Last February, MySpace popped the champagne corks. It could go ahead and use the MySpace.co.uk domain name – after securing it in a decision by Nominet’s dispute resolution service – from a small UK ISP which had registered the .co.uk in 1997, two years before MySpace.com launched. Total Web Solutions (TWS), a company in Stockport, near Manchester, had started off using the domain for hosting sites. Then recently the domain started serving ads to social networks, a questionable move. But a Nominet appeals panel has today handed the domain back the tiny ISP. What happened?
Myspace.co.uk was originally used to offer email services and websites to subscribers, so TWS had insulated itself from an action for some time. But MySpace’s main argument to Nominet centred on the most recent use of the domain, which sent MySpace.co.uk visitors to a parked page with advertisements for social networking websites including MySpace. MySpace Inc says the practice started in July 2005 when News Corp took it over, boosting its fame, but TWS claims it was “at least” before June 2005.
Secondly, at issue was when and how the .co.uk domain had become “abusive” to MySpace.com. TWS did admit that the ads changed to “reflect the fame of MySpace.com… but that had happened automatically as a result of the algorithms used by parking company Sedo.” MySpace Inc. argued that TWS should have controlled the ads. TWS said this did not constitute a “change of use” of the domain. The Nominet appeals panel said they were “reluctant to place any duty on a registrant, who has merely had the good fortune (or maybe ill fortune) to register a name in good faith…” so long as they don’t exploit the situation. It found that TWS had not changed the use of the domain and handed it back.
MySpace can go no further with the Nominet DRS arbitration process in the UK, so it’s the end of the line unless it intends to pursue an action through the courts. A MySpace Inc. spokesperson has declined to comment.
Of course, the MySpace.co.uk domain is now effectively worthless since TWS would no doubt be unwise to do anything with it now. It is currently displaying a blank page. MySpace continues to use uk.myspace.com/.
[There's some more detail on this story on TechCrunch UK]