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25 Feb 2003
Sex.com: Internet Will Not be Crippled
Clint Boulton, Internetnews

Sex.com Monday scoffed at VeriSign's claims that the Internet is so unstable that the appellate court victory by Sex.com in its lawsuit against the registrar "would cripple the Internet and jeopardize the national economic benefit for e-commerce."

In the latest barb of the protracted legal battle between the adult content search engine and the Web's largest registrar, Sex.com Founder and CEO Gary Kremen said the attempt by VeriSign to cry foul over the ruling issued in January by an appellate court shows that VeriSign has "dug a hole so deep and they can't dig themselves out of it."

In January 2003, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco went to the state Supreme Court to intervene and decide whether a domain name is property that can be converted as well as guidance to assess damages that might amount to $100 million. One week later, VeriSign, known as Network Solutions Inc. (NSI) when the multi-tiered case began, pleaded to the Supreme Court in a brief that a ruling in Sex.com's favor would effectively cripple the way the Web works.

Sex.com said the VeriSign plea, part of a last-ditch effort to secure a victory in its favor, is predicated on assumptions that a court decision acknowledging the property rights of domain names registrants will devastate business mediums, having "enormous ramifications for a large sector of similar service providers, including cable television service and telephone service providers."

Kremen's attorney, Jim Wagstaffe, said the brief was the latest attempt by NSI to evade responsibility for the issue.

"NSI is telling its customers that their domain names aren't really theirs to keep," Wagstaffe said. "NSI wants to reap 21st century profits, but not to be subject to 21st century law," Wagstaffe said.

Sex.com, now wholly owned and operated by Grant Media, tabbed other supporters to quash the VeriSign's crippled Internet claim, perhaps none more convincing than its own domain name expert witness in the Sex.com litigation, Ellen Rony.

"NSI insists that requiring of it a duty to care for the domain name registrations of customers would threaten the survival of all registrars, raise fees to unacceptable levels and somehow disable the Internet worldwide," said Rony, who has written books on domain-related issues. "Such hyperbole miscasts the issue at bar. Kremen asks to hold NSI accountable for its misdeeds in facilitating the re-registration of Sex.com to an unauthorized third party and violating its own published policies. Kremen merely seeks the remedial rights that California affords owners of property."

VeriSign does not comment on ongoing litigation.

The case as it stands now hinges on whether NSI will be held accountable for unilaterally taking the Sex.com domain name from Kremen. In 1995, NSI handed over the domain to Stephen Cohen after he sent a forged letter to NSI headquarters. NSI failed to verify the authenticity of the letter and signed over the domain rights to Cohen, who proceeded to make the domain into a major pornographic business. After Kremen won a $65 million judgment against Cohen, Cohen fled the country and has remained a fugitive.

Kremen claimed NSI did not properly protect his property. NSI claims that domain names aren't property and they cannot be held responsible for giving its customers' registered names away.

 

 

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