Updated: Aug 1
Mrunali Chintaman Falnikar, Bachelor's Degree in Forensic Sc. and Technology
In the 21st century, the Internet plays an indispensable role in making our daily lives simple. From communication to globalization, from financial services to educational services, there is no longer any domain in which the Internet is not involved. Internet has its own advantages and disadvantages, depending on the user’s intention. With the wrong intention people frequently abuse the Internet for their benefit. This malpractice is referred as “Cyber Crime”. Activities that engage computer or internet as a victim, culprit, or the means of committing a crime are known as Cyber crimes. Cyber-crime is an uncontrollable evil grounded in the abusive use of increasing reliance on computers in modern life.
Some of the newly emerged Cyber-crimes are cyber-stalking, cyber-terrorism, e-mail spoofing, e-mail bombing, cyber pornography, cyber-defamation etc. Some conventional crimes may also come under the category of Cyber-crimes if they are committed through the medium of computer or Internet.
The first recorded Cyber-crime can be traced back to 1820. This is not surprising considering that the abacus, which is believed to be the first form of a computer, has been around since 3500 B.C. in India, China and Japan. The age of modern computers, however, started with the analytical engine of Charles Babbage. In 1820, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, a French textile manufacturer, built the loom. This device allowed a succession of steps in the weaving of specific fabrics to be repeated. Employees at Jacquard were concerned that their traditional jobs and livelihoods might be jeopardized as a result of this. They carried out acts of sabotage in order to prevent Jacquard from using the new technology in the future. This is the first time a Cyber-crime was documented. (www.bezaspeaks.com)
Legislators were more concerned about computer crime in the 1980s as corporations became more reliant on computers and as catalytic event cases exposed considerable vulnerabilities to computer crime violations. Criminals can now readily encrypt information that represents evidence of their illicit conduct, store it, and even transport it without danger of law enforcement detection. A computer crime scene can now span from the geographical place of victimization (e.g., the victim's personal computer) to any other point on the world, significantly complicating criminal investigations. In fact, computer technology has dramatically altered the criminal justice environment, to the point where opportunistic criminals have consciously turned to the computer to commit their illegal acts in situations where the computer serves as the instrument of the crime, the means by which the crime is committed, as well as in cases where the victim's computer, or computer system, is the target, or objective, of the act. As previously noted, the introduction of new computer technology supports cyber criminals in cases when the computer's involvement is incidental to the crime, such as when the computer is used to store and secure evidence tying the offender to criminal conduct.
“The criminal, to a large extent, relies on the lack of technology abilities of law enforcement agencies to successfully perform the offences and escape unnoticed, which is a commonality across in these types of crimes”.
In this study we are going to discuss about Cyber Squatting which is emerging as a menace to the cyberspace. Squatting is the action of occupying an abandoned or unoccupied area of the land or a building that the squatter does not own, rent or otherwise have a lawful permission to use. However, Cyber Squatting is slightly different.
Many firms rely largely on client website usage distinguish products through trademarks, which serve as quality indicators and aid in the development of brand names. As a result, adopting trademarks as domain names aids companies in establishing a strong online presence. Domain name registration, originally a simple way for consumers to identify themselves, has evolved into a lucrative business for astute entrepreneurs like cyber squatters. Let’s take a look at domain name first. The Internet provides users with access to millions of websites and web pages. A web page is a computer data file that contains text, names, messages, images, audio, and connections to other information. Every web page has its own website, which serves as the page's address. The tangled network of data on the Internet is identified by a numeric identifier known as an Internet protocol address, or "IP" address. IP addresses instruct the machine of an Internet user where to look for information on the internet. Because an IP address is incomprehensible to the average Internet user, computers search for information using a simpler system based on domains and domain names.
Each domain has two parts i.e., Top level domain (TLD) and Second level domain (SLD) (Singh). For instance, the website www.amazon.com .com is used as a TLD and www is used as a SLD. he Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is in charge of these TLDs. ICANN is a nonprofit organization in the United States that coordinates the maintenance and processes of many databases connected to the Internet's namespaces and numerical spaces, assuring the network's stable and secure functioning (1998). (Singh).
Any company would prefer to use its own brand name as the domain name. This is due to the fact that the company's trademark is well-known. The domain name functions as a source identifier and online trademark. It is a reservoir of goodwill and an indicator of a company's quality. The domain names are assigned according to a first-come, first-served basis. A person who wishes to register a domain name can go to a domain name registrar and register any accessible domain name. So, if the domain name is accessible for registration, anyone who is interested can do so. Domain names have become equivalent to trade marks in the e-commerce era, but their registration process is far less demanding. Another issue with domain name registration is that it is difficult to find a suitable name. There are many different TLDs and combinations of TLDs (Singh). Domain names could be registered using these combinations. Any business entity will never be able to obtain all of them due to the numerous combinations. Abuseful registrations are a result of the aforementioned concerns. As a result, a third party registers a trademark in which they have no genuine interest.
Cyber squatting is the activity of registering Internet domain names without having genuine interests in them. On the website, some cyber-squatters made derogatory remarks regarding the genuine trademark holder on the registered domain name. The goal is to persuade them to buy the domain from them. Some cyber-squatters compete with legal businesses by registering domain names. All of these tactics are intended to take unfair advantage of a trademark owner. Various types of cyber squatting exist, some of which are described here.
