Long held by French expatriate Jean-Noel Frydman, France.com has been taken from his control. Emails are bouncing and the URL has been forwarded to the government tourism site. Frydman is suing his ISP, domain registrars and the Republic of France to get his domain back.
Via the Verge:
Frydman first registered the domain in 1994, less than three years after the World Wide Web became publicly available. "I was at a crossroads professionally, and I wanted to discover something new," Frydman says. He found his way to BBS boards and the still-young web, recognizing the possibilities immediately. "I could see it was a new frontier. And like the frontier, if you went in early, you could stake a claim." A French expat, he was drawn to France.com.
The site went through a number of incarnations, briefly offering France-based news (including Le Monde) for paying subscribers before eventually settling on a travel agency model. For most of its history, the site has offered travel tips alongside packaged vacation deals. With roughly 100,000 visitors a month, Frydman could easily support the site on commissions. He had registered other domain names, too. But over the years, he sold them off, and France.com became his only project.
The French tourism bureau was friendly with Frydman, even giving him a "Best Website" award in 2009. But in 2016, the foreign ministry seemed to have a change of heart. He says they made no effort to buy the domain from Frydman (although he would have been unlikely to sell), but argued in court that the domain was rightful property of the government. Who should France.com belong to, if not France? In July 2016, the High Court of Paris agreed, ordering Frydman to transfer the domain or face a fine. The ruling that was upheld by an appeals court in September 2017, and it's currently being appealed to France's highest court.
Frydman still expected to maintain control of the domain while the case was going forward, even if he faces a fine for holding out. But sometime between September and March, France served an order directly to Frydman's registrar, Web.com, which was enough to convince them to transfer the domain. Making matters worse, the transfer shifted the registration from Web.com to OVH, a French registrar that may be less responsive to US courts. (Web.com did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)