August 4, 2009, - 2:10 pm

Whatta Jerk!: NBA Star Won’t Return Stolen Website (Just Like Liz Taylor)

By Debbie Schlussel

If you own domain names and they are illegally taken from you–stolen–don’t expect to get them back . . .if the new owner is NBA bench-warmer  (and internet domain name speculator) Mark Madsen.


Madsen bought the website address from Daniel Goncalves, a hacker who illegally shifted ownership of the site to himself and stole it to Madsen for $111,000. Goncalves is the first ever target of a criminal prosecution for domain name theft.  And that should be cause for applause.  But there’s also cause for jeering:  Madsen.

While it’s true that Madsen did not know the web address was stolen, he does now and refuses to give it back to its rightful owners, investors Marc Ostrofsky and Albert and Lesli Angel.

Madsen is a defendant in a civil lawsuit regarding the name, but the original legitimate owners of the site say they’ve already spent $500,000 trying to get it back, to no avail, thus far.  They also spent $160,000 to buy the site in the first place.

It reminds me of Elizabeth Taylor’s long refusal to return stolen art–a Van Gogh, which the Nazis took from a Jewish family during the Holocaust and  which Taylor later bought and refused to return when she learned it was stolen.

This isn’t like finding a random quarter on the sidewalk.  Madsen knows it’s not his and he won’t return it, despite the fact that he got it through theft.  He should have known the Latin phrase, caveat emptor–buyer beware.  It should have been his responsibility to determine if the seller was legit.

Read a lot more at Domain Name News.  According to that site, two previous cases favor the “good faith” purchaser of the stolen site, just like Elizabeth Taylor was allowed to keep her Nazi-stolen painting.

To me, that doesn’t seem right.  It rewards buyers for being naive and not researching what they buy (and encourages them to lie and claim they didn’t know, enabling them to get away with it if they did).  And it provides zero redress for victims of theft.

What do you think?  Shouldn’t Mark Madsen do the right thing and give back his stolen website or at least sell it back for a lesser price?

The law may say one thing, but in this case, doing the right thing is entirely another.

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12 Responses

If you do know a good you bought was stolen, yes you are obligated to it to the rightful owners. There is no excuse for theft. The only situation might be a “gray area” good in which it is impossible to ascertain who originally owned it. In that case, its treated like a good you bought free and clear.But in all cases, in which a good was stolen, you are obligated to return it. Its not yours to keep.

NormanF on August 4, 2009 at 2:52 pm

One should always do the right thing regardless of what the law says. Ethical behavior is not open to debate. We live in a society where people have lost sight of right and wrong. If its wrong to do it in the first place, yes, its wrong to do it period!

NormanF on August 4, 2009 at 2:56 pm

It’s easy for you all to proclaim what the “right” thing to do is when you’re not the ones out $111,000. My question is, what happened to that money? The story says the thief is being prosecuted, so where is the money? Give the money back to Madsen and the domain back to the original owners.

That said, the domaining business is about as sleazy a business as there is. It directly intersects with the online porno and gambling industries and affiliate marketing (spam), and the entire industry is dominated by spammers, scammers, black hat hackers and outright criminals. I have no sympathy for Madsen or the original domain owners, the fact that they are in this industry at all says enough about their character that I can rest assured they deserve to become victims of their own sleazy business practices.

Rob on August 4, 2009 at 3:33 pm

I enjoyed watching Madsen play for the Lakers with such intensity and was dissapointed when they traded him. But I’m not dissapointed any more!

Quietman on August 4, 2009 at 4:30 pm

He should give it back. Karma also applies to public opinion. He will only attract unscrupulous business people in the future and will get burned. Do the right thing.

FeFe on August 4, 2009 at 4:44 pm

I own a domain name and have for over ten years. I know if you were to accidentally let a name expire someone could pick it up before you could renew but other than that how is a domain name stolen?

Riley G Petty on August 4, 2009 at 7:25 pm

@Rob that’s classic stuff. You sir are a gentleman and a scholar

Adam on August 4, 2009 at 9:27 pm

@Riley if you have an AOL, yahoo, gmail or any other free account used as your contact/administrative handle for your domain name, a thief could hack into your email account and request the username and password for your domain name. The info would be sent to the email address that they hacked and then they have access to the domain. All they have to do next is transfer it to a new registrar or in this case move it into another godaddy account. Many registrars offer a multiple step security process such as a key fob ( and or an “executive lock” service which requires further authorization to transfer a domain name.

Adam on August 4, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Thanks Adam for the quick response. I don’t have a free email account. It’s a paid for account at Microsoft that I’ve had for about 12 or so years. That said I probably need to have a conversation with someone anyway.

    Riley G Petty on August 4, 2009 at 10:01 pm

Debbie want a good laugh. Watch Madsen dance. After the Lakers won a few championship he was known for his dance. It is pretty bad. At the :45 second mark, he is called on to dance. I think there is medication for those herky-jerky movements. And the late great Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn yelled “GET BACK IN YOUR CAGE!!” EPIC!!

CS: OMG, I HATE this guy! And someone please tell him our language is ENGLISH. DS

CaliforniaScreaming on August 4, 2009 at 9:56 pm

On the other hand, while he was on the Lakers, he was the only Laker to take time to talk and spend time with two huge Laker fans who happened to have MS, and were both wheel chaired bound (one has since passed away), Kobe and Shaq stopped by for a hello, but Mad Dog Madsen, spent substatial time witht he twins,a nd made sure that they were taken care. I know this because my wife taught the pair i high school. That doesn’t excuse any unethical behavior, but does let you know that Madsen is not selfish.

Dave on August 5, 2009 at 7:09 pm

There are two issues here legal and ethical.

Legally the buyer didn’t do anything wrong as the domain
registry entry and certification buy the seller is enough to create a valid presumption of ownership.
Why place the onus on the buyer and not on the victim who didn’t take advantage of the domain lock and other security features for such an expensive domain?
To claim otherwise would ruin the robust free market of domains because buyers would be afraid of claims like this.
If you are a buying a house or a car shouldn’t it be enough to check the title in the registry?
Ethically once it has been discovered the domain was stolen one can argue he should return it to them if they compensate him for the price he paid.

Ariel on May 12, 2011 at 4:51 pm

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