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I have a strange situation.

An organisation I work for (a charity), have ownership of a website domain, let's call it nice-charity-123.org (not real obviously).

We had a project in India, which we ran last year and bought a separate domain for that project: nice-charity-123-india.org

Since then, the domain has expired, when I navigate to the India domain now, it has been taken over as a one-page porn video gallery.

This domain ends in .org and has a very specific charity name that in no way is suggestive or relates to porn, so my question is - is this a tactic some people use to blemish company / charity names? If so, how do I even go about contacting the new owner and attempting to agree a price on re-acquiring the domain?

Also, as a side-note - I'm not sure how exactly to raise this with my line-manager, only being a few weeks into this role...

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    For better or worse, this is unfortunately completely common. The good thing is, anyone who lands there will completely realize it is "not your fault". There is no solution, end of story.
    – Fattie
    Nov 4, 2020 at 13:34
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    What is the workplace-specific question here? The concept of cyber squatting isn't really in our scope and the first step in any work situation is to clarify what your responsibility is. So a question "Should I raise this?" is more in our scope but as you're new in this role it's not easy for us to answer that either. The only real answer I'd expect on that front is "raise it to your manager and see what they say". Would it even be your role to try and reacquire the domain?
    – Lilienthal
    Nov 4, 2020 at 13:45
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    Why are you responsible for this?
    – guest
    Nov 4, 2020 at 17:50

6 Answers 6

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is this a tactic some people use to blemish company / charity names?

No, it's a tactic to sell a domain at an inflated price. Some $20 a year domains have price tags in the thousands because they were allowed to lapse.

Best practice is just to ignore it.

Here's an example, this domain name has been for sale for over 10 years, it used to be a minimum bid of 1 million, now it's minimum 100,000 USD Picture is screenshot from sedo.com

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    It's also taking advantage of free SEO, don't let your domains lapse.
    – Aida Paul
    Nov 4, 2020 at 12:21
  • and wait for them to let it lapse... then snap it back up Nov 4, 2020 at 12:55
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You might be able to dispute domain ownership based on the rights your organization has to its name, but that is probably going to mean a lot of work for your lawyers. I wouldn't try to contact the cybersquatters, they're crooks, and you probably won't come to a fair agreement with them.

About your line manager: Tell the truth, that will most likely limit the damage most. If you were not personally responsible for domain name renewal you probably can't be held accountable (severely toxic management practices notwithstanding).

Some advice for dealing with domain names (not really answering your question, but may be helpful for future situations):

Don't register variations on your domain name, always create subdomains of your main name for specific purposes. Instead of nice-charity-123-india.org, use india.nice-charity-123.org. That way you always stay in control.

If you absolutely must register a new domain (for example under a different country code, such as nice-charity-123.in), never let it expire unless your organization folds up completely. I know this means continuous costs for a resource you're not using, but it's not really much and might be preferable to the damage to your name that could otherwise happen.

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This is called cyber squatting the legality of the practice varies from country to country.

Do some quick research and then simply go to the line manager with what you have found. The sooner this is done, the better.

Keep it simple and to the point with the line manager. "I found that someone is squatting on our domain name, and here is what I found out about it. What do you suggest we do?"

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There are automated bots that pick up expiring domains. They either put up spammy sites (porn in your case) or adverts and try to re-sell the domain at an extortionate price. - They are hoping the expiry was a mistake so they can try and rip off the original owner. I doubt it was targeted.

You NEED to raise this with your line manager. I don't see what is hard about it. "I would like to make you aware that the x domain looks to have been taken over by and adult website, should we do anything about this to protect our reputation".

If you are working for a legitimate charity, then it's up to your line manager to raise this up the chain. If it's an issue for the charity, then they should get their legal team involved.

As the domain contains the company name (even better if your company is a registered trademark), it's highly likely you can take legal action as it damages your company. - Unlike if the domain didn't contain your company name, and then there would be nothing you could do about it.

Do a Whois to find the registrar. You don't want to contact the owner. You want your legal team to contact the registrar, and then possibly the owner. I am not a lawyer, but they would probably send some kind of cease and desist letter to the registrar. That would be the starting point.

The hard part is, the new owner may be in a foreign country where laws are different. Again, this is why you need professional legal advice if you aren't prepared to just ignore it.

I certainly don't recommend contacting the new owner and offering to pay for it. That just funds them and encourages them to do it more. - If you do, you probably will go on a list as an easy target for this type of thing.

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They may not be interested in harming the charity. They do it as a way to make money.

Suppose there's a domain name that was getting a lot of traffic from visitors to the site. And suppose you notice that the original owner of the domain has abandoned it. You can quickly register it to yourself and fill it with adverts for other web sites who pay a commission for every visitor you send to them. You now sit back and watch the traffic coming in from all the users who had the site bookmarked, or the people following links from other web sites that still contain links to yours.

Lots of money for very little effort.

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We had a project in India, which we ran last year and bought a separate domain for that project: nice-charity-123-india.org

I find this statement interesting because you use the term "we." The question is does "we" involve "you" being part of this project in India?

Also, as a side-note - I'm not sure how exactly to raise this with my line-manager, only being a few weeks into this role...

This is where I suspect you have nothing to do with the project or the domain because you're so new. The question is if this domain is actually part of your area of responsibility? Do you have anything to do with this domain? It seems unusual they would hire you to take control of a domain that has long since expired and has questionable site up?

Personally I would email your boss as such:

Boss, As you know I worked here a couple of weeks. I am browsing through our various domains and notice that one of -india redirects to an adult website. I am wondering if this domain is ours and if so, I would like to notify that the domain has expired and that it is directing to an adult website. Thanks.

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