Nepali Times
Who owns your domain?


Diwakar kanel denies he is a cybersquatter he to be called an enterpenur.

Kathmandu Valley is fast emerging as the cybersquatting hub of the Himalaya. Some of the most prolific Internet subletters in the region live within a 3 km radius of Jyatha Tole.

Several Nepali companies and numerous individuals have made a living out of squatting on popular brand names, or thinking up possible future domains they hope will become hot-sellers. They pay out thousands of dollars a year to
renew annual domain registrations, but all they need to hit one big jackpot a year to recoup everything and more.

One of the more successful is Himalayan Dot ( which has already been offered $100,000 for its domain,, But it\'s not selling, hoping for bigger money.

The director of Himalayan Dot, Diwakar Kanel, in his early 20s, is typical of the new breed of aggressive cyber-entrepre-neurs. It doesn\'t seem to bother Kanel that many would call him a modern-day pirate, or even blackmailer.

"A whole new area of business has now started. People now see money to be made on the Internet, and that will bring a great change," predicts Kanel.

Kanel has been doing a booming business registering just about any name anyone can think of for a dot com company and then selling it for a fat profit such as which has already been offered $15,000-and

These and other names are available from the bidding-site Himalayan Dot has so far registered 250 domains and is planning to create a global portal-"The Fetch Network" with fetchfetch-com,,, already registered. Himalayan Dot also registers domains for others. Their most memorable client was an 80-year-old who registered 100 domains at one go.

Kanel claims that he will sell Nepali domains like to the rightful owner for the hundred dollars or so that it has cost him to maintain the site over the years. "It is better that a Nepali company owns the domain rather than an unknown American who will sell it only for tons of money," he says.

But Himalayan Bank sources said that when they sought to acquire the domain through indirect channels, they were told it would cost Rs 500,000. Himalayan Bank now uses Kanel says he got the idea of registering Nepali domains when an Indian company, Iris Design, snapped up when he let its registration lapse. He claims he\'s not in it for the money, at least so far as Nepali domains are concerned: "Our objective is awareness. We will keep these names for Nepali companies and then we will sell them to their rightful owners. But we will not ask for a paisa more than what we paid to reserve the site."

The price of domain name registration has come down nowadays. What used to cost $70 for two years is now available for $ 10 for a year. Some sites will even register any domain name for free.

Where Himalayan Dot makes its money is by registering a slew of generic domain names, which can fetch a good price from international bidders who send offers through

Another Kathmandu company, OBCI, is sitting on names such as,,

The Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) is now considering taking OBCI to court over OBCI\'s response has been to come up with "Internet Communication and Information Management of Development Issues" as a cover for its domain. The original ICIMOD has dashed off a letter to Computer Associaton of Nepal and Network Solutions, Inc, claiming the domain. One ICIMOD insider told Nepali Times: "We might be forced to take legal action against the squatter if they do not comply with the request."

There are many other unknown cybersquatters in Nepal who have ownership of names like,,,,,,,, and even

There seems to be nothing beginning with "Nepal" that has not already been registered. Even legitimate private names have not been spared. Domains like,,, have all been taken. Even (with one \'c\') has been reserved.

Taking the cue from chic desi names in India, domains with Nepali language words are also fast disappearing. Names such as,,,, have already been taken. The latest to go is sukul-

Since Internet domain names are registered on a first-come-first-served basis, there are little others can do after a name has been registered (see box).
However, under new regulations adopted by the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), domain names are considered intellectual property and squatters could be prevented from registering names that are trademarks of some other company.

But in Nepal there are many companies with the same first name, and when a generic name like Sagarmatha, Himal, Karhmandu, Kantipur, or Nepal are involved squatters can\'t be sued. The best antidote is to register quickly and also reserve all derivatives of the same name.

Registration of names ending with Nepal\'s own domain \'np\' is also on rise. So far 1066 \'np\' domains have been registered by Mercantile Communications, but you cannot register someone else\'s brand. For instance nobody other than Coke can register,,, Mercantile also will not register names like nabilbank, yak and yeti, necon, nepalitimes to anyone else but those companies.

"This arrangement is quite, unique to Nepal. This is one reason why we do not have as many names registered under the np domain," says Sanjib Raj Bhandari of Mercantile.

There are now even, and domains (representing educational establishments or the government). There are already 68 domains and 26 sites.

There is even a domain called

Domain wars was registered by a journalist in 1994, and the fast-food giant was able to get it only after agreeing to donate computers to a primary school. When a domain is registered, it is not necessary to give reasons for choosing a particular name. But when a third party comes along and claims proprietary rights to it, the registrar requires both sides to provide documents to back their respective claims. And if the matter cannot be settled, it is taken to court.

Rules for generic names are not clear cut. Nepali apple farmers from Mustang have a perfect right to register Apple Inc can, however, raise objections although it is by no means certain that a court will rule in favour of the latter.

The classic case of a domain war was over, which had been registered by a student in Utah. By the time Windows 95 became popular, the website was already highly visible. Microsoft sued the student, and an out-of-court settlement was reached for an undisclosed sum. The student\'s contention was that he was providing Windows 95-related information on the website-and not making any profit out of it.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)