Optima Loses Domain Name

Gretchen Gallen
Irvine, Calif. -- In yet another lawsuit alleging that Network Solutions, a subsidiary of VeriSign, gave away a domain name without valid permission from its current owner, a lawsuit filed this week by Optima Technology alleges that Network Solutions transferred ownership of its optimatech.com domain name to a former Optima employee several years ago without the company's knowledge.

Along with ownership of the Optima domain name, the employee, Michael Decorte, was also able to divert company sales traffic and profits into his own pockets, the company alleges.

Representatives for Optima noticed a lag in company profits around 2001, but at the time were not able to determine when exactly Decorte had gained control of the domain.

A privately held corporation that manufactures mass storage subsystems and other related peripherals, Optima has been the rightful owner of optimatech.com for more than ten years.

Optima filed its lawsuit against Network Solutions in Orange Country Circuit Court and is seeking $3 million in damages against the domain registrar, the company announced.

An Optima spokesperson told XBiz that when they approached Network Solutions for information, they were refused help. Network Solutions was not available for comment.

Similarly, Gary Kremen, the rightful owner of the Sex.com domain name, lost control over his domain six years ago when a con man forged his company letterhead and requested transference of ownership from Network Solutions.

After years of litigation and a $65 million victory against the man who had illegally assumed ownership of Sex.com, Kremen recently won the right to sue Network Solutions for liable. That case is still pending.

XBiz was contacted today by the owner of the domain name CamsGuys.com who claims to have experienced a similar situation several weeks ago when he was notified via email by domain registrar GoDaddy.com requesting confirmation on the transfer of his site. The company owner, identified as Joey, was instructed to click on a link in the email authorizing the transfer.

"Since I've never done business with GoDaddy.com and because I knew nothing about this, I replied to the email and told them in no uncertain terms that this transfer was in no way initiated by me and they were not to touch my site," Joey told XBiz.

Several days later, he received another email asking again for authorization on the transfer. Not long after, Joey was notified by an employee that his site was down and was being redirected to the GoDaddy.com website.

When Joey checked the "Who Is" information on the CamsGuys.com domain, he was told that his website was now under new ownership.

Joey reportedly contacted his current domain registrar, Dotster, and discovered that his contact and ownership information had allegedly been hacked and now referred directly to some one else's contact information.

According to Kimberly Cecere of Go Daddy Software, the transfer of CamsGuys.com was valid.

"The only way a domain can be transferred to Go Daddy is if it is verified by email through the administrative email address for the domain name, which is exactly what happened," she told XBiz. "Dotster contacted Go Daddy regarding this domain name transfer. The administrative email address that confirmed the transfer was the same one on record at the time of the transfer."

Joey has since turned his experience of losing his domain name into a cautionary tale for all webmasters.

"Please take this as a warning," he told XBiz. "Call your registrar and have them lock all of your domains ASAP. If your domains aren't locked, it can be a fairly easy process for them to get in and steal your domains. And, believe me, it's pure hell trying to get them back."

According to Barry Eisler, president of Optima Technology, having a domain pulled out from under you is akin to "parking your car with the valet, giving your key to the valet attendant and coming out after a wonderful dinner, only to find your car was stolen as the valet gave your keys to a crook without checking to see if you authorized the theft."

A spokesperson for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) told XBiz that while they could not comment on individual complaints against various domain registrars and registries, they had recently reviewed policies to make it much more difficult to transfer domain names.

But ultimately, the spokesperson told XBiz, "It is up to the registrar to be responsive."

In the case of the CamsGuys.com website, according to Go Daddy, if someone transferred it without Joey's permission, they had to have access to his email and passwords, or his account at Dotster.

"Hence, this appears to be a domain dispute in which the contending party needs to contact the current registrant," Go Daddy told XBiz. "Our best guess is that the admin and the previous registrant had a falling out while the admin still had control over the domain name. If this person cannot come to an agreement with the current registrant, he may wish to pursue this through a court or arbitration forum."