French Government Seizes France.com Domain, Gets Sued

By Tom Pritchard on at

Ever since the mid-90s, the website 'france.com' has been owned by the same man, French-born US citizen Jean-Noel Frydman. Or at least he did, until the French Foreign Ministry seized the domain following a lawsuit. So he's suing.

Frydman purchased the domain back in 1994, and was designed to act as a "digital kiosk" for Americans with an interest in France or those that could speak the language. Over time he was able to build a business that saw him collaborate with official French agencies, including the Consulate General in Los Angeles and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Then in 2015 the French Foreign Ministry sued in France (naturally) to seize the france.com domain from him. Web.com, which hosted the site, locked the domain, and Frydman was forced to ask Berkman Klein Center at Harvard Law School to intervene. By last year the case done with, and the French Court of Appeals rules that owning france.com constituted a violation of French trademark law. The French government then demanded Web.com hand over the domain, which they did on March 12th of this year.

Frydman himself claims he didn't get any formal notice the domain was going to be transferred, nor did he get any compensation. Telling Ars Technica:

"I'm probably [one of Web.com's] oldest customers. I've been with them for 24 years... There's never been any cases against France.com, and they just did that without any notice. I've never been treated like that by any company anywhere in the world. If it happened to me, it can happen to anyone."

So on 19th April he launched his own lawsuit in Virginia, determined to get his domain back, naming the French Republic, government-run tourism agency Atout France, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian, and domain registry VeriSign as defendants. It accuses the French government of cybersquatting, "reverse domain-name hijacking", and a string of other allegations.

At the time of writing France.com simply redirects to France.fr, a site to help people hoping to visit the country plan their trip. [Ars Technica]