October 8, 2007 6:15 AM PDT
Cybersquatting escalates in Asia
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For example, China's ".cn" domains are now so inexpensive that it is encouraging the growth of cybersquatting, said Janna Lam, managing director of Singapore-based IP Mirror. In fact, IP Mirror currently acquires these site names from Chinese domain name registrar CNNIC.net.cn at such a low rate that the Singapore registrar is able to offer ".cn" site names for as low as $3 a year.
"Cybersquatting has always been a (worldwide) trend and is now catching up in Asia," Lam said, adding that the main cause for this growth is the relatively low prices of the domain names.
The U.S. Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act defines cybersquatting as the "unauthorized registration or use of trademarks as Internet domain names, or other identifiers of online locations."
Lam said the phenomenon of cybersquatting is global, and the practice is especially popular when it comes to generic top-level domain extensions, such as China's .cn, India's .in and South Korea's .kr.
"The cheaper the domain (name), the more active the cybersquatting activities," Lam said, noting that cybersquatters have now earned a new moniker, "domainers."
"Domainers now are viewed more like merchants who buy and sell domains as part of their business," she explained. "Some even trademark the domain (name) so that it can be sold at a higher price."
"We know that SGNIC (Singapore Network Information Center, that country's central domain registry) does not encourage sale of domain names, and they do some monitoring of .sg domains. However, not all the registries in the world will be bothered to do likewise," Lam said.
She cautioned that to contain the problem of cybersquatting, Internet domain names should be monitored. "Unless (this) is done regularly, it does not really help to solve the problem," she said.
The only way to combat cybersquatting "is to actively protect domains which the businesses think are important to their business," she said. These are predominantly associated with trademarks that the organization possesses, such as brand or product names.
Microsoft takes squatters to court
Last year, Microsoft filed three lawsuits in U.S. federal court against cybersquatters who, the software vendor said, illegally profited from sales of the domain names of thousands of Web sites, such as WindowsLiveTutorial.com and HaloChamp.com, associated with the company's products or brand.
Nancy Anderson, Microsoft's vice president and deputy counsel, said that the software giant has "brought 15 different legal actions targeting more than 1,500 infringing domain names," and that most of these cases were filed over the past year.
"So far, we've had judgments that have involved more than $5 million in judgment amount, and we've also settled cases to the tune of over $1 million," Anderson said in a phone interview.
Asked if regulations have been ineffective in containing the problem, Anderson said: "There have been many legal issues that have been around for a number of years, but you don't solve (these) overnight."
She noted that cybercriminal activities such as child exploitation and spamming, for instance, have been around for more than 10 years. "It's not just about legal enforcement, but also consumer education (as well as) technology developments to really address the problem."
Anderson said it will take "a concerted effort" to control cybersquatting.
Lynn Tan of ZDNet Asia reported from Singapore.
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