Congratulations to the Nigerian government for finally kicking off the Nigerian air operations. A flight which we are told is one of the three flights to be used for the Nigeria air operations landed at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja on Friday but the bigger problem the Ministry of Aviation and by extension the Nigerian government is facing right now is getting a proper website or domain for the Nigeria air where passengers can book and make reservations for their flights.
As an airline which intends to be used for commercial purposes, the befitting website or domain name should be “Nigeria air dot com or Nigerian air dot com or dot Ng but surprisingly, none of these domain names or anything closely or far related to the above-mentioned domain names are available for use. They have all been reserved and taken by cybersquatters who want to sell the domain name to the Nigerian government. Some are willing to sell the domain name for 20000 USD while others are going for the whooping sum of 50000 USD.
This is not just obtainable with domain names or websites reservation, people do it too with company incorporation and name Trademarking; There are some people that this is their professional hustle, always keeping their ears to the ground to hear of the next big or trendy name; they will quickly register the name with the CAC or trademark it, you the original owner of the name can either be forced to buy it from them at an outrageous price or you will have to use another name.
This act of registering or reserving a domain name with the intention to sell it out is called cybersquatting and it is a crime in Nigeria and most other jurisdictions of the world. In Nigeria, upon conviction, it is punishable with at least 2 years imprisonment term and or a fine of N5,000,000
Cybersquatting, also known as domain squatting, is the practice of registering, trafficking or using an internet domain name with the intent of profiting from the goodwill of a trademark or the popularity of someone else.
Squatting simply means the act of occupying an abandoned or unoccupied space pending when the owner of the space comes to take possession. cybersquatting, therefore, refers to the unauthorized registration and use of Internet domain names that are identical or similar to trademarks, service marks, company names, or personal names.
Cybersquatting became a crime in the USA with the 1999 Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA). The statute made it illegal and criminal for anybody to buy domain names that are identical to or very similar to trademarks or to register a domain name with popular phrases/ words which had come to be identified with a particular person.
It became criminal too in Nigeria with the introduction of the cybercrime act of 2015. This act in section 25 of it specifically prohibits Cybersquatting and provided a punishment of two years term for Cybersquatters.
Tech bros and tech hustlers should get to know that their ever-booming business of cybersquatting is a crime which is highly prohibited by our laws.
Stan Alieke is a legal practitioner based in Abuja.