Porn typosquatter fined again by US FTC

Bob the Builder and Teletubbies it isnt.

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

John Zuccarini has agreed to give up US$164,000 in typosquatting revenue he is alleged to have raked in, the FTC said this week. 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 said. "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 U.S. 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 said.

This time around, however, his hundreds of Web sites 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 said.

That was apparently a less lucrative line of work for Zuccarini. In its 2003 criminal complaint the U.S. 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 said.

Though typosquatting has been illegal in the U.S. 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 said 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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Robert McMillan

IDG News Service

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