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Register.com Loses Class action Lawsuit 454

Posted by timothy
from the and-nelson-laughs dept.
Anonymous Blowhard writes "I found out today I am a member of a class that just beat register.com in New York Supreme Court!! The suit was filed by Michael Zurakov because register.com pointed his newly registered domain(s) to 'coming soon' web pages. Mr. Zurakov receives $12,500 for the harm caused by register.com while members of the class can look forward to a settlement of $5 off their next domain renewals. Register.com will also pay 'reasonable Class Counsel attorneys' fees and costs in an amount not to exceed $642,500.00, subject to Court approval.' If you want to exclude yourself from the class, giving up any settlement and not being bound by its terms, you have to opt-out."
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Register.com Loses Class action Lawsuit

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  • by the_bahua (411625) on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @06:25AM (#6919643) Homepage Journal
    I regged my first domain with them, when I didn't know any better, and quickly moved it to addresscreation when I saw the alternatives. Are there any advantages to paying the premium registration charge for rdc?
  • by locarecords.com (601843) <david&locarecords,com> on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @06:37AM (#6919695) Homepage Journal
    Petty actions like this can have unforeseen consequences on the entire technology sector as they can be a disincentive to try out new technologies and methods of making new products and services. I think it is reasonable to ask that *actual* harm is being caused by this linking.

    Presumably all the company will do is add a clause to their terms and conditions that allows them to explicitly do this anyway.. But tying up every new attempt to use the technology in clauses and legalese is hardly going to free people to experiment...

  • by turnstyle (588788) on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @06:38AM (#6919699) Homepage
    In other words, doen't this apply to any small ISP that also starts a new user's domain hosting service with a Coming Soon page?

    btw, that Register Coming Soon page was awful, with a flood of popups. Suprisingly un-pro thing to do.

  • by bo0ork (698470) on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @06:41AM (#6919705)
    Seems to me it would be a no-brainer to opt out of a $5 class settlement. Why waive all future claims against a measly $5??
  • Re:damages? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nacturation (646836) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `noitarutcan'> on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @06:44AM (#6919722) Journal
    $12.5K for that? How was he harmed? He had tools to point it elsewhere.

    Technically, the $12.5K is for his services in representing the class. Otherwise, he likely would only get $5 as well. Still, what a completely frivolous lawsuit. It doesn't say in the article, but did he at least try to negotiate up-front first before wasting over half a million dollars in legal expenses?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @06:47AM (#6919730)
    This case was just a shakedown. To prevent it from happening again, members of the class can object to the attorney's fees awarded in the settlement.

    See Sec. VII (C) of the linked document for reference.

    RDC actually sends me coupons for more than $5 to entice me to keep using their service. This is pretty much the same thing. So they're effectively paying me nothing, paying the plaintiff $12.5K and paying the lawyers $650K.

    I Object!
  • by ratpack91 (698171) on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @06:48AM (#6919733)
    I know exactly what you mean but your example doesn't hold very well because I remember a few years ago loads of people were suing Manchester council for ... tripping over the pavement and 'breaking' their ankles. The trouble with America is that (bastard) lawyers come along and tell people they could make loadsa money if they sue company x for something that happened to them even if they hadn't thought about it seriously before.
  • Re:Harm? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nacturation (646836) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `noitarutcan'> on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @06:49AM (#6919739) Journal
    I think the harm is that register.com can use these coming-soon-websites to get advertising revenue by putting adds on 'property' (the domain) they don't own.

    So does this mean that once a house is sold, the realtor must immediately take down their sign rather than leaving it up for a week advertising their name with the "SOLD" sticker across it? Now *there's* a class action waiting to happen!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @06:50AM (#6919743)
    "The trouble with America is that (bastard) lawyers come along and tell people they could make loadsa money if they sue company x for something that happened to them even if they hadn't thought about it seriously before."

    That's the lawyers fault? Funny, I make that the fault of the people for allowing such a law to exist. Change it if you don't like it.
  • by delcielo (217760) on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @06:53AM (#6919750) Journal
    Agreed. I opted out and sent an e-mail to the plaintiff's lawyers protesting.