Typo squatting is a form of cyber squatting attack that targets internet users who input a URL incorrectly into their browser instead of utilizing a search engine. It usually includes persuading people to visit malicious websites by using URLs that are frequent misspellings of legitimate domains. Users may be duped into providing important information on these phony websites. These sites can cause considerable reputational damage to companies that have been targeted by these attackers. In Typo squatting, 'typo' refers to the small errors that people can make when typing on a keyboard. URL hijacking, domain imitation, sting sites, and false URLs are all terms used to describe typo squatting. (KHAN1, 2020)
It is carried out by using internet programmers to track the expiration dates of well-known domain names, then registering them in the monitors' names as soon as the prior registration expires. This is done to deceive visitors to the prior website who believe it still belongs to the actual owner. (KHAN1, 2020)
The act of switching the registration of a domain name without the permission of the original registrant, or by exploiting privileges on web servers and registrar software systems, is known as domain hijacking or domain theft. This can be disastrous for the original domain name holder, not only financially because they may have derived commercial income from a website hosted at the domain or conducted business through that domain's e-mail accounts, but also in terms of readership and/or audience for non-profit or artistic web addresses. Following a successful hijacking, the hijacker can use the domain name to facilitate other illegal activity such as phishing, in which a website is replaced by an identical website that records private information such as log-in passwords, spam, or the distribution of malware from the perceived "trusted" domain. (KHAN1, 2020)
According to data from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the number of domain name disputes increased by 1.3 percent in 2017 compared to the previous year. The United States was the source of the most disputes in 2018, with 920 in total. Some nations, such as the Philippines and the United States, have strict regulations against cyber-Squatting that go beyond trademark law, whereas others, such as China, have lax laws for safeguarding intellectual property online, allowing cyber squatting to flourish. Squatters from China are notorious for registering domain names that sound like American brands. Pinterest, a photo-sharing service, has filed a lawsuit against a Chinese man, alleging that he had registered the domain name "pintersts.com" in bad faith. The individual was also accused of utilizing Pinterest's signature ‘red-colored' logo on his website, which was just intended for dumping adverts, according to the firm. The cyber squatter from China was fined USD 7.2 million in damages, plus legal fees. (Bergstrom, 2012)
In India, there have been numerous incidents of cyber-squatting in recent years. Domain name disputes and cyber-squatting have always been handled by the courts. In contrast to many developed countries, India lacks a domain name protection regulation, and matters are decided under the Trade Mark Act of 1999. Yahoo Inc. v Aakash Arora & Anr.60 was the first case in India to bring cyber squatting to the notice of the judiciary. The defendant in this case created a website with the domain name YahooIndia.com that offered services identical to those offered by the Plaintiff. The court decided in favor of Yahoo. Inc (the Plaintiff) in a lawsuit filed by the Plaintiff, stating, "It was an attempt to profit from the fame of Yahoo's trademark." A domain name registrant does not acquire any legal right to use that domain name just by registering it; he could still be held accountable for trademark infringement." (Banerjee, 2021)
Despite the fact that domain names are intended for the convenience and success of the business, they have been exploited by dishonest persons. The world has emphasized the necessity for an enactment, such to that of the United States, to deal with it. In India, courts primarily depend on the Information Technology Act of 2000, the Trade Marks Act of 1999, and sections of the Indian Penal Code. As a researcher, I think we are in the need of strong law that combat the cyber squatting; the law that will combine the IT act of 2000 and Trade act of 1999. All the firms that deal in cyberspace should be made aware about such type of instances.
One more solution could be registering the domain name. As we can see, there are a growing number of firms that conduct their operations over the internet. Concerning profit, measures should be designed to ensure that no monetary value is supplied in exchange for the domain name. It goes without saying that you are not going to purchase 2,000+ names with various TLDs. But at the very least, purchase names with well-known TLDs such as .com, .net, .org, .biz, and so on. You may also purchase domains that are similar to your brand name. If you want to do business in many countries, purchase country-specific domains such as .ca, .in, .co .uk, .au, and so on as soon as possible. You can subsequently redirect these domains to your main site.
In the United States, there is a legislation to combat cyber squatting called the Anti-Cyber squatting Consumer Protection Act. This law includes a detailed description of cyber squatting as well as what elements should be examined during a dispute. If the domain registrant is found guilty of cyber squatting, the court might order the domain in question to be forfeited, cancelled, or transferred (to the complaint) domain name. WIPO enables the alternative dispute resolution support for international disputes, where an advisory committee analyzes the case and resolves the issue. They take the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) into account, which was structured by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
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1. Cyber-squatting and the Role of Indian Courts: A Review - Dr. Harman Preet Singh
2. Cyber-squatting and its Effectual Position in India- Zohaib Hasan Khan, Piyush Charan, Mohd Amir Ansari & Kashiful Hasan Khan
3. Cyber-squatting in India: Jeopardy to Cyberspace – Aisha Saleem Khan
4. A brief study on Cyber Crime and Cyber Law’s of India-Animesh Sarmah, Roshmi Sarmah, Amlan Jyoti Baruah
5. A Critical Study on Menace of Cyber squatting and the Regulatory Mechanism- Jagadish.A. T
6. Nissan Motor Co. v. Nissan Computer Corp.: The Point at Which Fame Is Determined Under the Federal Trademark Dilution Act - Bruce C. Piontkowski, Matthew S. Kenefick
7. “The Web of Cyber-squatting: Do we need a Law to clean it?” - Rupal Jaiswal
8. Cyber-squatting: Threat to Domain Name -Sukrut Deo, Sapna Deo
9. Cyber Squatting: Concept, Types and Legal remedies in India and USA- Sankalp Jain
10. The Latest Cyber-squatting Trend: Typo squatters, Their Changing Tactics, and How to Prevent Public Deception and Trademark Infringement -Dara B. Gilwit
11. A trademark-based domain name dispute heard by Court in Vietnam Ngo Thu Huong