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November 13, 2012

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Court says domain name can be seized

IN the first case of its kind in Shanghai, a court ruled that an Internet domain name, as a kind of virtual property, can be seized and auctioned off to pay a debt.

The ruling went against a local debtor company that had avoided paying a 120,000 yuan (US$19,251) judgment to a local film and television company for five years.

The domain name of a money-making website was frozen after the Shanghai No. 2 Intermediate People's Court learned about its ties to the debtor, officials said. Yesterday, a cultural company linked to the debtor came forward and paid the money owed.

Court said the case had reached an impasse when the debtor company claimed it had no money after the ruling took effect in 2007. The money was owed because the defendants used a video belonging to the film company.

Last year, the film company discovered the profitable website and asked the court if the domain name could be seized and auctioned.

The court agreed, ruling that the domain name is the identity of a company in the Internet world and it has economic value, and thus can be seized even if there is no specific provision on the issue in the law.

Court officials said they found no similar ruling in China, but could not be certain whether it was a first outside Shanghai.

The court asked the China Internet Network Information Center to freeze the domain name and website.


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