Domains Reregistered for Distribution of Unrelated Content: A Case Study of “Tina’s Free Live Webcam”

Domains Reregistered for Distribution of Unrelated Content: A Case Study of “Tina’s Free Live Webcam”. (March – April 2002.)

In recent years, many Internet users have become aware that when domain names expire (after their original registrants forget, fail, or otherwise decline to renew them), the domain names may be reregistered by others. This feature of the management of the domain name system might be thought to be desirable since it allows and facilitates a turnover of names from those uninterested in using them to those who in fact do seek to put them to active use. But recent experience shows that this structure also allows domains to be renewed by firms who do not seem to seek to use the domains to offer original content but rather seem to hope to profit from the prior promotional works of others.

In particular, such firms often offer pornographic or sexually-explicit images, advertising, or links or redirects to other commercial sites. The apparent expectation of such firms is that at least some users will request the web pages previously (before domain expiration) hosting other content; any such users will instead be shown this new content, likely creating profits for the firms that reregistered the expired domain names.

In this article, I document several thousand domains reregistered by one particular firm — many domain names that all redirect users to one particular web page displaying sexually explicit images. While this research is by no means exhaustive — other firms are likely conducting similar registration practices, and still others make numerous registrations and reregistrations that no doubt differ in various ways — a review of these specific registrations as well as their general characteristics may be helpful in understanding the behavior at issue.