'Porn baron' forced to give up sex.com

One of the most valuable domain names on the web, 'sex.com,' is to be taken away from the 'porn baron' who stole it and returned to its rightful owner.

          One of the most valuable domain names on the Web, "sex.com," is to be transferred from the "porn baron" who stole it to the entrepreneur who originally registered it, after a U.S. court ruled in the entrepreneur's favor.

          Back in 1994, Gary Kremen registered the domain sex.com, but did not set up a site using the name. One year later, convicted bankruptcy defrauder Stephen Cohen, upon his release from prison, allegedly forged transfer documents and filed them with Network (NSOL) Solutions, the domain-name registry. The name was transferred from Kremen to Cohen.

          Cohen contends that he purchased the name legitimately for $US1,000 from a company called Online Classifieds. That company belonged to Kremen, who vehemently denies that he parted with the name.

          Cohen then used an offshore company to set up a porn empire, which lawyers say received up to 25 million hits a day and could be worth $100 million.

          For the past two years, Kremen and Cohen have been battling in court to try to resolve the issue of who really owns the name. On Monday, District Judge James Ware found that it had been taken from Kremen by fraudulent means and ordered the name to be transferred back to him.

          Concerned by the possibility of funds going missing, the judge ordered Cohen to place $25 million in court pending final determination of damages. Cohen is expected to appeal the decision.

          Usually, domain-name disputes of this kind turn on who owns the intellectual property in the name, such as "Madonna.com," who won her case, and "Sting.com," who lost. But this was more a case of straightforward theft.

          Kremer was reported as saying, "I'm like a little guy, so I feel pretty good about it."

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