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Posthumous cyber-squatting


I wanted to share a "misadventure" which happened to me, and is still getting me somewhat upset, even if it's been months.

As a web site designer, I created a site for a client at the end of the 90's. The site reached its end of life in 2004 and was definitively closed. Earlier this year, since it's been ten years and I had no use of the domain name, I decided to release it. I perfectly knew that, out there, there are guys which business is to buy expired domains for all kind of motivations. This can be with the hope the owner will forget to renew it and will be ready to pay a huge amount of money to get it back, or with the idea to monetize some residual traffic, or again to take advantage of back-links and page-rank for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) purpose, as if Search Engines were that dumb nowadays.

I perfectly knew this and accepted the idea. After ten years of being closed, there was nothing remaining at all, so I didn't see any problem in that.

So, after the domain expired, and the redemption period due, I was curious to check if someone had registered it, and what it was becoming... and here was the shock. Yes, the domain had been registered again, and at my stupefaction the site was back online! I mean the site "I" created 15+ years ago was brought back from the dead! Damn, what was happening?! For a moment, I thought that it was still in my own DNS settings pointing to the local copy of the site, which I still had. But no. Someone had registered the domain name and put back the whole site content online!

I scratched my head, trying to figure out what was going on, when I realized that this guy had scrapped the pages and images, from The Internet Archive: Wayback Machine!

For those who don't know, The Wayback Machine archives websites, by downloading and storing pages at different interval of times, keeping a copy of sites at different stages of their life.

So, someone, had fetched the archived pages from The Wayback Machine, and republished them as it! There was still the copyright notice from the company which was operating the site, and their contact information! There was even the Google Adsense codes and everything else!

May be this kind of behavior is common nowadays, and there is certainly a name for it, but I never thought about it and was really pissed. I feel like having been stolen, and beside this, exposing the contact information of the original owner could have lead to all kind of legal issues!

So when I understood all this, I immediately contacted the host (Hostwired dot com), as well as the registrar (DomainName dot com) to expose this situation. I feel lucky, because both were very comprehensive, helpful and professional! (That's why I am taking the opportunity to name them). They both entered in contact with the owner, a Polish citizen, who had his identity hidden via an anonymous registration service based in some kind of tropical island. This guy claimed he didn't know that this was not fair behavior. Really?!

Hopefully, the host and registrar were convincing enough and he finally deleted the pages. Instead now he set up a page, stuffed with links to R-rated sites which don't really sound legal, so it says it all about him and his conception of business!

Now I am also a bit upset after The Wayback Machine, because, for this site, I had the robot metatag "noarchive" set. I know this is not a standard, but it has been widely adopted by everybody. However, apparently the robot of The Wayback Machine ignores it and you need to explicitly disable the indexing using the "robots.txt" file.

By the way, now things are back in order, thank God or whoever is up there, but I still feel so upset. Also, I don't understand how people can be that crappy to do this kind of thing! I guess I have a too naive nature.

That being said, I hope that sharing this story, will help me exorcise this upsetting experience, and move forward.

by: Urban Legend


November 25, 2014 (4 years ago)

4 Replies & Comments

It sucks man! The Internet is full of shit now!

by: G-344

Message #1

April 15, 2015 (4 years ago)

I have old sites that are still up, but i don't check on them. I hope no one has stolen the content or anything...

by: G-808

Message #2

February 23, 2016 (3 years ago)

I discovered last year that one of my sites was being scraped daily by someone in Eastern Europe, and published on VK (Eastern European Facebook) as if it was their own. My site was state of the art curation, with thousands of photos. Each day, all of my new posts, photos, etc. showed up on their site. It was very upsetting. When I contacted them, the person simply blocked me on VK. There wasn't much I could do.

by: G-944

Message #3

May 21, 2016 (3 years ago)

A friend of mine, his email address typed into a standard google search, will bring up - drum roll - his CV! The website holding his CV has done nothing wrong, and the guy is retired now, not looking for work. Google is more of the Wayback Machine these days, even though the wayback machine is handy for "dr who style" internet surfing.

by: G-958

Message #4

June 09, 2016 (3 years ago)

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