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Attorney Sues Cybersquatters for ‘Porn-Napping’ Her Domain

According to the complaint, defendants snatched up an expired domain name that had been advertising a law firm and used it to promote adult sites.
Attorney Sues Cybersquatters for ‘Porn-Napping’ Her Domain
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Oct 22, 2007 10:00 AM PDT    Text size: 
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A Virginia attorney has filed a lawsuit against domain registrar Wild West Domains and other defendants, asserting that they hijacked her domain name and then defamed her by linking to and displaying sexually explicit content on the domain.

The lawsuit is an example of the legal risks involved with displaying adult content on or directing traffic from expired nonadult domains to adult sites — risks that extend beyond the direct consequences of violating the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.

In addition to Wild West Domains (WWD), the lawsuit names WWD CEO Robert Parsons and General Manager Michael Zimmerman, along with credoNic.com and Blind Date Bangers — referred to in the lawsuit as a business entity of “form unknown.”

According to the lawsuit, Diane Fener, an attorney based in Virginia Beach, paid for online advertising for her law firm through a company called Thompson/West. Thompson/West registered the domain name DianeFenerLaw.com for their ad campaign, submitting to search engines for indexing and publishing content to the site directing visitors to Fener’s firm.

After Fener discontinued the advertising campaign with the company, Thompson/West allowed its ownership of the DianeFenerLaw.com domain to lapse. According to the lawsuit “the defendants, in the ordinary course of their cybersquatting business, acquired the domain name.”

In her lawsuit, Fener claimed that Parsons, Zimmerman and others whose identities are not yet known “formulated a scheme whereby they would acquire expiring Internet domain names and resell them at a profit.”

With respect to DianeFenerLaw.com, Fener asserted in her lawsuit, the defendants added a new twist to the old cybersquatting game.

“The defendants, in an effort to coerce the victims of their cybersquatting enterprise to pay a high price to repurchase their domain names, added an additional feature to the cybersquatter business model,” Fener said in her lawsuit. “They conspired and agreed to cause [Blind Date Bangers] pornographic website to appear under the expired domain names they acquired. This practice is known as ‘porn-napping.’”

According to the lawsuit, Fener first discovered what had happened with the domain in November 2006, a discovery that “caused her to suffer great mortification, humiliation and severe emotional distress.”

Fener purchased the domain from credoNic.com approximately a week after becoming aware of the adult content being displayed there, and subsequently removed all that content.

The specific claims made in the lawsuit included unauthorized use of name, defamation per se, harassment by computer and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Fener requested a trial by jury to address her claims and is seeking $3 million in general damages, “special damages according to proof” and exemplary damages of $350,000. Fener also asked that the court enjoin the defendants from “any future conduct with respect to any domain name containing Diane Fener’s name.”

Fener’s attorney Robert Jeffries declined to comment on the situation, and XBIZ was unable to reach representatives for the defendants by post time.

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