arbitrary domain purchasing
April 16, 2006 9:23 PM   Subscribe

So I was reading a recent, likely-to-be-popular technical book, and I realized that the publisher doesn't actually own the domain name that they're using for a lot of the examples. So I bought it.

Is there a name for what I did, are there any legal issues to be aware of, and what would one typically do next? I suppose I can just redirect it to another site, or create some content related to the domain and sign up for adsense, or something. It was only like $12, so if it doesn't pay for itself, I don't really care.
posted by bingo to Computers & Internet (25 answers total)
It's called squatting, it isn't cool. Don't be that guy.
posted by nenequesadilla at 9:38 PM on April 16, 2006

Call the publisher and offer it to them for free/registration fees. If they refuse, have fun!
posted by michaelkuznet at 9:40 PM on April 16, 2006

It might be legal, but many believe it isn't very ethical. Squatting is indeed what it is. If it is a big enough name they may come after you for the domain name legally, I belive there is some precedent for forcing squatters to vacate their claim
posted by edgeways at 9:43 PM on April 16, 2006

Eh. Ignore the social disapproval. You haven't done anything unethical so far and let us all be clear: it's the publisher who fucked up. If you want to do a good deed, setup a redirect to the publisher's site or offer to donate to the publisher or author. But that's your choice; it's your domain to do with as you like.

If they'd like to buy it, they'll come knocking. If not, they can adjust the examples in the next printing and make a note in their online errata.

Keep in mind that anti-squatting rules make it easier for them to have the domain wrested from you if you've offered it up for sale. But if the name is generic (no trademark or personal names) and your usage is non-commercial, supposedly it's harder for 3rd parties to take it away from you. (IANAL, usual disclaimers, blah blah...)
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 9:53 PM on April 16, 2006

Wikipedia on domain sqautting.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 9:57 PM on April 16, 2006

From the linked wikipedia article:

The cybersquatter then offers the domain to the person or company who owns a trademark contained within the name at an inflated price, an act which some deem to be extortion.

Well, in this case, there is no such person or company. There is no trademark within the domain name; it's just something they made up for their examples. Actually, wikipedia's definition of domain parking seems to fit the bill better. there some well-tread middle ground between giving it to the publisher and holding it for ransom? I figured there was some service I could sign up with that would just put a bunch of advertising on it or something.
posted by bingo at 10:04 PM on April 16, 2006 there some well-tread middle ground between giving it to the publisher and holding it for ransom? I figured there was some service I could sign up with that would just put a bunch of advertising on it or something.

That, more or less, is a definition of domain parking. Check out for an example (I don't own it, but I tried to register it when I bought my own domain).
posted by danb at 10:31 PM on April 16, 2006

Just out of morbid curiosity - what's the book, and what is the domain? :D
posted by blahtsk at 11:11 PM on April 16, 2006

Squatting? Donating the site to the publisher/author? Are they a charity? Unless the book was written by the Red Cross or United Way or freakin' Jerry Lewis, this seems a little overblown. Does anyone really make money off those domain parking ad pages? I just treat them like 404s and ignore them.
posted by incessant at 11:44 PM on April 16, 2006

Story time. Sorry for the length.

This happened to me, though I was on the publisher's end. The book author made all sorts of references not only to a nonexistent website, but also documents hosted on said website that were never written.

Said author wasn't exactly web-literate, and didn't quite seem to grasp the idea that someone (he didn't want to do it) would have to assemble and publish all the references he thought would magically appear on his yet-to-be-built website.

I was able to get the domain registered and setup in time (not to mention the site built), but I still have to deal with the fallout from bad links to nonexistent documents. Pisses me off to no end - I'm "only" their web provider, yet they never thought to run the book by me. Hell, they didn't even approach me about the website until like a week before the damn book hit the shelves.

Since the book content itself was non-technical, I guess it never occurred to the editor to check the URLs. I wouldn't be surprised if the editor for your book just checked the spelling/grammar and glazed over all the rest.

It gets better - the book actually referenced 2 URLS - I could only register the domain to one of them. The other was held by a squatter. The publisher had no interest in negotiating.

In my own case, the publishers did not have much legal ground to stand on. This is mainly because the second domain name (part of the title of the book) in itself could be accused of infringing on another company's trademarked phrase.

The squatter probably gets more ad revenue from squatting on this 3rd party's term, rather than my publisher's book. So, the publisher just let the squatted domain be and will correct the URL in future editions of the book.

Obviously, my vote is to do the good deed and notify the publishers. But, if the clueness of my situtation has invaded yours, be prepared in any confrontation to deal with some complete idiots.
posted by Sangre Azul at 12:59 AM on April 17, 2006

nakedcodemonkey writes "You haven't done anything unethical so far and let us all be clear: it's the publisher who fucked up."

So? Who cares if the publisher fucked up?

