Cybersquatting is a practice that has been around for nearly as long as the Internet. There are several ways that this practice is carried out. It can be purely speculative in nature or it can be a bit more sinister. (See my article 'Business Practices' for an example of a speculative instance of cybersquatting.)
There are those who watch the expiring domain name lists with the hope of picking up names that expire through over site and then sell the name back to the original owner. Others hope to capitalize on the existing traffic to a recently expired domain.
A CyberSquatting Case Study
There was a case of cybersquatting brought to light on a web design forum that I frequent. This case illustrates some things that go on on the Internet and points out something of which you need to be aware.
A new registrant asked a question regarding what to do if they could no longer access their site with KompoZer. This is a church site and there is a fund raiser planned. They wanted to add some information regarding the fund raising event on the site.
The member who had set up the site had passed away and the responsibility had fallen to another. It appears the the member who set up the site also registered the domain name. When the domain name came up for renewal the notices went unanswered and the domain name expired.
The domain name was picked up by a party in Russia. They installed the site on a server in Russia, adding some advertising or affiliate links to most of the pages. It was easy to follow the events by checking the whois record for the domain name. The current location of the server was also available through whois look-up on the IP address connected with the site.
In this case, the party that picked up the name probably hopes that when the church group finds out the details of the situation that they will want to maintain their domain name. In that event the new owner of the name will probably offer to sell it back to them for an inflated price. In the mean time they hope to capitalize on any traffic to the site through their advertising links.
Basically one does not own a domain name. One leases the right to use a domain name for a specific period of time with a right to renew the lease. There are whois records to record the lease and the contact information of the parties responsible for the contract.
Had someone other than the deceased known of the workings of the Internet this could have been resolved without the current situation. The domain name should have been registered in the name of the church and the renewal notices sent to the church office. I am sure that the one who originally put up the site did it as a contribution to the cause, but it has not ended as well as it could.