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In an opinion by judge Alex Kozinski, the Ninth Circuit considered whether domain registrar Network Solutions may be liable for giving away a registrant's domain name on the basis of a forged letter. [Kremen v. Cohen, No. 0115899 (9th Cit. 07/25/03), available at http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/ca9/ newopinions.nsf/999D1D5BOD734B6088256D6D0078CB88/$file/ 10115899.pdf?opopenelement.] In 1994, with a quick email to Network Solutions, Gary Kremen became the owner of the domain name sex.com. Kremen registered the name to his business, Online Classifieds, and listed himself as the contact.
Con man Stephen Cohen, meanwhile, was doing time for impersonating a bankruptcy lawyer. He, too, saw the potential of the domain name. Kremen had gotten it first, but once out of prison, Cohen sent Network Solutions what purported to be a letter he had received from Kremen's company, Online Classifieds. It claimed that the company had been "forced to dismiss Mr. Kremen" but "never got around to changing our administrative contact with the internet registration [sic] and now our Board of directors has decided to abandon the domain name sex.com."
Why was this unusual letter being sent via Cohen rather than to Network Solutions directly? The letter explained:
Because we do not have a direct connection to the internet, we request that you notify the internet registration on our behalf, to delete our domain name sex.com. Further, we have no objections to your use of the domain name sex.com and this letter shall serve as our authorization to the internet registration to transfer sex.com to your corporation. …