Verisign just allowed the reserved domain name CM.com to be registered. Here’s why.
In 2013, the longtime registrant of CM.com lost his domain name.
The domain name had been registered to Satoshi Shimoshita since 2004. Yet the domain name was deleted following a period in which the nameservers for the domain name pointed to NS1.SPAMSHUTDOWN.COM.
That a registrar forcefully deleted an extremely valuable domain name not coming up for renewal is rather odd. But the story of CM.com has become even more intriguing since then…
When Domain.com deleted CM.com in 2013, the domain name didn’t become available for registration. At the time, I reached out to Verisign to understand why no one could register it.
Verisign pointed me to Appendix 6 of the 2012 registry agreement the company signed with ICANN. Appendix 6 states that “all two-character labels must be reserved from initial (non-renewal) registration.”
So existing owners of two character domains are free to continue using them, but if one isn’t already registered, then it can’t be registered. In the case of CM.com, the deletion meant it was no longer a registered domain name and had to be held back.
Yet last Friday, the domain name was suddenly registered again. The domain name was registered by CSC Domains, a corporate domain name registrar. The whois record lists only CSC, which essentially makes it private. (Thanks Elliot and Andrea for bringing this to my attention.)
I reached out to Verisign again this week to understand how a reserved domain name was registered.
The answer: a court order. And it’s a really interesting one.
Before Satoshi Shimoshita owned CM.com, the domain name was registered to Michael Berry in San Diego. Before that, it was registered to Internet Holding Group, currently known as Branded Holding Group. And according to Branded Holding Group, the domain name was stolen from its Network Solutions account some time between 1998 and 2001. It alleges the domain name was stolen in much the same fashion as Sex.com: someone sent a fax to Network Solutions requesting a change.
Last year, more than 13 years after the alleged theft, Branded Holding Group filed suit against Network Solutions to recover the stolen domain name. (View the lawsuit PDF here.)
The case, filed by attorney Brett Lewis of Lewis & Lin, explained the long gap between the alleged theft and the suit:
The principal of [Branded Holding Group] should not have been required to pursue litigation at that time due to [Network Solutions’] negligence, and was unable to do so due to financial constraints. As a result, the Domain Name Remained registered in Berry’s name.
The suit claims that the most recent registrant, Satoshi Shimoshita, was using the domain name to send spam:
Upon information and belief, from 2002 to some time in 2013, Shimoshita used the Domain Name in connection with the sending of mass unsolicited commercial email spam.
…Upon information and belief, in or about November 2013, the Domain Name was seized by its registrar for Shimoshita’s persistent and pervasive use of the domain name in connection with the sending of bulk commercial email spam.
The domain name hasn’t been at Network Solutions for nearly a decade or more, and the company (now owned by Web.com) didn’t respond to the lawsuit. The judge entered a judgment and ordered the domain name to be handed to Branded Internet Group.
Filing a suit at least 13 years after an alleged theft raises a lot of interesting questions, especially since the suit was filed against what is now a disinterested party. The judge essentially took the undefended allegations as fact.
Branded Holding Group owns several two letter .com domain names, including rg.com, mb.com and, until recently, UF.com. It also owns a number of other valuable domain names.
It’s not clear who owns the company. The addresses for the two letter domain names all point to a New York City apartment. The address tied to its whois email address points to another New York address. It’s also not clear what type of business it is, and a search of registered New York businesses comes up null. [Update: a former address on some of the domain names links to the same address as LeaseMy.com, which is run by Roland Chemtob.]
I’m curious if there are more old domain name thefts that will come out of the woodwork now that some of the stolen domain names are worth hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.
Roland Chemtob, NY = Branded Holding Group. Its pretty known by now.
Andrew Allemann says
Thanks. When you search for just Branded Holding Group, that doesn’t come up. Add the name and you get it.
Robert Simpson says
The WhoIs for Chemtob.com (via your “valuable domain names” link) lists “Branded Holding Group” as the Admin and other contacts, which provides additional evidence that it’s Roland Chemtob.
Nice detective work. Thanks Andrew.
Andrea Paladini says
IMHO it would be interesting to read the integral version of the court decision, because I see many things which still doesn’t make sense in this case … and the first, but surely not the only one, is the timing of the lawsuit …
Andrew Allemann says
Here’s the order. It’s really a default judgment:
Andrea Paladini says
I thought there was a comprehensive illustration of the case in all details, while it’s just a 2 pages paper …
Interesting! Thanx, @ Andrew! Great detective work!
Andrea Paladini says
A full description would be definitely useful to understand a case which IMHO still smell very fishy … something still doesn’t make sense to me …
Based on this scarce documentation, very briefly, I few basic questions come to my mind:
– they said BHG waited for over 13 years to start a litigation because his principal was in “financial constraints”. As far as I see, Mr. Roland Chemtob is described as, among other things, a millionaire living in the Haptons, NY, a part-time developer and start-up investor in the Hamptons, who self-describes himself as “Former Banker and Technologist”…
It’s weird he didn’t have the money to start a litigation for over 13 year, while he had the funds for many other business initiatives during all these years… weird, isn’t it?
How (if they did) checked if he really was “without financial means” to start a lawsuit?
Does Roland Chemtob is husband of Nancy Chemtob, founding partner of New York City law firm Chemtob Moss Forman and Talbert, LLP, one of the largest Matrimonial Law Firm in New York, or is it just a case of homonymy?
– what were the relations/connections, if any, before and at the time of the alleged theft of CM.com between BHG principal and Mr Michael Berry, c/o CM Consulting? Are we sure there were no agreement between the two parties about the transfer of CM.com, which later soured or changed? It would be interesting to hear Mr Berry version of facts about those events, anyone cared to ask him?
– Why NetSol didn’t check with a phone call to BHG principal the authenticity of the fax, which now is considered as forged (fake)? was it signed? by who? if signed, did they verify the signature authenticity during the litigation?
– Did Satoshi Shimoshita was aware that the domain was stolen?
I’m not a lawyer and don’t know how it works in common law, but in civil law a transfer of a property if the buyer is in good faith doesn’t generate the same effects as if he’s in bad faith.
Furthermore, it would be very interesting to hear Mr Shimoshita version of facts on the spamming accusations, the domain seizing and the purchase from Mr Berry.
If any of these guys want to post its version of facts, they are welcome. 🙂
Michael Berry says
I just came upon this whole sordid tale by accident, and to answer your question — no, nobody ever bothered to ask me. Nobody ever contacted me about any lawsuit. Nobody thought it important to tell me that my name was being dragged through the mud in false claims designed simply to steal back a domain name that had been legally transferred to me, and that I years later legally transferred to Satoshi. This whole thing is bullshit, and if they think I’m going to let the fact that they made defamatory statements about me and intentionally avoided contacting me for a response, they’re sorely mistaken. I’m about as easy to find online as anyone. Stay tuned folks…if you think its an interesting story so far, just wait until I get started on this asshole Brett Lewis and his lying clients.
Michael, what ever came of your efforts?
the whole situation is strange..and even stranger to see a two letter .com with a 2015 creation date!