    This is the sort of litigious bull**** that we could do without. If the guy didn't know better than to submit his domain without name servers, or didn't know that these things don't get organized immediately, then he should sue whoever told him how to set up a website. Or better yet, he should just chock it up to learning the new forms of business in the internet age.

    And class action my butt. It implies that he was doing this for all those people who were wronged by the defendant. If there were serious damages done, we'd have heard more about it from the enraged masses, and the settlement would have been something real or substantial. This was just a way to "lawyer up."

  • by MyNameIsFred (543994) on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @07:02AM (#6919801)
    There are a few things you need to understand about stupid American lawsuits...

    It is a tiny minority of Americans that file stupid lawsuits.

    Americans laugh at these idiots too.

    Frequently, the media portrays the lawsuits as idiotic, but when you dig into the details and hear the other side it is not so idiotic. Case in point, the famous case of the old women suing McDonald's for the hot coffee spilled on her. Stupid lawsuit until you read the full story behind it. That McDonald's coffee was the hottest in the industry. That McDonald's coffee temperature was on the "knee of the curve" where a few degrees made the difference between a minor burn and a 3rd degree burn. The women received 3rd degree burns and had to go to a hospital. By pushing their coffee temperature to an extreme, well beyond industry practice, McDonald's created a hazard. The lawsuit is not so stupid in that context.

    The case sited in this story does sound stupid, but I would like to hear the whole story before I judge.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @07:04AM (#6919812)
    I think the decision is right, but not that it had to be reached in this way. Domain registrations should result in the minimally required DNS-records, unless stated otherwise. If I want a domain for emails, I don't want to find out that someone has put up a webpage which most likely doesn't represent me. These announcements may get into search engines before I get around to putting my pages up. If there are links to the provider on the announcement page, they get free page-rank and my name becomes associated with content which I did not choose to link to. More severe consequences are not unthinkable.
  • Opt Out? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bruha (412869) on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @07:16AM (#6919903) Homepage Journal
    What happened to the Opt In Class Action?

    I think that would be a violation of your legal rights. So who's going door to door to see if anyone ever used register.com to allow them to opt out in case they wish to bring their own lawsuit?
  • Re:Harm? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Burlynerd (535250) * on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @07:29AM (#6919987)
    So does this mean that once a house is sold, the realtor must immediately take down their sign rather than leaving it up for a week advertising their name with the "SOLD" sticker across it?

    I did it for them on my new house. Nobody gets to advertise on my property. I wouldn't let my barber carve his logo into my scalp, either.

    Register.Com's 'coming soon' page is a garish, crowded, visual assault. Nobody would want that thing on a web site that they paid for.

    BN
  • by dnoyeb (547705) on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @07:30AM (#6919995) Homepage Journal
    First of all, the blatant advertising on YOUR domain is wrong, then the sorry ass nature of it with the tons of popups and such is distasteful.

    Second, for that "coming soon" page to show up, they MUST have propagated an IP address into the DNS servers. This suggests they could have just as easily propagated YOUR IP address instead of theirs. Which gives them incentive to delay your processing.

    Thrid, if they received ANY revenue off the advertising on your domain, aren't you entitled?
  • by NullAndVoid (181397) on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @07:40AM (#6920059)
    Funny, I make that the fault of the people for allowing such a law to exist. Change it if you don't like it.

    Nice idea, but in the real world lawyers have a lot more influence in shaping laws than regular people do.

    Having been living in the UK for 5 years now, I see a lot more of the US-style ads encouraging people to think of reasons to sue somebody. It's a process that feeds itself, the more successful they are, the more they are able to twist the system to suit their needs.
  • by JeffSh (71237) <<gro.0m0m> <ta> <todhsalsffej>> on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @07:49AM (#6920126)
    "Thrid, if they received ANY revenue off the advertising on your domain, aren't you entitled?
    "

    Maybe you already received this amount in the form of discounted registration prices.

    i myself use godaddy, though. http://www.godaddy.com
  • by ltm (542708) on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @07:59AM (#6920207)
    This was certainly a huge waste of time and money, and the plaintiff should be ashamed.

    It reminds me of last year when I got my house painted. A few days before they came out, they stuck a sign on my lawn that basically advertised their services. True, I didn't appreciate that they didn't ask me to stick this physical sign in my lawn, but I understood that's how they advertise. I'd rather they do that than take out a $10,000 Yellow Page ad and charge me more for painting.

