Embarrassing blow to our Olympic bid

 

A MYSTERY "cyber squatter" has jumped the starter's gun by grabbing the rights to a Queensland Olympic website.

Cyber squatters are virtual online speculators, often snaring ownership of websites for as little as $10 in the hope of later selling them back to genuine operators for profits.

During the early days of the internet, cyber squatters made millions by cheekily claiming web addresses of some of the world's biggest brands before they themselves had a chance to register their websites.

Now a cyber squatter has emerged to buy the rights to www.QLD2032.com, which could eventually become the official website of the 2032 Olympics if a Queensland bid for sport's biggest spectacle comes to fruition.

While the Queensland bid team has safely secured a number of web domains in recent years, including www.SEQ2032.com, the more general QLD address slipped through the net.

Major sporting events typically use a location and the year to form the basis of their website, such as GC2018.com for last year's Commonwealth Games.

The South East Queensland Council of Mayors, which is spearheading Queensland's Olympic bid, is trying to learn the identity of the mystery website owner, who used an internet company specialising in domain creations and sales to facilitate the deal.

Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic village in 2016
Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic village in 2016


But while cyber squatters once made millions from selling web addresses back to relevant organisations, laws introduced in the late 1990s have greatly reduced their threat.

Doctor Alan Davidson, a senior law lecturer specialising in domain name law at the University of Queensland, said the practice was not as common as during the early rush of the internet era, but many cyber squatters still made money from out-of-court settlements with organisations eager to procure the most obvious website for their cause.

"These things can end up in court or in arbitration, but if they (the cyber squatters) ask for a small amount to sort it out, why would you bother hiring expensive lawyers to resolve the matter?" he said.

A spokeswoman for the SEQ Council of Mayors said the organisation had secured a number of Olympic-related domains since the start of its investigations in 2015.

"Our project team has secured several domains over the last four years as a precaution, but not this one," she said.

"Clearly, there's someone out there who is pretty supportive of a potential 2032 Olympic Games."