Porn typosquatter fined again by FTC

The FTC has fined a man US$164,000 for typo-squatting

A so-called typosquatter who served pornographic advertisements on domains such as Bobthebiulder.com and teltubbies.com has been fined again by the US Federal Trade Commission.

John Zuccarini has agreed to give up US$164,000 (NZ$220,000) in typosquatting revenue he is alleged to have raked in, the FTC says in a statement. Five years ago, a federal court had barred Zuccarini from registering domains that are misspellings of legitimate brands, a practice called typosquatting, but he ignored the order, according to Carolyn Hann, a staff attorney with the FTC.

"He was engaging in practices that violated certain provisions of the order," Hann says "He had certain domain names that were transpositions or misspellings of popular domain names."

After his 2002 settlement, Zuccarini pled guilty in 2003 to typosquatting and child pornography charges brought by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. But he resumed the domain name registration scam after being released from prison in late 2005, Hann says.

This time around, however, his hundreds of websites were used to advertise legitimate products rather than pornography. "It seemed like he was linking his domain names to affiliate marketing programs where they had all sorts of ads," she says.

That was apparently a less lucrative line of work for Zuccarini. In its 2003 criminal complaint the US Department of Justice said that he had been making as much as US$1 million per year from his activities.

Zuccarini did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In agreeing to the settlement, he admitted to no wrongdoing, the FTC says.

Though typosquatting has been illegal in the US for about 10 years, the government has been largely unable to crack down on the practice because typosquatters often operate outside of federal jurisdiction, according to Frederick Felman, chief marketing officer with internet brand monitoring service MarkMonitor. "I'm actually surprised that they caught him," he says of Zuccarini "Most of the savvy guys have elaborate shell games in front of what they're doing."

"He must not be a very smart criminal."

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