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22 Jul, 2007 01:21

Cyber squatters ride on Sochi's Olympic success

With Sochi nominated to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, a wealth of websites containing the name of the Black Sea resort have been created, including the website Sochi.info which was bought for for less than 100 euros and is now on sale for 3 MLN euros.

For internet speculators it's essential to sense the trends, and even forecast them. It's been a while since a certain Nikolai Odintsov from Krasnodar registered the website Sochi.info. A few years ago close to no one needed such a website. Now there are customers ready to pay $US 600,000 for it. But the lucky owner hopes to sell it for 7 times as much.

“Since the announcement that Sochi was selected for the 2014 Winter Olympics short list, more than 1,000 domains containing the word Sochi were registered. And the announcement of the winner was awaited not only by our Bidding Committee, but also by cyber squatters. As soon as it was declared Russia won the bid, fifty more Sochi-related domains were registered. And it was quite a challenge to even find anything left that was free!” Andrey Vorobyov, Internet Registrar spokesman, commented.

Andrey Vorobyov says the entire Russian Internet domain zone also known as 'dot-ru' is experiencing a real boom. Last year the number of registrations grew by 60%.

One of the biggest sales happened last year, when well-known Russian web-designer Artyom Lebedev, sold vodka.com and vodka.ru domains to the Russky Standart vodka manufacturer. Vodka.com was sold for $US 3 MLN, and vodka.ru for $US 50,000. An average price for a 'dot-ru' domain is about $US 4,000.
Andrey Vorobyov, Internet Registrar spokesman

As more and more people in Russia understand the value of a website with a Russian or even English dictionary word as a domain name, local domain registrars have seen real wars raging between cyber squatters.

Larisa Shevchenko who has been registering domains for nearly 7 years was actually threatened by rival parties claiming the same domain. Cyber squatting itself is also quite a risky business, she says. Cases have been known where cyber squatters were severely beaten instead of being paid for their domains. But if it pays, it pays well.

Cyber squatters frequently register a domain for an already existing trademark. The only way for the trademark owner to get it back is through the courts. But dictionary words, personal names and names of cities are rights free.

The situation has grown tough for the moment. There are less than a half of Russian dictionary words left to register a dot-ru website, and they're coming for ordinary people's names now.