October 29, 1996 12:45 PM PST

Net realty for sale

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Domain names are a hot commodity in the "cyberspace real estate" market, and a Beverly Hills company today said it's hoping to strike it rich by helping Netizens buy and sell popular names for a ten percent commission.

That's more than the six percent rate that you typically pay for buying or selling a house, but after all, this is the Internet.

Popular Web addresses are so hard to come by now that corporations and individuals have bought them by the handful. Procter & Gamble, for example, has collected more than 100 domain names including diarrhea.com and pimples.com.

Three years ago, domain names were sold to individuals and organizations for a $50 annual fee on a "first-come, first-served" basis by the InterNIC registration service, an organization run by Network Solutions.

But, now that the demand is high, domain name owners are looking to sell.

Multimedia Realty allows Netizens to do just that. The company refers to itself as an "innovative domain name brokerage service" and has 100 listings in categories including Known Places, Place Names, Mall Names, People Names, and Famous Streets. Nirvana.org is the most expensive listing at $650,000 and englandmall.com and canadasmall.com tie for the cheapest at $5,000.

The company quietly launched the service last month and has yet to make a sale, but remains optimistic. "Domain names are a tremendously valuable asset," Steve Newman, president of Multimedia Realty said today. "We'll spread very quickly by word of mouth on the Net."

Newman said his company will profit $750 or 10 percent from each domain sale, whichever is greater.

But buying and selling isn't that easy. Domain name disputes are rising as more corporations and organization jump online. Multimedia says it "assumes no liability regarding the continued use of domain names purchased through this service."

So what precautions should a potential buyer take before opening his or her wallet? The answer is simple, according to the Internet Society's executive director Martin Bureck: Don't buy. "I'm not going to spend $300,000 on somebody if they can't guarantee what they're selling me," he said.

But if the temptation is too strong, Bureck advises that you consult a lawyer. "I would advise anybody considering buying names from anyone that they had better check with their lawyers and get a strong legal opinion as to infringement on someone else's rights," he said. "There's no way I would buy a domain name from anyone without a lawyer."

 

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