Do the nice thing. Call up the company and say "hey, uh, about your book. Yeah, I registered the name. If you'd like to reimburse me for my registration costs, it's yours." You could even drop in a "Gee, aren't you lucky I'm a nice guy" if you like. Or if they have another book out that you'd like, you could perhaps ask for a free copy as well as your costs.

Seriously, though--don't be that guy we all hate, the one who's sitting on a name that we (for whatever reason) need.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:00 AM on April 17, 2006

I find it baffling that the book didn't use,, or as defined in RFC 2606. That's really what they're there for. I personally would be interested in hearing what book this was, so that I can stay away from such a standards-ignorant publisher/author. Does their internal network use non-RFC 1918 addresses, too?
posted by Plutor at 2:47 AM on April 17, 2006

bingo wrote: is there some well-tread middle ground between giving it to the publisher and holding it for ransom?

Holding it for ransom is the middle ground between charity and goatse.
posted by ryanrs at 3:10 AM on April 17, 2006

Between charity and ransom is a nice clean, family-friendly, website that compliments the book and earns you some money.

Between ransom and goatse.cs there's always selling it to Golden Palace.
posted by krisjohn at 5:24 AM on April 17, 2006

I agree that this isn't squatting, it's parking. I'd:
1.) set up something relevant to the subject of the book, and useful to anyone who happens to come along (without masquerading as the actual publisher).
2.) Set up AdWords or the Yahoo equivalent, which I hear is gaining favor.
3.) Profit!
posted by Tubes at 6:26 AM on April 17, 2006

Incessant--people do indeed make money of domain-parking. Some make quite a lot. There's even a word for them: domainers.
posted by adamrice at 7:01 AM on April 17, 2006

posted by adamrice at 7:01 AM on April 17, 2006

I can't believe that in this day and age a publisher could be that stupid. I say Park it.
posted by dobbs at 7:55 AM on April 17, 2006

I like the publisher, and I would never put anything on the domain that I thought was going to reflect poorly on them. On the other hand, I don't like them so much that I feel they should be able to mention a domain name in their book and then implicitly own it, whether they bought it or not.

I was thinking of just posting the examples that the reader would expect to find, and then using adsense or some such. On the other hand, those examples may be copywrited, although they are fairly generic (and available for free download). I could also post some vaguely related information about the subject in general.
posted by bingo at 8:28 AM on April 17, 2006

Well skallas, I'm not saying you're wrong (this thread was for me to learn), but it doesn't seem so clear-cut. This is nothing like or The domain I bought is not a brand name owned by anyone on the planet that I know of. Even people who read the book and then type in the URL are going to be doing so just out of curiosity. Besides, what good is 'parking' if you don't have a reason to believe that people will come? We could all just go and register a bunch of nonsense words in the hope that people will hit the pages at random, but in most cases (I would think) it's not worth it, because there's no reason those domains would get traffic.
posted by bingo at 9:03 AM on April 17, 2006

Why not put a link to the publisher's site, with perhaps an explanatory sentence saying "If you're looking for the publisher of [the book], click here" and then stick your AdWords stuff on the rest of the page? That should satisfy your pangs of conscience and possibly still make you a little dough.
posted by littleme at 9:20 AM on April 17, 2006

1) Setup a blog about whatever topic the book was about

2) setup google adwords

3) Profit.
posted by delmoi at 11:08 AM on April 17, 2006

This is certainly not clearly squatting. There's no celebrity name, no trademark, no anything that makes the domain the property of the publisher of the book. It's possible that this website could be used in a way that could then make it an example of quatting, but it isn't being used that way right now.

Personally, I'd contact the publisher, tell them the stupid mistake that they've made, tell them that you've done a good deed in order to spare them from the harm that would have occurred if someone far more unscrupulous had grabbed it, and tell them you'll hand it over in excahnge for a reasonable donation to a charitable organization you can both agree on.
posted by spira at 11:36 AM on April 17, 2006

I see nothing wrong with putting something up. Put up a short review of the book, and include a link to it on They should have registered the domain first.

I got some spam a year or so ago and the URL in the spam was unregistered. Damn skippy I registered it and put up a web page stating what idiots most spammers are. Never heard a peep about it.

I think that if you actually contact them and say anything about money at all, they can solicit ICANN and end up just yanking the domain right out from under you.
posted by drstein at 11:56 AM on April 17, 2006

I belatedly realised that this question relates to the great Katie Dot Com controversy of 2004.

Short version, the publisher put out a book, whose title was a domain name. The domain name wasn't theirs, it was registered to someone else and had been for some years.

They made the situation much much worse by trying to browbeat the owner of the domain name with legal threats and guilt trips -- their book was about young people's safety on the internet. Their guilt trip was ironically misplaced because the owner of Katie dot com was already something of a hero in that field.

So my answer is, every publisher in the world should have learned from this mistake, and they should have reformed their procedures and informed their staff at least two years ago. If they didn't, they're idiots.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:19 PM on April 18, 2006

« Older Eyes of blue (that were once hazel)   |   Extra! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.