Is Network Solutions Stealing Domains?

Earlier today the Right Pundits editorial committee met about our new legal blog. The primary subject was to pick a domain name for the law blog, which will be under the leadership of our own very distinguished legal eagle Bryan McAffee.

In the course of deciding a good domain name we typed some ideas into the registration search service at Network Solutions. We searched for several domains that were already taken, for example rightlaw.com, rightlegal.com, and rightlaws.com.

But we found several available domains that would be good for the new blog, rightonlaws.com, rightjudiciary.com, and rightjuris.com chiefly among them. We debated in our virtual way and decided on rightjuris.com. A great start to the new law blog, right? Wrong.

Two hours later Right Pundits attempted to register the rightjuris.com domain and found that it was already registered. Terrible luck, thought I, and was amazed to find our second and third choice also registered. I smelled a rat, something I’ve heard about before but never experienced first-hand.

Certain registration services are eavesdropping on the searches by their own customers. They are then registering those domains themselves to steal them from the entrepreneur who thought of the idea.

One of these companies turns out to be Network Solutions, Inc. If you search for a domain there, they are likely to register it themselves and try to sell it back to you at a premium. We discovered that they will sell you the domain back for $35, when it would have cost $9 two hours earlier.

The practice at best is unethical and at worst is an illegal restraint of trade and theft of intellectual capital. Others have threatened a class-action lawsuit if Network Solutions does not change its shady practice.

What the company says is they are protecting their customers from theft by third parties. So they steal it themselves, and somewhere in the fine print you can call their customer service number and get them to release the domain. We had to spend an hour of Google searching to discover this option.

I personally called the 800 number on their website and waited and waited and waited. By this time I decided to blog the story so waited some more for 30 minutes. Sure enough, the poor fellow who answered the phone had a well rehearsed script ready. He wanted me to register the domain for $35. I patiently declined and asked him to release it from their unscrupulous paws. He did.

The good ending is that rightjuris.com was registered by rightpundits.com shortly after, not at Network Solutions but at a different registration service we can trust. So we have a domain for a new law blog which will be launched shortly. The focus will be broad: SCOTUS decisions, judicial nominations, judicial power, points of law, and anything else Bryan and MBT have up their sleeves. Oh yes, our Mary Beth will be contributing as well.

We’ll make an announcement when the time comes. But meanwhile, we will be avoiding Network Solutions like the plague. Practices like theirs are anti-net, and impediments to our efficient-market capitalism.