This is a historic moment in Domaining history – the first domain thief has been brought to justice. For those who have been living in a cave for the past week (or on vacation – it is summer!) 24-year-old Daniel Goncalves was arrested at his home in New Jersey for the theft of P2P.com. If you missed this story make sure to read it over at DNJournal – Ron Jackson has a great summary of the events with excellent commentary.
First I have to say “About Damn Time!” For too long domain thieves have been working with little fear of being caught or prosecuted. Why is this? It is actually a simple reason – the registrars and payment services protect domain thieves! Now I’m not saying that registrars and payment services are actually assisting Domain Thieves, but they are doing nothing to stop them once a domain has been stolen. Since domain names are virtual real estate, traditional law enforcement knows next to nothing about them or the laws surrounding ownership (of which there aren’t many). Thus, when a domain is stolen there is usually no legal recourse the owner can take to reclaim their lost property.
I’d like to give a real world example of what’s happening here just to illustrate how absurd this situation has become. Imagine if you bought a house, you move-in with your family and enjoy living in the house for a few years. One summer you go on vacation and come-back to find-out that someone has actually picked your house up out of the ground and moved it. You search around and finally find your home but when you knock on the door, nobody answers. You contact the bank and say – “someone stole my house!” and the bank says “sorry we try to stay-out of these kinds of issues, it is your responsibility.” So then you contact law enforcement and they say “what’s a house, we don’t know much about those.” So you are left with nothing and nobody to help you reclaim your home.
Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? This is essential what is happening with domain thefts. Thieves get-away with stealing domains over and over again because the registrars don’t want to get involved and payment services oftentimes won’t help-out when it comes to the transfer of virtual real estate or digital products.
I started the website DomainTheft.org in May of 2008 as a way to help stop domain theft. Anyone is allowed to submit a theft report to the site and I verify each of my reports and then work with the domain owners to reclaim their domains. There are also some false positives mostly from people who let their domains expire and then accuse the registrar of stealing their domain. The most common cause of domain theft I’ve seen is people having GMail, AOL, Yahoo mail, etc. accounts hacked since these accounts oftentimes do not require you to have an additional email account on file and have known security holes. People oftentimes forget that the email address is the key to domain ownership and with access to this they can get your login and password to your registrar giving full access to your domains.
So what can we all do to help prevent domain theft? Report it! Report your thefts to DomainTheft.org and if it was a particular forum user report them as well. If everyone reported their thefts to DomainTheft.org and everyone buying domains looked at this site before purchasing a domain, thieves would have nobody to sell their stolen property to! It is the sale of stolen domains that makes it very hard to catch the thieves. Once a domain is stolen and re-sold, the new owner has no idea the domain is stolen and most likely paid good money to buy the name so doesn’t want to give it up.
So next time you go to buy a domain name, please, do everyone a favor here and check DomainTheft.org to make sure you are not buying a stolen domain name. If you have a domain name stolen from you – report it right-away and include any information you have about the person who stole it. We’ll do everything we can to recover your domain and hopefully prevent the thief from selling your domain to anyone else.
Together we can all help stop domain theft and bring these thieves to justice!