NewNet NonNews and Welcome to Virginia, dotcom owners
[Posted to Random Bytes on August 30, 2002 12:21 AM| Links to this post ]

The community seems to have missed the real news of the day in the "Big Precedent" department. NAF permitting tomfoolery by making a ruling on a 4th level domain (or a second level if you believe the spin) isn't "groundbreaking" in any way shape or form. In fact it is a seeming non-event that proves nothing other than the now-fact that people that pay good money to register a domain name in a TLD that doesn't resolve in most homes on my block (and yours) are now willing to toss good money into dispute arbitration proceedings. I'd love to read the filings. "The Registrant has infringed on my fake trademark by registering a fake name. We request that the panelist find a way to resolve this dispute quickly because goodness knows the name isn't resolving any time soon."

The real news of the day came from a real court regarding an issue with a real TLD.

The short version is that a Virginia Court has held that domain names are indeed property and can be subject to in rem actions.

The long version, while likely much more interesting, is beyond my sleep deprived capability to comprehend at this point. I did read the article however and would highly recommend that you do the same. Me retelling the story any further won't do it justice, but here are a few choice quotes. Needless to say that this really changes things in the dotCOMmonwealth.

"So where exactly does a domain name live? If you're a purist, you'll say that it doesn't 'live' anywhere ... If you are a United States District Judge, presented with a .com domain name, you'll say that a domain name is a piece of property with a geographical existence - in the Commonwealth of Virginia, USA. Why? Because that is where the registry for .com domain names is to be found.

The court decisions affirming this principle were Porsche Cars v and others, and Harrods Limited v Sixty Internet Domain Names. You may be wondering how it is that the Plaintiffs appear to be suing domain names rather than people or companies. In an odd twist, strange at least to most non-lawyers, US law says that a domain name is a piece of property that can be sued in its own right. This is called an in rem action (Latin for 'against the thing' as opposed to in personam or 'against the person'). The consequence of this peculiar state of affairs is that all of those registrants who have a .com domain name but live outside Virginia are viewed as absentee owners of property situated there. If you injure someone by virtue of that property (we're talking trademark disputes here) then Virginia's courts will take the case."


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