Domain theft, also known as domain hijacking, is the practice of changing a domain name’s registration without the permission of the domain’s original registrant.
Domain hijacking can be executed in a number of ways. While many may assume that domain hijacking is accomplished through nefarious methods such as viruses, Trojan horses, or keylogging, the most common tactic used by domain hijackers is to acquire personal information about the original domain owner and use it to persuade the domain registrar to transfer the domain to another registrar.
Less common but also effective, domain theft can also be accomplished by domain registrar employees who accept payment in exchange for fraudulently entering whois-data. Some may also knowingly cancel payment for renewals, allowing domains to expire and be purchased before the original registrar finds out.
Domain hijackers may hijack domains for a number of reasons. Hijackers may use the stolen domain as a means to collect third-party personal information (e.g., phishing, keylogging, etc.), as a means to generate advertising revenue (e.g., parked domains), or even simply to profit by selling the domain back to the original registrant at an inflated price. The latter is especially common if the domain names contain famous marks or similar variants of a trademark spelling.
Because there are no specific international or federal laws that explicitly criminalize domain theft, recovering hijacked domains can often be difficult and time-consuming. The problem is often exacerbated if the domain name was transferred to a foreign, out-of-country registrar. In these cases, the original domain owner may not be able to recover the domain at all.
Domain Name Disputes
We can provide advice on how to take the necessary precautions to avoid theft of domains. We can also assist in the pursuit of domain retrieval or legal recourse, in the unfortunate event of domain hijacking.
As an internet and eCommerce law firm, our internet and eCommerce lawyers can assist with advising on domain theft legal issues. See our Internet & eCommerce service line page for additional information about domain theft legal services.