Court Says Domain Name Is Located Where Its Registrar Registry Is Located

from the oh-really? dept

It's been nearly a decade since we first heard about John Zuccarini -- an internet character who made his name by registering a ton of typosquatting domain names, and was sued a bunch of times for it, but avoided dealing with things for a while by being impossible to find. And, even when he was found, he was notoriously vague in answering questions. From a bit of testimony from back in the day:
Question: What is your current address?

Zuccarini: 957 Bristol Pike, Apartment D-6, Andalusia, Pennsylvania, 19020.

Q: Is that where you currently reside?

Zuccarini: Not necessarily.

Q: Where do you currently reside?

Zuccarini: I don't have - that's my legal address. I really don't have a permanent address at this time.

Q: Where do you currently reside?

Zuccarini: Right now, I am staying at the Millennium Hotel in New York.

Q: When you are not in New York for a deposition, where do you live? Where have you lived in the past two weeks?

Zuccarini: I have been living in various places.

Q. What are the various places that you have been living?

Zuccarini: Friends' places. You know, that type of thing. Different hotels.

Q. 957 Bristol Pike is not your residence?

Zuccarini: No, it's not. It's my legal address. I have a lease on the apartment and that's where I have - some things are sent there which I get.

Q: Do you live in Pennsylvania?

Zuccarini: I don't know. I don't have a permanent address so I can live anywhere. I don't live anywhere right now. I can't give you a permanent address.
Eventually, the FTC ordered that thousands of his sites should be shut down. And then it fined Zuccarini $1.9 million. But, still no one could find him. A year and a half later, he was finally found and arrested leading to an eventual guilty plea. Of course, that didn't stop him. In 2007, he was fined yet again by the FTC, this time for typosquatting on domain names that kids were likely to visit -- and sending them to hardcore porn sites. Yeah. He's that kind of evil.

Anyway, going all the way back to a decade ago, when various companies were filing lawsuits against him, one such lawsuit involved Office Depot, which was none too pleased about Zuccarini's registration and use of offic-depot.com. Office Depot sued and won, but given Zuccarini's slippery nature, was unable to collect its judgment. Eventually, Office Depot handed over the judgment to a company called DS Holding, who then wanted to get paid. It eventually asked a court in Northern California to hand over some of Zuccarini's other domains to fulfill the judgment. The court agreed, but Zuccarini appealed, claiming that the court in California had no jurisdiction over his domain names.

Eric Goldman points us to the ruling in the case where the court finds that, indeed, domain names are considered property, and that jurisdiction should be based on where the registrar registry of that domain is located (pdf) rather than wherever John Zuccarini may be hiding at the moment. Since, in this case, the registry was VeriSign, and VeriSign is in Northern California... the court was ruled to be the proper jurisdiction. Update: Originally, we noted that this said it was where the registrar was located, but it actually goes further -- saying that it's where the registry is located. Way back when, the two things were the same (and they were all Network Solutions), but now you have different registrars for top level domains, but one registrar that maintains the overall database of each top-level domain name. This ruling says that while in the past people might focus on the registrar, it also applies to the registry.

While the court does explain that this appears to be exactly what our anti-cybersquatting laws say when it comes to jurisdiction, that does lead to some other interesting legal questions when it comes to jurisdictions. It seems like it could be somewhat troubling if your domain is officially located wherever the registrar is in other types of cases, as suddenly anyone registering a domain name needs to take into account the location of the registrar in case of a lawsuit.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 3:52am

    grr

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    bob, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 3:58am

    Wire Fraud

    Why are federal wire fraud laws not used against this guy?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 4:12am

    It seems like it could be somewhat troubling if your domain is officially located wherever the registrar is in other types of cases, as suddenly anyone registering a domain name needs to take into account the location of the registrar in case of a lawsuit.

    personally i believe this to be good thing, but Mike id love to hear for an alternative solution that is better

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Lisae Boucher (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 4:26am

    There's some sick logic for this...

    [Quote]this time for typosquatting on domain names that kids were likely to visit[/Quote]
    This appears to be some kind of sick behavior but I can understand why he does this. And realising this just makes me want to puke. Sites that are likely visited by children are also visited by adults with a certain sexual preference towards children. These are probably the visitors that he's targeting with his cybersquatting. He's not interested in the real kids but in the sick guys on the Internet who are looking for childporn and other nasty stuff. These sicko's might be interested in the porn he offers, although -if I understood correctly- the porn by Zuccarini is adults only. Still, he's luring sexual perverts to his sites and it seems to make a profit for him.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Michial Thompson, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 4:31am

    Re:

    AC;

    I can give you the simplest answer of them all. TAXES is the problem.

    If you have an E-Commerce site such as E-Bay, and your Registrar happens to be in lets say California, then you will be required to pay California STATE Taxes no matter WHERE your physical company resides...

