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Nominet wins data mining case

Nominet UK, the national registry for all .uk domain names, has won an Australian court battle against two men who used information stolen from the registry's database to send misleading domain name notices to thousands of its registrants.23 Sep 2004

In January 2003 Nominet discovered that its WHOIS database – which lists domain names and their owners – had been the subject of data mining attacks.

According to the registry, the sheer scale of the assaults forced it to suspend the WHOIS system for the only time in its six-year history, and led to the 'scraping' of the details of many .uk domain name holders. Following the theft, 50,000 registrants received misleading notices from an outfit calling itself "UK Internet Registry".

At the time, Nominet warned its registrants to disregard the notices, which resembled invoices and told recipients that the .com version of the .co.uk name was unregistered and available for purchase.

The registry also initiated an investigation, which eventually led to two Australians, Chesley Rafferty and Bradley Norrish, and three of their companies – Diverse Internet Pty Ltd, Internet Payments Pty Ltd and Seychelles-based UK Internet Registry Ltd.

Four of the five admitted guilt, and the remaining suspect, Bradley Norrish, was taken to court. According to Nominet, Justice French of the Federal Court of Australia has now found that Norrish had authorised copyright infringement, and was involved in misleading or deceptive conduct.

"It lies beyond the limits of credulity" to suppose that Mr Norrish had no idea of what was going on, said the Judge, adding that he was "in the scheme with Mr Rafferty," and that the notices sent by UK Internet Registry were "nothing less than deceitful".

"We are delighted by this result, particularly as it upholds our ability to protect information relating to .uk registrants," said Nominet Managing Director, Lesley Cowley. "Naturally, we want to control use of the intellectual property that we hold and to have succeeded in protecting our copyright ownership is a significant outcome for us, the industry globally and for registrants who do not want to receive scam notices."

"By fighting, and winning, this case we are saying very clearly that scamming is a serious industry issue which will not be tolerated and anyone caught doing it will be pursued and brought to justice," she added.

According to Nominet, the registry will continue to pursue Mr Rafferty, Mr Norrish and the companies for costs and damages and will also seek additional damages for the flagrancy and extent of the copyright infringement.

The registry also advised registrants receiving invoices in relation to domain names to carefully check their authenticity and, if in any doubt, to contact their Internet Service Provider or Nominet.