Nominet faces High Court over iTunes row

Nominet, the company responsible for regulation of .uk domain names, faces the prospect of defending its legitimacy in the High Court after the former owner of the web address applied for a Judicial Review of the company’s authority to resolve disputes.

The application was made by Benjamin Cohen, who was the owner of the domain name until he was ordered by Nominet to hand over the Web address to technology giant Apple.

Nominet has always insisted that it is not a public body and therefore is not subject to the oversight of the High Court. But Mr Cohen argues that the 1998 Human Rights Act defines a public body as "any person certain of whose functions are functions of a public nature".

Mr Cohen insists that because the regulation of the Internet is a public service that affects everyone, Nominet is a public body.

He also argues that if Nominet is not a public body and cannot have its decisions questioned in the High Court, then it has an unfair monopoly on the issuance and management of domain names.

The dispute between Mr Cohen and Nominet has been gathering pace since March, when Nominet ruled that Mr Cohen had made an "abusive registration" of the web address and ruled that the domain name should be transferred to Apple.

Mr Cohen has always claimed that when he registered the name in November 2000, he did so entirely legitimately and in good faith, unaware that Apple had applied for a trademark for "iTunes" just days earlier.

Mr Cohen says the name was automatically suggested by a domain-registering Website as an alternative after he had made a failed attempt to buy

Nominet ruled that Mr Cohen took unfair advantage of the domain that was detrimental to Apple. It said the decision was not based on whether there was any prior knowledge of Apple or their iTunes music download service

Mr Cohen told Times Online that he hoped Nominet would accept the Judicial Review to clarify the its position and authority.

"The procedure that Nominet utilise to settle disputes is unfair and biased towards big business at the expense of legitimate small, British companies," he said from his north London offices.

"We have decided to refer the decision for Judicial Review in the High Court with a view to overturn the decision and to make recommendations for improvements to the way that domain name disputes are handled within this country."

Nominet refused to comment.

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