He knew he was taking a risk when he hijacked InterNIC's URL, sending surfers to his own site at "www.alternic.net" in what he called a "protest." He didn't foresee he'd be returning press calls today from an "undisclosed location" because he might be facing federal computer crime charges for his actions.
This morning, Network Solutions (NSI) was granted a temporary restraining order in the Eastern Virginia U.S. District Court against Kashpureff, preventing him from redirecting surfers from their sites at "www.netsol.com" or "www.internic.net," according to court documents.
A hearing on the matter was set for August 1.
Kashpureff probably would be sitting at his desk running the AlterNIC if the restraining order were the end of the matter. Readily acknowledging he's frightened, Kashpureff reassures that he has no plans to ever redirect Net surfers again. But his promises may be too late.
Sources say the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into the case, and Kashpureff himself said that Network Solutions' restraining order specifically alleges that he broke federal computer crime laws, charges he denies.
Kashpureff may be in hot water for rerouting Network Solutions' traffic to his own site, but it's unclear whether the registrar could press charges against him for modifying the master database that acts like a phone directory for the entire Internet.
Network Solutions administers the domains database through a cooperative agreement with the National Science Foundation. However, that contract expires in March of next year and isn't slated to be renewed. The agreement, formulated long before the Internet became a key public and commercial resource, doesn't stipulate what intellectual property rights Network Solutions has in a database that many, including Kashpureff, consider to be in the public domain.
NSI recently filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public stock offering seeking $35 million, in which it states that the portions of the database that identify the most popular commercial domains, including those ending in ".com," belongs to the company.
"Whoever owns the database effectively runs the Internet," said an NSF official--Kashpureff's point exactly. But for now, the NSF and NSI have the law on their side and Kashpureff is worried. "As of yet, there are no warrants," he said. "I don't have any information that I am wanted." At the same time, he refused to disclose his location and said "I won't be home for awhile."
Kashpureff's predicament originated July 11. For months, he had been desperately trying to get his message out to the Netizens of the world: that the domains ".com," ".net," and ".org" belong to the public. But Network Solutions, which has a government contract to dole out those popular names, claims it owns the domains database.
Kashpureff has been trying to set up an alternate registry but so far hasn't had much luck. For the registry to work, he would need widespread Internet cooperation.
So to bring attention to his plight, Kashpureff decided to reroute the Internet pointers so that anyone who typed in "www.internic.net" would instead be directed to "www.alternic.net." His plan worked: The redirect put him in the limelight. But not everyone, even those who agreed with his arguments, supported his actions.
For a few days, Kashpureff was widely quoted in the press and was able to talk about his favorite issues. He stopped rerouting information on July 14 and that might have been the end of it. Except Kashpureff lost his temper.
"Friday night [July 18], I went to 'www.netsol.com' and they had this nifty rotating GIF of '.com,' '.net,' and '.org,' and it was the very issue I was bringing up. I was incensed. I turned back on my robots and redirected 'www.internic.net' as well as 'www.netsol.com.' I left it turned on really up to full volume."
When NSI's attorney called him Monday, he turned it off the redirect. Kashpureff said: "I'm proud of what I did." However, "I have some remorse. I understand that what I did was wrong. My ideals, my emotions got the best of me."
Even some who agree with his ideals disagree with the way he went about publicizing them. "I think that this is a massive disregard of ethics," wrote one Netizen in a newsgroup. "If I were a board member at NSI, I would be fuming mad and taking every legal course of action imaginable against AlterNIC. With the use of these unconventional measures, it has seriously jeopardized its standing in the Internet community and put itself at serious risk for 24 hours of glory."
As for Kashpureff concerns, the user said: "We tried to pay attention to the issues for a long time and the majority of the cyberpublic still didn't know what was going on. We raised attention to a whole new level, and to that degree it was successful. There are people who know about NSI's intentions where they didn't know before."
Opinions editor Margie Wylie contributed to this report.