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Last Updated: Friday, 13 June, 2003, 10:12 GMT 11:12 UK
Sex.com finds owner at last
Graphic showing woman and dollar bill
Sex.com has proved very lucrative for cyber-squatter
The long and steamy legal battle over who owns the internet address sex.com has finally come to an end.

The US Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from cyber-squatter Stephen Cohen, who was claiming ownership of the domain name.

The ruling is expected to set a precedent about the ownership of website addresses.

The court heard that Mr Cohen had obtained the lucrative sex.com address - thought to be worth over $500,000 a month in advertising space alone - illegally from Gary Kremen.

Mr Kremen had originally registered the domain name with Verisign, known at the time as Network Solutions.

But Mr Cohen allegedly sent a forged letter to Verisign, asking the address to be handed over to him.

Online landlords

Verisign complied without checking the letter or contacting Mr Kremen.

Mr Cohen proceeded to create a multi-million online porn empire using the name.

The rejection of Mr Cohen's appeal against a $65m damage award puts an end to six years of legal wrangling.

It is seen by legal experts as a landmark case because it holds the .com registry Verisign accountable for allowing the erroneous transfer of ownership to take place.

It is also a test case of whether an internet address can be treated as property, with domain owners given legal rights in a similar way to offline landlords.

Huge bill

Now Mr Kremen faces an uphill struggle to recover his costs because Mr Cohen is a fugitive from justice in Mexico.

Forcing Verisign to accept blame for transferring the domain name in the first place could prove equally difficult.

Verisign maintains that domain names are not legal property and as such it cannot be held accountable for giving it away.

If it loses, as legal experts expect, Verisign would face a huge legal bill and fines of up to 100m.

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05 Apr 01  |  Americas

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