Saturday, October 19, 2013

Dear Penthouse Letters,
I always believed that those stories about monetising the Interlattice via 'cyber-squatting' and 'domain-name extortion' were dreamed up by your editors

... but that was before last week's "" episode introduced me to the existence of Mikhail Doubinski and Yury Sharafutdinov, two wealth creators from Sydney.

Biology-Online (as any fule kno) is a compendium of biology-related material scraped from elsewhere on the Interweave, with a novel method of increasing its traffic, known as "insulting possible contributors". For all I know, some biology educators may find it to be a useful one-stop source of information. Popehat uncharitably described it as "an ass-ugly advertisement-encrusted content aggregator site". A Not-a-lecturer reported "an outdated design, rudimentary SEO tactics, and free ad banners and forum scripts. Claims of significant web traffic are unverified."

B-O is evidently the kind of organisation where, when its representatives engage with you on business, they do so under false names. Blog editor "Ofek" contacted science blogger DNLee to solicit material from her, and called her a whore when she declined his request. This does not augur well.
Not augering well

Things subsequently turned exciting. The Scientific American blog network hosts DNLee's blog. In a bravura display of advanced hole digging, a Sci-Am editor (1) deleted her account of the encounter; (2) provided two mutually-contradictory and separately-implausible explanations for doing so, neither of which involved notifying her; (3) denied that Sci-Am's business partnership with B-O was a factor; and (4) promised to investigate whether such a partnership actually exists (even as the traces of it disappeared from Sci-Am's 'Partners' webpage).
Digging deeper? Try this

Although ownership of rests with an Israel-based company, they bought it in 2008, and a Whois search indicates that it remains registered in the name of Elmar Shar at an inner Sydney address. Elmar's actual name proves upon further inquiry to be Elmar Sharafutdinov, under which he has owned or registered various other domains, including (a compendium of familiar quotations scraped from elsewhere on the Intertubes and interspersed with advertisements); (a compendium of biographical material scraped from elsewhere on the Interducts);; and (an "Unofficial Hi5 Fan Forum"). In the good old days of vinyl this last would have provided opportunities for jokes about a "criminal record".

We also find our Elmar as contact e-mail for '' (which is not sure whether it wants to target software engineers or building suppliers, and is currently devoid of content scraped from elsewhere in the Intergrid). Oddly enough, he is neither owner, registrant nor administrator of the domain, these roles all devolving to one Mikhail Doubinski through his company AAA Marketing World.

At this point we can leave to the tender mercy of other bloggers, and focus attention upon Mikhail Doubinski (also known as Michael), AAA Marketing, his other company Palmside Holdings, and his colleague Yuri Sharafutdinov (also known as Yury, and Yury Shar).

These days they are two-thirds of, a kind of hotel- / travel aggregator / advertising company. It has its own fulsomely-praising sockpuppet-written Whackyweedia page and all! And no-one can gainsay the effort they put into creating new content for their company, if only in writing press releases about its growth, value and prospects. These are useful material for financial journalists (who are aggregator sites in their own right, happy to repeat someone else's content without adding anything).

Earlier, however, the two were not content with their existing complement of names. In a series of domain ownership disputes, with better-established companies complaining about abusive domain names and dragging them before national or international Arbitration Panels, they went to considerable trouble to acquire the label "Respondent".

In 2006 Telstra Australia convinced a panel that our plucky entrepreneurs had 'engaged in ”typo-squatting” for the purpose of free-riding on the Complainant’s reputation in its portfolio of WHITE PAGES marks': Telstra Corporation Limited v. Mikhail Doubinski and Yury Sharafutdinov trading as AAA Marketing World.

In 2005, in, Inc. v. AAA Marketing World, the COMPLAINANT convinced an adjudicator that "Respondent registered and used the disputed domain names in bad faith", receiving "click-through fees for diverting Internet users to its commercial website". See also Expedia, Inc. v. Palmside Holdings (which had registered the name 'expeda').

Most ambitiously -- not that this is intended as an exhaustive survey -- our two wealth creators took on Amazon. A certain degree of exasperation can be detected in the adjudicator's conclusion.

Still digging
Also working for Palmside Holdings (and resident at Elmar Shar's inner-Sydney address) was Tyson Rukash, who has registered any number of domains, including Tyson was equally entrepreneurial. Not all his registrations have led to litigation, but in vs. Tyson Rukash, in a pattern of 'bad faith typo-squatting', he was found to have
registered the disputed domain names incorporating Complainant’s registered mark to divert Internet users to a website offering links to third party commercial websites.
A similar finding emerged from the adjudication between Neiman Marcus Group and Tyson Rukash. There was a difference in the dispute of Deutsche Telekom AG v. Tyson Rukash / Jonson, over the registration of domains deliberately similar to T-Mobile. Specifically, it went to international adjudication. The outcome was the same, alas, with the rights to the names transferred to the Complainant.

What is it about Sydney and Russian names and cyber-squatting? In 2006 Yana Belkova, erstwhile employee of internet travel agency Octopustravel group -- operating under the false name "Alexander Rosenblatt" -- registered '' in competition. Disputes ensued... along with the suggestion that somewhere between $US 500,000 and $US Million would suffice to relinquish the domain name... followed by Adjudication. The Panel's findings are tainted by their mistaken belief that the correct plural form is 'octopi'.

In an understandable conclusionary leap, the Complainants directed their Cease-&-Desist letters to "a certain Mikhail Doublinski and a certain Yury Sharafutdinov". Their Complaint also lists Palmside Holdings, AAA Marketing World, Tyson Rukash, Elmar Shar, Hotels Combined and Uncle Tom Cobbley as additional respondents. They did not table any evidence that these parties were in any way involved, and the adjudicators chose to focus on Belkova.
I will not say that "you can't make this stuff up," because some of your evil people would take that as a challenge. Just saying, if all this appeared as characters and events in a Carl Hiassen novel, readers would shake their heads and say "Carl's gone too far this time."


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Octopi Wall Street!

mikey said...

Good lord.


I'll come back if my life is pathetic enough to require it...