When it comes to the Internet, reputation management, branding—your entire Internet presence—begins with your domain name. Start enough websites or talk to enough people, and you’re sure to find someone who’s had a domain registered right out from under them. Having your locked, registered domains transferred out of your account without your permission is an even bigger nightmare. Aside from appealing to registrars—who may or may not be able or willing to help—there seemed to be little you could do, unless you could find enough info to sue the thief in civil court.
But now there’s a precedent for criminal action against domain thieves—the first arrest in a domain theft took place last week. Although they don’t detail what the exact charges are, Domain Name News outlines the meat of the case:
Daniel Goncalves, the 25 year old law firm computer technician arrested on Thursday, reportedly hacked in to the [domain owners, the] Angels’ AOL email account, used that information to retrieve the login details for the P2P.com from the Godaddy.com domain account. Goncalves performed an internal “domain push” transfer,which in effect transfered the domain name to another Godaddy account that he owned. Goncalves reportedly also falsified Paypal.com transaction records in an attempt to cover his trail and provide evidence that made it appear that he purchased the domain name for $1,500 from the Angels. The domain was listed in the name of Daniel Louvado during this time period (a bogus name consisting of Goncalves’s first name and his fiance’s last name).
The Angels had actually bought the domain in 2005 for $160,000. Goncalves stole the domain in 2006 and resold it in 2007 for $111,000. In late 2007, the Angels sued Goncalves and his unwitting buyer. The civil suit has been amended recently and is still ongoing.
What do you think? Can criminal charges for Internet real estate stand up in court, or will civil suits continue to be the recourse for domain theft victims?