What is Cybersquatting?
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Cybersquatting, also known as “domain squatting,” is a practice that has gained an incredible amount of volume in the past two decades with the rise of the Internet. Cybersquatting is essentially when any individual purchases a domain name that is not related to their business or personal interests with the intention of achieving financial gain through the popularity of the domain’s name.
There are numerous versions of cybersquatting, but they all involve buying a domain name that is easily associated with something entirely separate from the buyer's intentions. Since the purchased domain is theoretically popular, it becomes easy for the squatter to make money off of hapless visitors looking for something entirely different.
One way that squatters can make money with their domains is by selling them back to the "rightful" owner for a significant amount of money. For instance, if Microsoft were forced to purchase the domain Microsoft.com, it would not be unreasonable for them to be willing to pay several million dollars. Of course, there is no concern that such large companies as Microsoft are going to lose their domains. The real issue is with new companies or individuals who are just coming into the public eye. It is a common practice for squatters to claim domains that feature these company and individual names very quickly with the hope of making an easy buck.
Another tactic is for the squatter to hold on to the domain and benefit from the traffic that comes to the website. For instance, if Joe Smith is a local mechanic with no website, a squatter might purchase the JoeSmith.com domain name. Mr. Smith's customers may perform an Internet search for Joe Smith and come across the website. The squatter can set up the website to sell something entirely different, or just benefit from advertising revenue. Either way, the squatter is benefiting from the popularity of someone else's name.
Despite efforts to minimize squatting, there are over 2000 cases filed against cybersquatters every year. About 85% of these cases are confirmed and ownership of the domain is transferred. This begs the question of how many cybersquatters are getting away with their tactics without cases being filed against them. Whether their victims are not large enough or knowledgeable enough to pursue legal avenues or they have found "creative" methods of squatting, more and more cybersquatters are taking advantage of others as opportunists just trying to turn a quick and easy profit.
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