University Web Developers

University Web Developers

This post is slightly off topic, but I'd like to tap your collective wisdom on a problem I'm having with my personal site.

I've owned the domain markagreenfield.com since November of 2006. About a month ago, the site stopped working. After some investigating I found that someone else now owned the domain. I was able to transfer my site to another domain - markgr.com - but the damage is done. Traffic has disappeared. A year of work to get my site to the top of Google when you searched on my name is gone. Many people who followed my site are probably thinking I abandoned it.

For the first three weeks after this happened, when you went to markagreenfield.com it looked like my site, but it wasn't under my control. If you viewed the source code, there were hidden links to porn sites. For the last week or so, when you go to markagreenfield.com, you get an error message saying the site doesn't exist.

My hosting company assures me that they renewed the name in November, but I'm not sure I believe them. They have not been responsive at all. When I did a whois lookup when this first happened, the address given was fraudulent. Now it's obvious that I'm being blackmailed when I do a whois lookup: http://www.whois.net/whois_new.cgi?d=markagreenfield&tld=com

Any insight you can provide would be greatly appreciated. While I'm sure I have legal recourse, I'm not sure I want to spend the time and money. I just want my domain back!

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I wish I had some advice for you. Do you mind me asking who was your service provider? That's real crappy of them and if anything the one thing you can do is post bad publicity about them and make sure everyone is aware of their horrible service. It might obligate them to provide more support?
You might try to ask at

http://www.webhostingtalk.com/

This is where I do all my research for hosting and domain related things. Very useful resources.
Generally on a domain name that is unique enough like a name, you can file a dispute to have control turned over to you, even if a squatter grabs it. Sometimes it works, sometimes not, and it usually takes time. But it's a place to start.

You could also have a lawyer send your registrar a threatening letter. It won't cost you much to just have the letter written up, and sometimes that's enough to kick their butt into action.

You might find some useful info here: http://www.icann.org/udrp/udrp.htm
My best advice? Goons...hired goons. ;-)

Seriously though, one thing that has surprised me so far in life is that with all of the people out there who mean to wreak havoc and do either random or targeted harm over the internet, nobody has put together some type of "Most Wanted" list and gone after a few of these folks...legally or otherwise. I'm not advocating violence in any way! I'm just saying that there is some "Mark Greenfield" out there who isn't as polite and friendly as the one we all know and like in here...and he might be relying upon "markagreenfield.com" for his very livelihood. If somebody out there causes him significant personal (reputation) or financial harm, it's not that big of a stretch of the imagination to have "Mark Greenfield" track said person/company down and repay the favor with interest.

Overseas and domestic scammers/spammers do 100-times more damage to the American economy than Al Qaeda ever has (at least until we decided to pour hundreds of billions into Iraq), yet the financial resources dedicated to tracking down and prosecuting those folks is probably far less than 1% that amount? I guess I'm surprised that no retaliatory "vigilante" response has yet been reported as a result...though I'm sure that day is coming. Sad that we even have to think about stuff like that, but that seems to be where we are at sometimes as a society.
Is this the place you registered the domain with
http://www.estdomains.com/ ?

I think by the whois
Registrant:
If you wanna get it back
For owner of this domain (admin@paysite2go.com)
mail me
x
null,11111
AT
Tel. +1.111111111111

It pretty obvious that the person is just squatting. And that's a violation for not having real contact info in there. Though I'm not a fan of theirs I would probably say call verisign and talk to them about having them get your domain back and then switch to a much cheaper registrar after that, though one that actually does their job :) (I use namesecure and domainmonger and have had no issue with either.)
I did not register the domain name with estdomains. I registered it directly with my web hosting company.

This situation remains unresolved. I haven't shared the name of my web hosting company yet, but I will if they don't step up to the plate soon.

One final question - Is my web hosting company obligated to correct this, or does that burden fall on me? I son't want to start paying attorney's fees if I can avoid it.
I think that depends partly on the service contract. I would suspect, that so long as your account was paid in full, maintaining the registration is their responsibility, not yours. That's part of what you are paying them to do, keep the domain registration current.

Pull up your TOS and check it out. Might prove to be your best weapon in the matter. If nothing else, you can probably get something comped out of the deal due to their error.
Well it counts on what you are actually paying for in their deal. Some places I know out there will register your domain for a fee (or do for free, which they make back in your monthly fee) and then you pay your monthly hosting fee. That doesn't include next years registration. Like Michael said you will need to look at what you were actually paying for but if it was just hosting in the end then it falls to you but if it included registration then it falls on them.
Found this the other day for someone else and then remembered this discussion about it as well.

http://thomasfreudenberg.com/blog/archive/2005/12/28/cyber-squatter...

This is what one guy sent to his squatter and got the domain back for $60. Should send a similar email to the guy who sent you the request offer. It's always worth a shot.
Ha, yes, that is awesome. Good for him, and a good example for others. The glory of fighting someone who works in legal gray area, they don't want to be scrutinized too closely.
Mark,

Very sorry to learn of these domain name woes. This is a scary, scary story ... the kind of thing you thing only happens in the movies or on the evening news, not to people you actually know!

Here are some thoughts:

-- You probably have copyright and trademark rights to the domain name no matter who controls it, unless you signed away those in writing. This should afford some legal advantage to you if it comes to that, but doesn't mean you can be made whole again without some costs.

-- If you relied on your hosting company to register and maintain the name (ouch) then it should be their obligation to keep it up, unless your contract somehow absolves them of that. They should wade into battle on your behalf. Tell them you'll blog vociferously about their ineptitude if they don't!

--If this squatter appropriated your record dishonestly, the DNS company should just correct it for you (or rather for your hosting company) at no cost. Beware the vortex.

-- I don't think your post is off topic in any way, because as webmasters for our institutions, this raises the very real question of who in our institutions we allow to register and maintain non-edu domain names for institutionally sponsored sites. We have many of these .org/.com names at my school, and have tried to get them all bundled into one account under one host. We try to manage everything centrally to avoid ownership issues and disputes. And on the occasions we partner with a third-party on a Web site we try to maintain ownership of the domain name -- especially if the name includes the name of our university or school, because if the relationship with the third-party ever goes sour, it doesn't leave them in legal control of a domain name that includes your institution's name or brand.

Please keep us posted, and good luck.
Hi John -

Here is part of the chat transcript from this afternoon. I had to contact my web hosting company because they had mistakenly taken down markgr.com today.


I looked it up at enom, and the answer from estdomains was that it wasn't hijacked. But they are a Russian company who looks criminal on a web search. The next step would have to be file a complaint with ICAAN but it has to be filed by the owner, which is you.


It looks like I'll have to take this up with ICAAN. I have visions of endless red tape and I am not sure if it's worth the effort.

Does anyone have a web hosting company they would recommend?

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