Every so often there’s a story in the media that beggars belief, like the idiot in America who tried to steal an internet domain name at gunpoint.
Brisbane intellectual property and domain name lawyer Nicole Murdoch says the saga of Rossi Lorathio Adams II needs to be heard far and wide this Christmas, not because it’s a Christmas story, but because it’s so ridiculous it should be a Christmas story.
Rossi Lorathio Adams II of Iowa was just sentenced to 14 years in prison for trying to force a man to transfer the domain doitforstate.com to him. When an offer of money failed, he upped the stakes and hired his cousin to break into the man’s home and make him transfer the domain name at the point of a gun.
Nicole Murdoch, Principal with Brisbane boutique Intellectual Property and Privacy law firm EAGLEGATE Lawyers, which handles matters of Patent law, Copyright law, Trade Marks, Domain names and general Cyber law without guns says the sorry saga is worth repeating because it confirms that stealing a domain name is a really dumb thing to do.
All the juicy details are in a media release from the US Attorneys Office for the Northern District of Iowa. The evidence presented at the trial shows that Mr Adams founded the social media company “State Snaps” while a student at Iowa State University in 2015.
State Snaps operates on various social media platforms, including Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter. At one time, Adams had over a million followers on his social media sites, which mostly contained images and videos of young adults engaged in crude behaviour, drunkenness, and nudity.
In 2015 Adams appeared on a TV item about his social media sites despite the objections of Iowa State University administrators and the policies of the social media platforms.
Adams’ followers often used the slogan, “Do It For State!” So Adams tried to purchase the Internet domain “doitforstate.com” from a Cedar Rapids resident who had registered the domain with GoDaddy.com. Between 2015 and 2017, Adams repeatedly tried to obtain “doitforstate.com”, but the owner of the domain would not sell it. Adams also threatened one of the domain owner’s friends with “gun emojis” after the friend used the domain to promote concerts.
Subsequently Adams enlisted his cousin, Sherman Hopkins, Jr., to break into the domain owner’s home and force him at gunpoint to transfer doitforstate.com to Adams. Adams drove Hopkins to the domain owner’s house and provided him with a demand note and instructions for transferring the domain to Adams’ GoDaddy account.
Hopkins broke in to the house, grabbed the victim by the arm and ordered the victim to turn on his computer and connect to the Internet. Hopkins pulled out Adams’ demand note, which contained a series of directions on how to change an Internet domain name from the domain owner’s GoDaddy account to one of Adams’ GoDaddy accounts.
Hopkins put the firearm against the victim’s head and ordered him to follow the directions on the demand note. Hopkins then pistol whipped the victim several times in the head. Fearing for his life, the victim quickly turned to move the gun away from his head. The victim then managed to gain control of the gun, but during the struggle, he was shot in the leg. The victim shot Hopkins multiple times in the chest.
Adams was sentenced to 168 months’ imprisonment and ordered to make nearly $US9,000 in restitution. Adams was also ordered to pay costs of prosecution and to repay the Court $US 22,000 in legal fees.
Ms Murdoch says there are various legal ways to obtain transfer of a domain name from one owner to another and guns are not required. He could have called EAGLEGATE and avoided 14 years in jail.
Ms Murdoch says the case shows just how desperate some people can be over internet domain name ownership but at least we now have an answer to the question of what is a domain name worth? It’s 14 years if you try to get one with a gun.