: Check out Auda, the licencing body for .com.au domains. Business X doesn't own the domain, it only licences it from Auda. If Business X doesn't fulfill the particular requirements for owning abcstreet.com.au, your association may do. Worth a look.
posted by Thella at 5:00 AM on July 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Your estimation of their use of an address is largely irrelevant. One of my companies frequently gets requests of the "we see you're not using this domain for anything because the web site hasn't been updated in forever - sell it to us!" type, but hosting a web site is not the only thing that can happen with a domain name. The domain name is in fact rather heavily used. However, even if that weren't true, mere failure to "update" a website is not a meaningful factor in this.

Oftentimes the resolution process for a domain name resembles that of trademark disputes, except that of course only one entity can actually control a domain name. If you can't show that the name was registered for nefarious purposes, or find some other clear violation of the registry's terms of service, there may be relatively little that can be done to force the other party to release the namespace.

I'm not familiar enough with Australian law to know what a "main street association" is, but if it is a legal entity, and you were to register a new "abcstreet.com" in the top level .COM domain, you would have very good chances of prevailing in any ICANN proceeding. Having legal documentation that your association exists and has chosen an obvious name would put you on a reasonable footing.

On the flip side of that, checking with the local .COM.AU registry to see if what your domain squatter has done is acceptable by their rules is also a good idea.

The real question here is what was that C&D all about. There are several angles I can imagine to this issue, but I'm guessing that this is simply a matter of someone seeing an easy $20k and possibly being petulant about not getting it. A cease and desist letter is a lawyer's way of trying to get you to do something without necessarily having any legal basis for it. We've received toilet-paper-grade C&D letters that wanted to see if they could shake loose a domain name from us. You can always check with a lawyer to see if there's any reasonable basis to be concerned.
posted by jgreco at 5:47 AM on July 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Simplest is a variation of the name: something like ABCStreetAssoc.com or ABCStreetAssociation.com
posted by easily confused at 5:52 AM on July 21, 2015


What make you think you have more right to the domain than them? When it meant something, the suffix .com used to stand for commercial, assuming .com.au has a similar purpose it is not clear to me how a not for profit organisation can claim priority for a commercial domain. The correct answer here is negotiate. My sympathies are entirely with the domain holder, you want something and he got there first, tough.
posted by epo at 5:57 AM on July 21, 2015


Response by poster: Thank you all for taking the time to answer the question.

Easily confused: the NFP did end up going with that format for it's previous website, however the website to be all about the street and it's businesses, not the actual Association.

Epo: I wasn't after your sympathy; I want to know where the NFP stands legally. The NFP is a main street association (run entirely by volunteers) funded by all the businesses on the road, and exists to market the main street. They've built a website which aims to drive more commercial activity to the road during a tough economic period. The current domain holder has a website that is neither inclusive of all the businesses on the road, nor an accurate reflection of the current community.
posted by travellingincognito at 6:29 AM on July 21, 2015


But is it a legal entity of some sort? If not, it sounds like your squatter might well consider themselves to be running an equally valid "association" with an earlier claim of sorts, and you might also have other sorts of trouble brewing.
posted by jgreco at 6:39 AM on July 21, 2015


Should they go through the ICANN process (and if so, what do you think their chances are?), or look at creating another web address?

I would simply create another web address. Paying $20K is not worth the money; going through an appeals process is not worth the effort and takes time. Most traffic will reach your site (a) via search engine referrals and ads, (b) via social network links, (c) via links elsewhere. Only a small fraction of traffic is actually people who are typing the URL into their browser, and very few people actually remember the URLs of sites they visit, other than a few like , say, Facebook.com and Google.com. As an example, I run one site that got 67,000 visits in the past 12 months. Out of all of those, only 3301 were visitors who came to the front page without a referral; ie., they typed the URL. And they probably would have typed anyway, it if it had a few more characters in it.

So, just make up the simplest possible alternative out of the many possibilities: shopabcstreet.com.au, visitabcstreet.com.au, abcstreetrocks.com.au, abcstreettownname.com.au, abcstreetnow.com.au, abcst.com.au, abcstreettoday.com.au, abcstreet.info, abcstreet.biz, etc.
posted by beagle at 7:36 AM on July 21, 2015


...mere failure to "update" a website is not a meaningful factor in this.

This. Websites need not be updated regularly (or at all) to serve a purpose to the owner. Updates are not a meaningful metric. Referring to them as "squatters" is unfair, honestly. Your best be is to, as others have suggested, come up with a reasonable alternative domain name.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:40 AM on July 21, 2015


Build a website at ABCStreetTown.com.au . Move about your life and forget about that domain. There are two things that can happen at this point.

1. It's possible that once they realize you've moved on and aren't in the market they will let the domain name expire in two or three years and you can buy it and have both domains point to your web site.

2. Or they won't drop the domain and will keep it forever. Your web site will be at ABCStreetTown and you can move on with your life and keep your web site running there.

You win no matter what.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:43 AM on July 21, 2015


The website associated with a domain name I own doesn't have much content, and doesn't get updated much at all. However, a domain is more than a website address: in my case, it's in use for my primary email address. I've gotten offers before, but updating all my contact info on a gazillion membership sites is going to be a huge pain in the ass, and definitely something I'd want 20K for. (Or 10K, whatever, make me an offer.)

I guess what I'm trying to say is that you have no way of knowing how these people use their domain name, and how valuable it is to them, based only on the content of a website.
posted by monospace at 12:01 PM on July 21, 2015


They do things differently in Australia.
From the site I linked to above
2. Domain names in the com.au 2LD must be:

a) an exact match, abbreviation or acronym of the registrant’s name or trademark; or

b) otherwise closely and substantially connected to the registrant, in accordance with the categories of “close and substantial connection” set out in the Guidelines on the Interpretation of Policy Rules for the Open 2LDs.

3. A domain name may also be registered in the com.au 2LD under paragraph 2(b) for the purpose of domain monetisation, in accordance with the explanation of “domain monetisation” set out in the Guidelines on the Interpretation of Policy Rules for the Open 2LDs, provided that the following conditions are met:

a) the content on the website to which the domain name resolves must be related specifically and predominantly to subject matter denoted by the domain name; and

b) the domain name must not be, or incorporate, an entity name, personal name or brand name in existence at the time the domain name was registered*.
The OP might be able to get Auda to de-register Business X as the name licence holder due to 2a, or argue against monetisation under 3b as the association existed before Business X registered the name.
posted by Thella at 6:07 PM on July 21, 2015


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