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Monday, 25 March, 2002, 20:35 GMT
Cybersquatter hits Stephen Byers' plans
Ian McAllister, chairman of Network Rail
Network Rail: launch hit
test hello test
By Giles Wilson
BBC News Online
Stephen Byers is spending 500m buying back the railways. For less than a tenner, he could have had the domain name too.
Network Rail, the new name for Railtrack, may now be in government hands. But the internet domain name has been snapped up by a 21-year-old from Durham for just 6.

Web designer Richard Laverick heard on Monday morning's breakfast television that the government was setting up the new company to run the nation's railway infrastructure.

Out of simple curiosity he went online to check if the government had also bought all the domain names which could be used for the company's website.

Richard Laverick
Richard Laverick: "I couldn't believe it."
As he had heard the company was to be a "not-for-profit" organisation, he checked the "" address - the suffix often used for bodies of that sort. It had not been registered.

Speaking exclusively to BBC News Online, he said: "At first I couldn't believe that it was free. I thought I must have spelt it wrong, so I checked, and it was right.

"I thought: 'If this is what the railways are going to be called, I should buy this.' The temptation was too great not to."

So he filled in his details, sent his purchase off, and waited for it to be confirmed, which it later was.


Having bought about 50 domain names in his time, some of which he has sold on to companies, he accepts that he is a cybersquatter.

He will use his site to forward any browsers to the official Network Rail site, and says he will consider offers from the government - in the region of 1,000 - to buy the name from him.

"It's not a difficult process to sell it back, but at the same time, you would think they would have the commonsense to secure the name for themselves," he said.

Transport Secretary Stephen Byers told the House of Commons on Monday that, as part of a 500m rescue package for the Railtrack shareholders, Network Rail would take over responsibility for the country's tracks, signals and some stations.

The temptation was too great not to

Richard Laverick
Other domain names such as and have been secured by a communications agency working for the government.

But Mr Laverick points out that Stephen Byers' emphasised the new company would not be making profits for shareholders. Therefore, he said, a "" domain name would be the most appropriate.


In any case the site has been used as a site for staff to chart their unhappiness with Railtrack.

Stephen Byers
Byers: Told MPs of compensation plan for Railtrack shareholders
"You would think if they're setting up a new company they'd be able to buy the right domain names before they announced it," he said.

A spokesman for the communications company which is handling the launch of Network Rail for the government was bullish about the news that they had not bought the "" domain name.

John Simmons, of Financial Dynamics, said: "We have the right to the name. Other people are not allowed to pass themselves off as Network Rail, so it's not an issue."

He said the company would not be a "not for profit" organisation, but rather a "not for dividend" company which put its profits back into the infrastructure.

The name Network Rail had been decided upon in January, and the domain names had been bought after that.


Many high profile domain names, such as, and have been the subject of cyberquatting disputes. In those three cases, the names were transferred to Madonna, AOL Time Warner and the BBC respectively.

But it is not always a foregone conclusion - last year the international body which deals with disputes found in favour of a Mr A. R. Mani, after the fashion giant Armani claimed it should own

Nominet, the body which looks after the registration of domain names ending in ".uk", employs a dispute resolution procedure.

Its policies indicate that Mr Laverick might have difficulty in claiming he should retain ownership of

It says registrations will be considered "abusive" if they have been made "primarily for the purposes of selling, renting or otherwise transferring the Domain Name" for profit.

See also:

25 Mar 02 | Business
Byers backs Railtrack buy-out
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