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May 02, 2018

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Here's the The Lowdown from DN Journal,
updated daily
to fill you in on the latest buzz going around the domain name industry. 

The Lowdown is compiled by DN Journal Editor & Publisher Ron Jackson.

Firestorm Over France.com: Outrage Spreading After Domain Taken From Its Rightful Owner 

By now many of you have heard the news that the extremely valuable France.com domain name that Jean-Noel Frydman has owned and operated a business on since 1994 had been removed from his Web.com account without notice and turned over to the French government. For years Frydman, who was born in France but lives in the U.S. and holds dual U.S.-French citizenship, operated a thriving business promoting French travel on the domain with France's blessing

That changed in 2015 when France decided they wanted the domain for themselves but apparently didn't want to pay anything for it, so they started a legal battle to try to get it from

Image from Bigstock

Frydman. This, even though there are multiple legal precedents (PuertoRico.com, Barcelona.com and MyrtleBeach.com to name just a few) establishing that anyone can own domain names that match countries, states, cities and other geographic locations - they are places, not trademarks

In September 2017 a French court ruled in favor of the French government (no surprise there) and armed with that order the government asked Web.com to transfer the name to them which, even though Frydman's business, Web.com and the operator of .com domains (Verisign) are all based in the United States, not France. Nothing happened until March 12, 2018 when Web.com is alleged to have taken France.com from Frydman's account, putting him out of business overnight, and transferred it to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

As you would expect, Frydman has sued the French government in Virginia (where Verisign is located making it the proper venue for disputes over .com domains to be filed). This will be a very expensive fight for Frydman that, as anyone with experience in the legal system knows, will likely drag on for a very long time. Still many major owners of geographic domains are rallying around Frydman offering to help financially and by any other legal means necessary to right this wrong. The blatant unfairness of this situation has caught the attention of media outlets around the world - and not just in the domain and business worlds - the New York Times joined the chorus today.

As more people become aware of what happened, the blowback should continue to grow exponentially. I am not an attorney but I know many of the world's best in our field who have won cases 

Jean-Noel Frydman

like this involving geodomains. Based on the decisions I've seen in U.S. courts and UDRP filings, it is a case I would expect Frydman to win but anything can happen and it is apt to be a long, frustrating battle. It is a fight all domain registrants need to stay apprised of because of the serious ramifications for us all - if it can happen to Frydman it can happen to any of us.  

(Posted May 1, 2018)  

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