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Celebrity Deaths Spark Domain Name Registrations

October 12, 2011

The passing of Apple's Steve Jobs last week was met with great sadness by many, but also hand-rubbing by others eager to cash in on his death. 

Within hours of his passing, Steve Jobs related domain names began appearing for auction on eBay. A search on eBay last night found over 2 dozen related domain names with "buy it now" prices ranging from $10 to 2.5 million dollars. 

One registrar in the USA has reported over 600 related domain names were registered in the day and a half after his death. 

Steve Jobs isn't the only person to have passed away and trigged a domain name rush. Michael Jackson's death in 2009 saw thousands of names registered within a day; as did the passing of Anna Nicole Smith in 2007.

While some may find this activity opportunistic and tasteless, there is little preventing people from engaging in this activity when it comes to some domain extensions, notably generic TLD's such as .com, .net and .org. Often it's a case of the deceased celebrity's estate needing to take formal action to have a domain de-registered or transferred into their control; a time-consuming and expensive task given the numbers.

Registering a celebrity name in Australia is a different matter due to much tougher eligibility criteria and screening processes performed by some registrars of Australian domain names. Aside from a party needing to have a close and substantial connection to a .au domain name, the practice of buying .au domains for the express purpose of resale is forbidden.

The .au Domain Administration (auDA)  - the policy authority and industry self-regulatory body for the .au domain extension - appears to be quite quick to act in cases brought to their attention where celebrity names are registered by ineligible parties. Recently, the auDA revoked the registration of a domain in the name of one of Australia's leading models.

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