Australian start-up returns well-known domain to owners after backlash

An Australian start-up has donated the expired domain name of an established website back to its original owners after the registration was met with criticism.

After Oneflare obtained Online Journalism Review’s ( expired domain name with the intention of using the site’s existing reputation to promote their business, their strategy was condemned as unethical and potentially illegal.

Oneflare responded by returning the domain name back to its original owners, the University of Southern California (USC) Annenberg.

CEO Marcus Lim was apologetic, describing the situation as a flawed strategy by an external consultant to register expired, well-known domain names and use them for spam.

USC Annenberg accepted the donation, saying they intended to restore the site’s archives and review how they operated the website.

The return comes less than a month after Oneflare registered the site, which covered how old journalism was adapting to new technology, but kept the site design, complete with logo, to increase traffic to their business.

The intention of using expired, high-ranking sites as external links to increase visibility to the new registrant’s website is a legal practice.

However, by running similarly to the old design, complete with same articles and logos, Lim was running the risk of being held legally accountable for misleading audiences and copyright infringement.

Based on the app description on iTunes, Oneflare “is Australia’s fastest growing marketplace for local services connecting customers and businesses together”.

It “allows customers to easily request for service(s) by answering tailored questions about their job and receive multiple price quotes and responses from businesses who want to win their work”.

Oneflare claims to be “the most efficient and effective way to hire local businesses”, with over 37,000 registered businesses utilising the service, generating over $22 million in revenue for the jobs.

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