The purpose of this paper is to clarify the legal status of domain names from both a contractual and a property right perspective, and to consider whether domain names are to be considered as a new form of property, in particular as virtual property.
The paper approaches the topic from contractual perspective. It then examines the concept and various property law theories. This is followed by an analysis to the intangibility of domain names and the appropriate category of protection.
Domain names are creatures of contract and contract law will provide some form of protection. According to the bundle of rights theory, domain names are intangible property with limitations. Some names are very valuable but nevertheless attract no protection beyond contractual rights. These names should be clothed with property rights protection. The relevant form of property rights is still contentious issue.
The nature of rights over domain names is a key emerging issue in the area of information technology law, with little to guide lawyers and judges. There is currently no consensus on what the legal status of a domain name is and opinions vary about the nature of these rights. The paper offers an insight to the nature of rights in an attempt to further the protection and recognition of rights over domain names.
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