Lawyer Who Nabbed Israel's Facebook Domain Ordered to Forfeit, Unpaid

Gal Erel bought the domain Facebook.co.il in 2006 and demanded $10,000 from Facebook to hand it over.

In 2006 Israeli lawyer Gal Erel bought the domain name Facebook.co.il and tried to sell it to the social network for a substantial sum of money. In an arbitration procedure under the auspices of the Israeli Internet Association he has been told to relinquish the domain name without recompense, the association said Thursday.

This is good news for Israelis who have tried to use that address to get to the Facebook site and found instead details of four charities. Within 30 days, the site will automatically redirect to the popular site founded by Mark Zuckerberg.

The Internet Association announced that the decision was arrived at through the Israel Dispute Resolution Process and formulated by attorney Leehee Feldman about two weeks ago, after Facebook offered Erel $3,000 for the domain name and he countered with a demand for $10,000. Facebook refused Erel’s offer, even after he went down to $8,000, and the company turned to the local arbitration board that decides such issues.

Feldman’s decision is based on four parameters in domain name ownership cases: resemblance between the name in question and a commercial name, the complainant’s ownership of the commercial name, non-ownership of the name by the defendant and his intention at the time of registering the domain name.

Dina Beer, Chief Technology Officer and Director of Infrastructure at the Israel Internet Association told the Newsgeek site that Erel has the right to appeal the decision to a court within the 30 days allotted him.

Erel has declined to comment. But Beer said in the Newsgeek interview that he is aware of the decision and has been in contact with the association in the context of the arbitration. The lawyers who serve on the panel – of one, three or five lawyers, as the complainant decides – have specialized in the area of technology and are not employed by the Internet Association, which serves only as a go-between.

In the 19 cases arbitrated there during the past two years, in only two was it ruled that a disputed domain name would remain in the hands of the original owner.

Ever since the earliest days of the Internet, enterprising individuals have been buying domains similar or identical to well-known brand names, some in order to use them for advertising purposes by taking advantage of a large number of errant surfers who mistype the address they seek. Others seek to steal data on the surfers and hack into their accounts at sites such as banks, mailboxes or social networks. And others, of course, have speculated on buying a name that they expect will be in great demand further down the road.

Bloomberg