Police Department Loses its Domain Name to a Disgruntled Speeder After it Failed to Renew the Domain Name

June 21st, 2010

The Bluff City Police Department in Tennessee learned a valuable lesson after a speeder snatched up the domain name rights to www.bluffcitypd.com. It wasn’t that the Bluff City PD had failed to register the domain name; they’d been operating the domain name for years, rather the Bluff City PD let the ball drop when it failed to renew its registration of www.bluffcitypd.com.

This is a common problem faced by domain name owners and a common loophole exploited by cyber-squatters. Typically, a domain name will need to be renewed every year. If the domain name owner fails to renew its registration of the domain name, the registrar will usually treat the domain name as if the owner no longer wants it and will re-insert the domain name into the pool of available domain names.

This is exactly what happened to the Bluff City PD in this case. They hosted the domain name www.bluffcitypd.com on the registrar giant GoDaddy. Furthermore, it is not as if GoDaddy didn’t give ample notice to the Bluff City PD that its domain name was about to expire and required renewal if they wished to continue to hold onto the domain name. It is GoDaddy’s practice to send 5 warning emails to customers before a domain name expires; at 90, 60, 30, 15, and 5 days prior to expiration of the domain name. Also, GoDaddy sends 2 reminders after the domain name has expired; at 5 and 12 days after the domain name has expired. On top of all of this, there is an automatic renewal option, which the PD of course failed to employ; the Bluff City PD could have used this option to make sure their domain name would be automatically renewed before it ever expired.

With ample warning that its domain name was about to expire, how did the Bluff City PD fail to renew? Apparently the Bluff City Police Chief David Nelson let one of his officers manage the site and its domain registration. That officer, he said, had been out on medical leave, after he came down with a serious illness a few months ago. The Bluff City PD has learned a valuable lesson; now they are going to register a new domain name for the site and have it professionally managed.

The savvy disgruntled speeder in this situation is Brian McCrary and he wasn’t caught speeding by a police officer, per se. Rather, he fell prey to one of the 1,662 $90 citations for speeding which were issued during the first six weeks of the Bluff City speed cameras operation.

Further unfortunate news for the Bluff City PD, McCrary’s activities don’t fall under the current anti-cybersquatting laws. As an internet lawyer will tell you, the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) is designed to provide penalties for those who are;

“Rregistering, trafficking in, or using a domain name confusingly similar to, or dilutive of, a trademark or personal name,” with a bad faith intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else.

Usually a cyber-squatter would register a high traffic domain name that was let expire to capitalize on the former domain names traffic to generate revenue, or sell the domain name back to the previous owner at a drastically inflated price.

However, McCrary sought profit from neither of these avenues, rather, he is operating www.bluffcitypd.com (and interestingly even registered the email: [email protected]) as an information source on the Bluff City, TN speed cameras. Because McCrary is operating the site as a source for original content about the speed cameras it is unlikely that the Bluff City PD will be able to wrest control site from its new owner under the ACPA and any arguments that he is using the site in bad faith.

For more information on domain name renewal and this story;

http://www.examiner.com- City PD loses domain name to disgruntled speeder,

http://technologyexpert.blogspot.com- Disgruntled Speeder Snags City PD’s Domain Name,

http://www.networksolutions.com- Expiring Domain Names- Bid Now,

http://domainnamewire.com- New Domain Name Renewal Scam Hits Inboxes