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 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.

Filed Under: domain name, john zuccarini, location

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  1. icon
    D. Hensley (profile), 3 Mar 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."


    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').

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