Disclaimer: I am now an auDA Demand Class Director. The article below is my personal opinion, and does not purport to be the views of auDA.
There are two very small groups of people in the internet community in Australia. Domain investors or “Domainers” – and those people that dislike them with an unbridled and irrational passion. For purposes of this article, let’s call them the “detractors”.
In the interests of full disclosure – and as you can probably tell from my website – I am a proud member of the former group. That said, I haven’t purchased a domain on the expired auctions for a long time.
The “detractors” are usually very quick to describe us as “cybersquatters”. That’s probably the polite term – I’ve read descriptions such as “parasites” and “scumbags”.
Unfortunately, even some lawyers don’t seem to understand what cybersquatting truly is. Take this Legalvision article from December 2015. The first sentence is wrong and misleading in my opinion:
“Cybersquatting refers to the registration of internet domain names with the purpose of profiting from its purchase.“
Thank goodness we have some lawyers like Cooper Mills who define the term properly:
“Cybersquatting is the practice of bad faith use and or registration of a domain name.”
There’s a big difference between those two definitions.
- In Australia, domain investment or domain monetisation is a permitted activity. Just like it is in most places around the world. However, there are a lot of extra rules and policies on our home turf that registrants have to comply with if they claim this as their “close and substantial connection”. If they don’t comply, then they are at risk of enforcement action by auDA (and possibly losing their domains).
- Domain names have been around for a long time. The best ones have long ago been registered, and there is an aftermarket where buyers and sellers can transact. Just like the real estate market, there are owner/occupiers, and there are investors. People that invested in property 10 or 20 years ago are not called parasites or scumbags. Free market principles of supply and demand apply to both “real property” as they do to “cyber property”.
- Every day at 2pm, there are “expired auctions”. These are domain names that haven’t been renewed for one reason or the other, and anybody can bid on them. Go to Drop.com.au; DomainShield.com.au or Netfleet.com.au.
- Domainers don’t have magical powers that enables them to register domains ahead of anyone else. In Australia, we operate on a first come; first served basis.
As I wrote back in April 2015 in my article entitled “What is a Domainer?”, responsible domainers also don’t blatantly infringe on trademarks or brands.
Like any industry though, there can be some “bad eggs” that can spoil it for others – but they are an absolute minority. And they deserve regulatory and public condemnation. But please don’t tar us all with the same brush! If you see someone doing something illegal or against policy, then complain to auDA.
By the same token, if no rules are being broken, then please don’t throw stones.
Domain investment is legitimate, and it’s here to stay.
Ned O’Meara – 11th December 2017