    This would be the first of MANY issues I could see coming into play with this type of thing

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Jon B., Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 4:54am

    Re: Re:

    Well, that may not be the case. Defining a physical location for the domain and a physical location of the website are two different things. In this guy's case, the domains themselves were the question, not the websites he was hosting on them.

    So taxed revenue from a website would be a different issue, considering the location of the actual web host, location of the individual's merchant account, location of the individual, etc.

    There are some issues though. What if CA passes a stupid law making domains YOU own illegal? If your domains are registered with a CA registrar, you'd suddenly need to transfer.

    To avoid that, does that mean it would be safest to just use foreign registrars? Do we really want everyone jumping to foreign registrars just to avoid this?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 4:59am

    IP confusion gets better everyday

    Domain name is property?

    I thought it was a trademark issue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    bdhoro, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 7:10am

    Must take location seriously

    This doesn't seem too bad really - when setting up a domain, one must take into account the location of the registrar in case of lawsuit. It sounds similar to the idea that businesses must take into account the laws of different states when setting up a corporation (thats why when you look around, a very high percentage of corporations incorporate themselves in Delaware, because they have the most lenient laws for corporations).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    mike allen (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 7:17am

    ooops

    better move my Domain its in Australia.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 7:45am

    On the other hand...

    ...does this mean that if Zuccarini had simply used a foreign registrar then U.S. courts would have had no say in the matter? That's what it sounds like to me. So now, if you want to do some cybersquating, just make sure you use some offshore registrar and U.S. courts won't touch you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Dan, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 7:59am

    Re:

    I agree with the coward on this one Mike. What would your solution be?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    NAMELESS.ONE, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 8:07am

    haha suckers im in canada

    BUT you know we already have a law that says whatever crimes you do no matter where you are canuck law applies
    WONDER how Americans think about me offing a few copyright guru's and getting life in prison rather then the chair

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    azuravian (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 8:25am

    Re: There's some sick logic for this...

    I'm not saying your wrong, but I think your theory drastically overestimates the number of adults that have an interest in child pornography. He would be severely limiting his target audience that way.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Marc Trachtenberg, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 8:55am

    The decision is based on the fact that Verisign is the REGISTY, not the REGISTRAR

    As explained in the decision, there are three primary actors in the domain name system. First, companies called "registries" operate a database (or registry) for all domain names within the scope of their authority. Second, companies called "registrars" register domain names
    with registries on behalf of those who own the names. Registrars maintain an ownership record for each domain name
    they have registered with a registry. Action by a registrar is needed to transfer ownership of a domain name from one registrant to another. Third, individuals and companies called "registrants" own the domain names. Registrants interact with the registrars, who in turn interact with the registries.

    Verisign is a registry, not a registrar. The court held that under California law that domain names are located where the registry is located for the purpose of asserting quasi in rem jurisdiction. Accordingly, the the Northern District of California could assert jurisdiction over the domain names becuase Verisign was located within the District. While the court also included in dicta that it saw no reason why for that purpose domain names are not also located where the relevant registrar is located, this was not relevant to the decision.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Phillip Vector (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 9:03am

    Legal Address

    Am I the only one who thinks his answers are pretty funny and cool? I mean, he manages to evade such a simple question without lying. You have to give a guy like that props. :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Adam Strong, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 9:09am

    Registrar vs Registry

    Hi Mike. You have a factual mistake in the quote below. Verisign is the registry not registrar. I believe the court was trying to determine whether the jurisdiction was based on the registry or registrar location. In the ruling the court in fact stated that they believe jurisdiction can be both the registry AND registrar locations

    "we conclude under California law that domain names are located where the registry is located for the purpose of asserting quasi in rem jurisdiction. Although the question is not directly before us, we add that we see no reason why for that purpose domain names are not also located where the relevant registrar is located"

    Please note my point is that the registrar (godaddy as an example) is different than the registry (verisign as an expample) and the court was trying to determine which jurisdiction to use. Registry and registrar are often confused


    Your quote :
    "Eric Goldman points us to the ruling in the case where the court finds that, indeed, domain names are considered property, and that jurisdiction should be based on where the registrar of that domain is located (pdf) rather than wherever John Zuccarini may be hiding at the moment. Since, in this case, the registrar was VeriSign, and VeriSign is in Northern California... the court was ruled to be the proper jurisdiction."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    seriously mike? (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 9:41am

    mike masnick is a douchebag hypocrite

    wow mike. you are officially a douchebag.

    i posted something pointing out how you're wrong because you have no idea what all the types of jurisdiction entail (personal jurisdiction, subject matter jurisdiction, multiple in rem jurisdictions, diversity jurisdiction, choice of forum/venue clauses, and forum nonconveniens), and you don't approve my comment meanwhile you approved other AC comments with timestamps after mine? here you are trying to act like an authority on the matter when you clearly don't know what you're talking about. you're the guy who admittedly can only see a tiny part of the picture and you're bitching and complaining that things are "troubling." so you silence the guy who points out that you're wrong?

    and more ironically, you constantly bitch about censorship (hell, you bitch about censorship in the post RIGHT AFTER this). when someone questions your sensationalist garbage, you censor them? congratulations, you're a hypocrite.

    censor this message if you want. or don't. i don't care. i'm not coming back. now that you're monitoring everything i will know that you have read it, and the fact that i know that you have no integrity whatsoever is enough for me.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 10:01am

    Re: mike masnick is a douchebag hypocrite

    Troll

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 10:50am

    Re: mike masnick is a douchebag hypocrite

    and you don't approve my comment meanwhile you approved other AC comments with timestamps after mine?

