How to Slam a Cyber-squatter

POSTED BY Rick Shera
25 September 2015

posted in l@w.geek.nz | Intellectual Property | cybersafety | Caselaw | Domain Names | Information Technology | Computer Crime

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The .nz domain name dispute resolution service has been successful in providing an inexpensive, fast track method for people who have rights in a domain name to prevent those who do not - so called cyber-squatters - from using that name. However, sometimes, even that is not fast enough, especially where there is fraud involved.

A case involving the domain name www.immigration-govt.nz, apparently operated by a company in India called Swastik Solutions, is an example.

Immigration New Zealand, a division of the New Zealand Government's Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), operates its website under the domain name www.immigration.govt.nz. The Swastik site appears to have been designed to confuse people into thinking it was the official Government site and thereby dupe them into paying fees for immigration services. The sole difference between the domain names, in case you missed it, is that the Swastik one has a hyphen instead of a dot between "immigration" and "govt". So, a clear case of cyber-squatting and the use of that confusingly similar domain name for phishing or other illegal purposes.

In a normal commercial setting, the first port of call to stop cyber-squatting on a .nz domain name would be to file an application with the Domain Name Commissioner's dispute resolution service. Given this fact scenario, it would be highly likely for a panellist hearing the application to either give the name to MBIE or cancel it. However, even if Swastik did not file any response or otherwise participate in the resolution of the dispute, under the DRS policy and procedure, it would take close to 2 months at least for the final decision to be made and the domain name dealt with. In these circumstances, where members of the public were clearly at risk of being defrauded, that would be too long.

So, instead, MBIE applied to the High Court in an originating application against Swastik but with Domain Name Commission Limited also named as a defendant so that the orders necessary in respect if the domain name could be effected immediately on judgement.. Usefully, DNCL has developed a suite of standard template documents (Application, Memorandum and Affidavit) it provides to prospective applicants in these circumstances. Those papers can then be tailored to the particular circumstances. This means that the Court has before it all the relevant background and technical information as well as the specific wording needed for the Court orders that should be applied for.

Swastik's lack of any response in the proceeding is probably further evidence of the illegality of its activities and the Court had little difficulty in finding for MBIE, with the result that the domain name has been removed from the DNS zone file (i.e. if you search for it it will not resolve to a website and will not otherwise be able to be used by Swastik). As is usual in these cases, the orders remain in place for 180 days during which period the name is locked and MBIE will apply for a final order. The whois database record for the domain name has been noted accordingly.





The overall process took under three weeks and I'm informed that a good portion of that was taken up trying to serve Swastik in India. So, a useful example of how urgent action can be taken where necessary.

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