What is domain hijacking?
We use the term to mean a situation where a third party (“hijacker”) gains control of a domain name by unauthorised means. This is literally domain theft. The hijacker sets out deliberately to steal a domain name from its existing owner and moves it to a new different registrar.
It is entirely different to a scenario where a party registers a domain name which has expired because, say, the owner has omitted to renew. Or to more conventional form of domain name disputes, where say a registrant has registered a domain name to target a competitor.
This scenario should also be distinguished from “reverse domain name hijacking”, which is a potential outcome in certain domain arbitration systems, denoting the panellist’s view that the complainant has filed the complaint in bad faith.
How common is domain theft?
Domain theft happens more often than you might think. Usually the hijacker gains control of the stolen domain by getting hold of the password used by the registrant of the hijacked domain name. In our experience, this generally happens because the password used by the registrant to control the stolen domain name has also been used by the registrant for other online services and the hijacker has somehow managed to find it out.
How can a stolen domain name be recovered?
Our aim when acting as lawyers for domain hijack victims is to persuade the relevant domain authority / registrar / reseller to hand back the domain name without the need for legal action, which can be costly, time consuming and difficult. That said, the domain authorities tend to be reluctant to take a domain name away from one person and give it to another without a court order because of concerns about their legal liability. Our role often involves putting a comprehensive legal submission to the relevant authorities in order to encourage them to repatriate the hijacked domain name without having to go to court.