After more than 20 years in private hands, the domain name France.com is now under the control of the French government, and its former owner is none too pleased about it. As laid out in a court filing in the U.S. District Court last week, Jean-Noël Frydman is suing the government of France for seizing his domain name, claiming that it did so without justification and that the seizure would cost him millions of dollars.
Frydman, a resident of California, had been in possession of the domain name since 1994, in the early years of the internet. During the intervening two decades, he reportedly built the website into a successful and lucrative business, a classic example of getting in on the ground floor and building up a valuable asset.
"[They] abruptly transferred ownership of the domain to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The company did so without any formal notification to Frydman and no compensation."https://t.co/5oa9Z2DGWD
— Kenn Bicknell (@StrategicLbries) April 29, 2018
A few years ago, however, the ministry launched a lawsuit against Frydman in an attempt to seize his domain name for the use of the French government. The effort was ultimately successful, as anyone can now verify by typing “france.com” into their search bar―the URL redirects to france.fr/en, the English-language version of the state’s official website.
The preliminary statement from Frydman’s complaint lays out his case, and the stakes of the French government being allowed the hang on to his domain name.
“Plaintiff, who lawfully owned and used the domain <France.com> in commerce from 1994 until the expropriation complained of in this action, brings this lawsuit to recover ownership, possession, and control of its rightfully obtained online property,” the complaint states. “Defendants have unlawfully taken Plaintiff’s property without compensation, causing irreparable harm to Plaintiff and unjust enrichment to Defendants. If left to stand, Defendants’ actions threaten to rob Plaintiff of millions of dollars in branding, marketing, and business development efforts, and cause millions more in lost profits.”
The URL was handed over to the French government from domain provider Web.com in 2017 after a Paris court ruled that the domain constituted a violation of French trademark law. It remains to be seen how an American court will view the case, but it’s clear that Frydman isn’t taking the situation lightly.
“There’s never been any cases against France.com, and they just did that without any notice. I’ve never been treated like that by any company anywhere in the world,” he told Ars Technica. “If it happened to me, it can happen to anyone.”
H/T Ars Technica