As the Internet continues to expand like the World War Z zombie swarm, domain name registration law is becoming more complicated. For example, is it legal for a registrar to use your URL as a marketing tool if you don’t have a site on your domain? Keep reading to find out.
Domain Name Registration Law: Domain Parking
Some domain registrars either post a “Coming Soon” page on empty URLs or simply do nothing with the registered domain. Other registrars, however, make a profit off empty domains by serving up promotional material for their products on URLs that don’t yet have a website on them. Some registrars now even offer domain parking as a service to owners in a shared revenue agreement.
Domain Name Registration Law: Are Domains A Legally Protect-able Property?
In the 2003 case of Zurakov v. Register.com, a New York trial court ruled that a domain name is not a property right. The decision was reversed at the appellate level.
Plaintiff in Zurakov discovered that register.com placed a page on his domain that redirected visitors to a “Coming Soon” page filled with advertising for Register.com and its associates.
So, Zurakov decided to file a civil complaint alleging that domain names constitute a property right and that Register.com neither acted in good faith nor used fair practices based on the registration agreement.
Register.com claimed otherwise, arguing that the term “control” was not used in the domain registration contract. On top of that, the defendant pointed to a disclaimer on the “Coming Soon” page.
Ultimately, the court ruled in favor of the defendant precisely because the term “control” didn’t appear in the contract. Furthermore, the contract did not have an express definition of the word “register.” There was also a clause in the contract that made it possible for Register.com to modify, suspend, transfer, or cancel the contract at any time.
On appeal, the higher court overturned the lower court’s ruling. The court of appeals held the opinion that good faith required that “register” when used in relation to domains held a different meaning than the dictionary meaning. The court of appeals, however, did not render an opinion regarding whether or not a reasonable consumer might pay attention to the disclosures on Register.com’s default “Coming Soon” page.