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Tuesday, 22 February, 2000, 14:33 GMT
Man Utd 'for sale' on internet

Manchester United
The Manchester United brand is known globally


An Arsenal fan is embroiled in a row with Manchester United Football Club after offering the club's name for sale on the internet.


As an Arsenal fan there is a certain amount of revenge in it - I mean, everyone hates Manchester United, don't they?
Paul Averkiou
Self-confessed internet gold-digger Paul Averkiou, 31, has registered a clutch of football related domain names which he hopes to sell on for a massive profit.

The IT manager, from Romford, Essex, owns .com addresses for Newcastle United and West Ham, but his prized possession is manchesterunitedfc.com which he expects to sell for 100,000.

Manchester United, whose web address is manutd.com, threatened to take legal action against Mr Averkiou after he approached the club last year.

Roy Keane Roy-keane.com is reportedly for sale
The case is the latest example of "cyber-squatting" - occupying a web address which, it could be argued, might rightly belong to someone else.

It comes amid reports that Manchester United is threatening legal action after the names of its star players - including roy-keane.com and ryan-giggs.com - were put up for internet auction.

Mr Averkiou said he wanted to "make a lot of money", but added: "As an Arsenal fan there is a certain amount of revenge in it - I mean, everyone hates Manchester United, don't they?

"Who knows, if it is legal I could post a huge Arsenal badge on the site, while I am waiting to sell it."

Legal threat

Manchester United marketing manager Peter Draper said the club had had a "number of approaches" from people offering to sell internet addresses, but had "no intention" of buying them.

He said: "There is only one Manchester United and we will take whatever action is necessary to protect our interests against people trying to pass themselves off as our organisation.

"This is currently a complicated area, but I would warn anyone off buying one of these addresses - if they are trying to trade on our name it will only make it easier for us to take legal action."


There is only one Manchester United and we will take whatever action is necessary to protect our interests against people trying to pass themselves off as our organisation
Manchester United
Legal experts say companies have a good chance of winning legal cases against cybersquatters who have set up sites which look like the original branded versions.

In America, the Senate has passed a law outlawing cybersquatting with a $100,000 fine for registering internet addresses in bad faith.

But Mr Averkiou said he had acted legally in buying up the domain names - through US-based Domains.com - which also include newcastlefc.com and westhamunited.com.

He said: "The names are up for public auction so I believe I am well within my rights to buy and keep them.

"There are a number of things you could do with the site. Advertisers are always looking for addresses which get hit a lot - manchesterunitedfc.com has had more than 9,000 hits.

"You could use it as a novelty e-mail address, but perhaps only if you are a very rich football fan.


Harrods Legal battle for Harrods.com
Among previous victims of the cybersquatters is Harrods, the famous London department store.

The historic store launched a global online shopping site at the address harrods.com, but only after evicting a band of cybersquatters through the courts.

There has also been plenty of evidence of the value of a good domain name in cases where cybersquatting was not an issue and where initial domain name owners legally sold their addresses on.

The BBC spent a considerable sum on buying the address bbc.com from Boston Business Computing.

In December a Texan entrepreneur spent $7.5m on business.com and Compaq is rumoured to have paid $3.3m for altavista.com.

The price of a domain name obviously depends on what you are buying.

They can cost anything from zero - certain providers in the UK will give you one for free - to millions of dollars.

If you want to buy a domain name that is not already registered, through a reputable registration agency, it can cost anything from $15 to $60 a year, but this will increase if you also want to buy hosting services.

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See also:
26 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Firm accused of net name piracy
06 Dec 99 |  Business
Betting on banks.com
15 Nov 99 |  e-cyclopedia
Cybersquatting part 2: Giving it a good name
15 Nov 99 |  e-cyclopedia
Cybersquatting: Get off my URL
02 Dec 99 |  Business
The $7.5m net address

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