Thought for the day: Thieves' charters

Sometimes the internet goes out of its way to let other people get their hands on your intellectual property, says Simon Moores.

Simon Moores  

Sometimes the internet goes out of its way to let other people get their hands on your intellectual property, says Simon Moores.




Common sense, law and life in cyberspace don’t sit easily together. Take the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann). You may not be over-familiar with the organisation, but if you own or think you own a domain name, then perhaps you should be following what it's done this week.

It has changed the rules on domain ownership and it may catch your company out. Under the new rules, domain transfer requests will be automatically approved in five days unless they are explicitly denied by the account owner. This is a change from the existing procedure, where a domain's ownership and name servers remain unchanged if the owner does not respond to a transfer request. 

In effect, failing to respond within five days to a request to reroute your domain and proud national brand to the loving care of a new owner in Nigeria will now become the default equivalent of “Yes, he can have it," which I am certain will cause all kinds of embarrassment or amusement in future for well-known companies that fail to keep a proper eye on their domain name administration.

There’s more, of course, but it might be a good idea to check that all your domain details on WHOIS are firmly up to date and don’t go on holiday for more than five days - ever!  You couldn’t make it up!

Meanwhile, only last month one of Britain’s proudest online publications was telling me that its strong permissions-based architecture for managing subscriptions gave it confidence that its premium content could not be easily stolen over the internet.  Not true I’m afraid. Visit and this password aggregator will happily provide you with log-in scripts to just about anywhere you can think of. The 30,000 sites it covers include leading international newspapers and even private company sites.

Community password sites like Bugmenot collects password from anyone who wishes to volunteer them for the world to share at will. What will worry the publishing industry is that there appears to be no law that forbids it, which in turn rather makes a mockery of the publishing industry’s efforts to separate public and premium content.

Finally, in this week’s list of lunacy, we have one more example of the intellectual property struggle gone awry. It’s all about the book Gone with the Wind. In Australia and some other countries, the book fell out of copyright in 1999 but in the US it will not enter the public domain until 2031, 95 years after its original publication.

Accordingly, in Australia you can download Hitler's Mein Kampf, George Orwell's 1984  and the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes books, but try doing so from a US site and you could find yourself breaking rocks in an Alabama chain gang. The powerful international publishing lobby in the US, supported by the 6th Fleet, now wants to see the 95-year rule extended globally, by trade agreement. What are the odds, I wonder, that any government will object?

Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of leading industry analyst Dr Simon Moores of Zentelligence.

Acting globally, Zentelligence (Research) advises governments, suppliers, business and the media on the evolution, application and delivery of leading-edge technologies, and specialises in the areas of e-government and information security.

For further information on Zentelligence and its research, presentation and analyst services, visit

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