    Nope. This is not true. We did not censor any comments at all. If you are who I think you are, you submitted a *blank* comment last night, which the system held as spam. Since there was no content, we didn't approve it.

    But we have not blocked you from commenting at all.

    I believe what happened is that when you went to click the submit button on the comment, you accidentally hit the "submit" button for the comment window beneath the one you wrote it (this is something we need to fix). People replying to comments near the bottom sometimes get confused. The popup box for the "reply" sometimes goes over the open comment form at the bottom, so the two submit buttons appear near each other, and people will sometimes hit the wrong submit button.

    But, again, we are not "censoring" you or pre approving your comments specifically.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 10:52am

    Re: The decision is based on the fact that Verisign is the REGISTY, not the REGISTRAR

    Thanks Marc! I've updated the post.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 10:53am

    Re: Registrar vs Registry

    Adam, thanks. I've edited the post.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    Lisae Boucher (profile), Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 11:15am

    Re: Re: There's some sick logic for this...

    It might be a small amount of adults who behave this way, but it would still be enough for this cybersquatter, especially since those adults are on the hunt for porn.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    PRMan, Mar 2nd, 2010 @ 12:28pm

    Re: Legal Address

    Am I the only one who thinks his answers are pretty funny and cool?
    Yes. Hopefully someone sends him to prison for preying on (or having extreme careless disregard for) children.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Paul Keating, Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 3:07am

    1 bad apple can spoil an industry

    I have practiced law in this area for a long time now. I cannot personally think of a single person who harmed the image of the domain industry as badly as Zuccarini. His actions set the entire emotional approach to domainers as being bad actors.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    D. Hensley (profile), Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 4:07am

    There is a prior opine that domain names are not property

    The Virginia Supreme Court ruled that a domain name is not "intellectual property," but rather is a "contract for services."

    Link: http://www.gtlaw.com/NewsEvents/Publications/PublishedArticles?find=83310

    excerpt (year 2000):
    In Network Solutions Inc. v. Umbro International Inc., decided on April 21, Umbro sought to garnish several domain names owned by another company in order to collect money that was owed to Umbro. Umbro filed a garnishment action against Network Solutions, Inc., the company that registers Internet domain names. Umbro tried to have Network Solutions turn over the domain names so that the name could be sold to the highest bidder to satisfy the amount owed. The lower court ruled that domain names were a type of intangible property that could be "garnished" and sold to satisfy the amount owed under Virginia’s garnishment statute.

    The Virginia Supreme Court reversed the lower court, ruling that the rights in a domain name were so intertwined with the services performed by Network Solutions registering the domain name, that a domain name instead represented a contract for services, rather than intellectual property. The Court concluded that since the domain name was merely a contract for services, it was not subject to seizure and court ordered sale under Virginia’s garnishment statute.

    So it is in Virginia, but it's still prior precedent. Of course the standard IANAL applies.

    I couldn't care less about some sleazy person, but the tax ramifications do matter. (along with several other aspects of what is or is not 'property').

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    icon
    Cyberpoint (profile), Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 4:49am

    A can of worms on wheels

    They cite headquarters specifically, not physical location of the servers hosting the database. So if the registry merged with or was taken over by a company in a different state (let's say Virginia since someone mentioned it above) and its headquarters was no longer in California, then all those hapless domain name owners could suddenly find themselves subject to a different jurisdiction - even if all the registry's employees and all the same servers stayed there in the same building in California, just because somewhere else was designated as the HQ. From the court ruling: [9] Because VeriSign has its headquarters in the Northern District of California, the district court had quasi in rem jurisdiction over the domain names registered with VeriSign for purposes of appointing a receiver to assist in executing a judgment against the owner of the names.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    MBraedley (profile), Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 5:00am

    Re: A can of worms on wheels

    In the past, I've held the position that jurisdiction is determined by the location of the physical server (which I believe is the case in Canada, although don't quote me on that). However, an issue arises with the introduction of cloud computing. A single server instance can be spread across many physical servers across many states or provinces, possibly across many countries. Which instance a particular user interacts with is usually determined by where they are, but for the purpose of jurisdiction, which physical server do you use?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    icon
    kevin (profile), Apr 18th, 2011 @ 1:49am

    I'm impressed, I must say. Very rarely do I come across a blog thats both informative and entertaining, and let me tell you, youve hit the nail on the head. Your blog is important; the issue is something that not enough pellet makers, wood pellet makers people are talking intelligently about. Im really happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this issue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This