By Doug Isenberg

So, you know the expression, “When you’re holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail”? Apparently, the same is true when you’re a domain name attorney.

Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that the word “domain” existed long before the Internet (which, itself, hasn’t really been with us for too long).

The Merriam-Webster dictionary includes 10 definitions for “domain” — beginning with “complete and absolute ownership of land” and covering such obscure (to me) entries as “any of the small randomly oriented regions of uniform magnetization in a ferromagnetic substance.” The tenth and last entry relates to Internet domain names.

In law school, I studied “eminent domain” — the right of a government to take private property for public use.

And, in a classic episode, the characters on the Seinfeld television show tried to become masters of their domains. (Consult the Urban Dictionary, if necessary.)

Still, I automatically think of the Internet when I hear the word “domain,” since I’ve been working in this area of the law for more than 17 years

But a recent encounter reminded me yet again that the word has other meanings — as the accompanying advertisement to “Reclaim Your Domain” makes clear. When I saw that headline, the first thing I thought of was the UDRP — the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy. (Never mind that the ad was posted inside a restaurant restroom.)

But, as the ad from Junk King declares, this company’s services take place entirely offline: “a full range of junk removal services.”

Well, considering all of the junk that exists on the Internet, maybe these two domains aren’t entirely unrelated after all.

(One more thought before I go. It’s too bad that Junk King hasn’t cleaned up its own [Internet] domain problem: The company uses junk-king.com (with a hyphen), while junkking.com (without a hyphen) is registered to someone else.)

By Doug Isenberg

Question: How much is a domain name worth?

Answer: Whatever someone is willing to pay for it.

Really, I’m not being facetious. I’ve told clients and others the same thing many times. Because, unlike almost every other type of property and asset, domain names are unique, and their resale prices vary wildly.

So, one of the most difficult things to know in the sale of any domain name is what a prospective buyer is really willing to pay.

Take, for example, the recent sale of the domain name <internet.org>. According to a Bloomberg news article, the domain name was sold by a Denver entrepreneur who had registered it in 1993 — forever ago.

Only after the sale, which apparently was made via a domain name broker, did the seller find out that the buyer is a partnership of top Internet companies led by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, whose net worth was recently estimated by Forbes at $16.1 billion.

internet.org

So, how much did the previous owner of <internet.org> get for the domain name? He only told Bloomberg that it was “far less than $1 million.”

Had the seller known that the buyer was backed by a multi-billionaire, perhaps the price would have been much higher.

On the other hand, knowing when to sell a domain name reminds me of that timeless advice about knowing when to sell a stock: “Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered.”

Still, in many high-priced domain name transactions, a seller should conduct due diligence about a buyer, because the true value of a domain name cannot be ascertained in the abstract. Well-known buyers in such transactions, however, will understandably do their best to conceal their identity.

So, what’s the best way to figure out what a domain name is really worth? If you’re a seller, sell it. If you’re a buyer, buy it.

(Update: “The Domains” blog has more details about how the <internet.org> domain name transaction occurred, “Internet.org Acquired By Zuckberberg From Domain Investor After He Owned It For Just One Month“.)

By Doug Isenberg

As widely reported, The New York Times website was apparently “hacked” by the Syrian Electronic Army, resulting in widespread outages and warnings within the newspaper to its reporters to avoid sending sensitive e-mail.

The attack appeared to be at one of the highest levels in a website’s food chain — the domain name record itself (in this case, nytimes.com). One large and reputable corporate registrar said that the domain name was “breached and redirected.”

Putting aside the issue of how the attack could have happened, I’m amazed by what I saw when I looked at the domain name record itself, that is, the “whois” database. A day after the hacking — after The New York Times website had recuperated (though not fully) from the attack — I saw that the nytimes.com domain name is due to expire on January 20, 2014. Less than four months from today.

Many large organizations (including Microsoft and the International Olympic Committee) have failed to renew their domains, as I have previously noted. So, why take a risk with any domain name and allow it to get dangerously close to expiration before renewing it?

Registrars typically offer registrations and renewals for up to 10 years, so there’s really no reason to let a domain name linger with less than a year until expiration.

It’s cheap, easy and smart to renew an important domain name — actually, any domain name you want to keep — long before the expiration date approaches. Renewing a domain name today can avoid problems — including legal issues — tomorrow, or a few months from now. That shouldn’t be news to anyone, including The New York Times.

Is a Cheap, Computer-Generated UDRP Complaint a Good Idea?

May 7, 2013

By Doug Isenberg If you could pay several hundred dollars (or even less) for something that often costs thousands of dollars, should you do so? The answer, of course, is, “it depends.” It depends on whether the items are truly comparable — or, is one merely a cheaper imitation of the other? This is true [...]

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Ten Essential Bookmarks for Understanding Domain Name Law

April 15, 2013

By Doug Isenberg Keeping up with domain name law and news is a challenging task, but after nearly 17 years of legal practice in this area, I’ve compiled a short list of “go-to” websites that keep me informed and educated. Here, then, are the best and most important sites I visit on a regular basis [...]

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