    Again, shame.

  • by Illbay (700081) on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @09:02AM (#6920750) Journal
    Guess we know who the lawyers were fighting for.

    Oh, no, you MUST be wrong! Why, here in Texas we're going to the polls (okay, about 28 of us are, if turnout predictions are correct) to vote up or down on a proposed referendum to allow the Legislature to cap awards for damages in civil suits.

    The Trial Lawyers Association is solemnly intoning that this is the "end of your right to sue and get 'just compensation' for your injuries," etc.

    Are you SERIOUSLY implying that they are simply defending THEIR right to outrageous and downright confiscatory compensation?

    N.B. If the Legislature would just pass a law in Texas to cap attorneys' fees at no more than, say, 1 or 2 percent of judgement awards, the problem would go away of itself.

  • Re:damages? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @10:03AM (#6921342)

    Why don't you have a look [register.com] at the "Coming Soon" page that Register.com uses. And make sure you turn off any pop-up blockers first. It's an atrocity.

    The reason for the hefty fine is not to cover damages to the plantiffs, but rather to punish Register.com for this behavior. Fining them $50 would not stop them from putting up these highly obnoxious spam pages on the domain that you own. Fining them a few hundred grand might.

  • by eric76 (679787) on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @10:54AM (#6921918)
    Capping at 1 or 2 percent of any judgement award would make it notoriously difficult to sue anyone.

    If they did it in progressive stages so that it worked out to be 1 or 2 percent cap for really large awards, it might work.

    One doctor wrote up his views on Proposition 12 and made copies to hand out to customers, friendsr, and neighbors. He received an intimidating lette from a lawyer telling him that if he spent more than some set amount of money, he was an illegal (unregistered) political action committee and would be prosecuted.

    I expect a turnout of about 20 to 25 in my precinct. In nearly every election of any type, that's generally about how many show up to vote. Of course, there are only about 30 voters in the entire precinct.

    I remember one time when everyone showed up to vote by about 1 or 2 in the afternoon except for one voter who was away on a long trip. The poll workers knew he was out of town, but they had to keep the polls open in case he showed up. The only way they could close the polls early is if every voter in the precinct had already voted. It didn't matter if the only voter left was about 1500 miles away at the time.
  • Re:In other news... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rifter (147452) on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @11:35AM (#6922395) Homepage

    DNS is set up so you can't get screwed even if your registrar goes under

    Where did you get that idea? Network Solutions won in court when they said a registrar owns the domain name database it maintains. This means that, yes, if your registrar goes under, there is no knowing what will happen to your domain. It might be available for otehrs to buy, or the database might go to some creditor who then says they own all the domains in the db, who knows? That question has not been resolved to my satisfaction.

    It seems that the Network Solutions answer is that they actually own your domain and are letting you use it out of the goodness of their heart (and for the fee) which explains the cases in which they sold a domain twice or gave someone's domain away to someone else without any good explanation, then responded with "oh well" as in the sex.com case and many others. Other registrars I cannot speak for, but with such a cowboy ruling as that the rgistrar owns domains, it's pretty much up to the registrar to treat you how they feel like with no recourse whatsoever.

  • by Syrrh (700452) on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @11:54AM (#6922479)
    I regged my first domain with them, when I didn't know any better, and quickly moved it to addresscreation when I saw the alternatives. Are there any advantages to paying the premium registration charge for rdc?

    Yes, there is an advantage. RDC gives you full DNS access. Addresscreation only lets you set up pointers. If you want to define hostnames for multiple IPs, tough luck. It's minor, yeah. Also, it may have been a temporary problem, but whois lookups were slow to the point of timing out.

    For the most part, it seems like you get what you pay for, unless you use NetSol/Verisign. Even GoDaddy looks nice, but there seems to be some fine print that DNS is only for webhosting combos.
  • Try again! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jhunsake (81920) on Wednesday September 10, 2003 @02:08PM (#6923728) Journal
    This is totally wrong.

    ICANN requires that every registrar have a transfer agreement with another registrar in place in case it goes out of business.

    GANDI used to have more about this, but it still has a little: GANDI FAQ [gandi.net].

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