Cybercriminals that hoard popular Web addresses have a free reign in the UK because the body that registers domain names here says it has no power to stop them.
In the US, government contracted registry Network Solutions (NSI) has recently taken the law into its own hands, expelling thousands of domain name hoarders - or 'cybersquatters.'
But Nominet says it is unable to act against cybersquatters in the UK because cases are often not clear cut and it has no legal powers to reinforce any judgement.
Cybersquatting is a big problem for NSI, the sole registry for the desirable .com domain. NSI says it is deleting "tens of thousands" of hoarded domain names each year.
For Nominet, which registers names in the .uk domain, the scale of the problem is smaller. The conviction of UK cybersquatters One In A Million in 1997 helped, but the problem remains, according to Willie Black, managing director of Nominet.
"One In A Million helped a lot by scaring people off," said Black. "But I'm not saying it's zero in the UK."
However, Nominet is not prepared to follow NSI's lead.
"I think NSI are setting themselves up as a court of law," said Black. "I think it's dangerous to expect NSI or Nominet to make a judgement about what's legal."
"The real issue there is is it legal to hoard domain names? I don't believe it has been shown to be illegal," he said.
Cybersquatters are sitting illegitimately on domain names, often without paying the required fees, said NSI spokeswoman Cheryl Regan. "We're talking about tens of thousands of unpaid domain names," she said.
"We're now as an ongoing process looking at registrants that have excessive numbers of domain names unpaid," she said. "We deal with tens of thousands over a year."
In addition to tackling cybersquatters, registries are also faced with the problem of domain name disputes between legitimate owners.
For example, the domain name 'apple.co.uk' would be of interest to Apple Records, Apple Computer, even an apple grower's association - yet it is legitimately owned by The Apple Illustration Agency.
The UK Trademark Registry has been assigned certain quasi regulatory tasks relating to trademark ownership - for example judgement about offensive words. But Nominet, despite its better wishes, has no such regulatory powers.
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