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Nominet wins damages in data mining dispute

Nominet UK, the national registry for all .uk domain names, has been awarded AUD $1.3 million (£550,000) in damages following a data mining scam that led to thousands of Nominet registrants receiving misleading domain name notices.04 Jan 2006

The case dates back to January 2003, when Nominet discovered that its WHOIS database – which lists domain names and their owners – had been subjected to unauthorised data mining. The details of registrants were 'scraped' from Nominet's database and 50,000 registrants received misleading notices from an outfit calling itself “UK Internet Registry”.

The unsolicited notices resembled invoices and tried to sell .com names to the holders of .uk names.

At the time, Nominet warned its registrants to disregard the notices and began an investigation, which traced back to two Australian suspects, 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.

Rafferty and Norrish, together with their three companies, were found liable in September 2004 for copyright infringement and breaches of Australian fair trade laws by copying data from Nominet's WHOIS service, and issuing misleading domain name registration notices.

Nominet has now been awarded damages for copyright infringement of AUS$810,953, with additional damages of AUS$500,000 to reflect the “flagrancy” of the breaches. This latter award is one of the highest additional damages awards ever made by the Australian Courts, according to Nominet.

The defendants are also liable for the costs of the proceedings.

"We take protection of our intellectual property and copyright ownership very seriously, both as the core of our business and in protecting our .uk registrants from domain name scams,” said Nominet’s CEO, Lesley Cowley.

“This judgment not only recognises the value of Nominet's domain name register but also underlines the responsibility of legal systems worldwide in tackling internet scams. By fighting, and winning, this case we are very clearly showing that scamming is a serious industry issue which will not be tolerated,” she added.