Blocked by .com.bd
- Facebook, WhatsApp, TikTok, Baidu, WeChat – all have been registered under .com.bd domain
- Legal experts say this practice is against international and domestic copyright laws
- This carries a negative message to the world
- It could discourage foreign companies from possible investment in the country
Imagine searching for Facebook or WhatsApp on the browser, but instead of a familiar domain, it opens up a page having a nearly identical domain name with ".bd" attached at the end.
Such fake domains prevent legitimate foreign businesses and corporations from registering their online presence in Bangladesh, which could, in turn, discourage foreign companies from investing in the country out of copyright infringement concerns.
When someone purchases a domain for the sole purpose of blocking others from registering it, to profit from reselling it, or to serve ads, it is called "domain squatting" and the emergence of this malpractice in Bangladesh sends out a negative message to the world.
From Snapchat to WhatsApp, even the all-too-familiar TikTok – web addresses of a number of popular social media platforms can now be found under the .com.bd domain.
Besides, several websites akin to Facebook are either registered under the .com.bd domain or are awaiting approval of the Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited (BTCL).
However, almost all of these .com.bd sites copying the names of original corporations are unreachable.
Popular for sharing creative ideas amongst its users, Pinterest had its name registered under the .com.bd domain by FamousHaat. However, the site www.pinterest.com.bd is unreachable. The domain was registered in December 2019 and is set to expire in 2021.
Similarly, a Bangladeshi named Abdul Bashar applied to register snapchat.com.bd web URL. As of writing of this report, the domain status was "ongoing."
Sources at the BTCL confirmed that domains marked "ongoing" are still going through the purchasing procedure.
Even the immensely popular video sharing service Tiktok has already been registered by a person named Ismail Hossain, who applied for and received the .com.bd domain in August 2019. The site www.tiktok.com.bd is valid till 2029.
According to the BTCL website, a person named Taohid Ebne Imad applied to register WhatsApp, one of the most popular messaging services, under the .com.bd domain. Another individual named Mobassir Ahmed applied to register WeChat, the popular messaging service, which is also awaiting approval.
Baidu is a renowned Chinese multinational technology company which has yet to start its official operations in Bangladesh, but the name is already awaiting BTCL's approval for registration under the .com.bd domain. A person named Aminul Islam applied for it.
Recently, Facebook filed a complaint against A-1 Software Limited – a Dhaka-based company – over the registration of the domain name facebook.com.bd.
Barrister Tanjib-ul Alam, a legal expert, told The Business Standard this practice cannot continue as per international and domestic copyright laws. Both the United States and Bangladesh are signatories to the Paris Convention on copyright, he added.
"Under the Paris Convention, signatory countries are bound to cooperate with each other in protecting the copyright of such international standard sites. There is no legal basis for what A-1 Software is doing, and the approval given by the Bangladeshi authorities concerned is not logical either," he explained, adding that this applies to the aforementioned sites as well.
Bangladeshi national Aman Ullah Chowdhury got more aggressive in creating a fake Amazon in Bangladesh. Aman came under public attention after registering his company as Amazon Bangladesh, purchasing the amazon-bd.com domain, and creating a website using Amazon's original logo.
However, the world's largest e-commerce company neither has an official presence in Bangladesh, nor did it make any investment proposal here yet.
In a media interview in August this year, Aman said his company has no connection with the actual Amazon. It is a local initiative, but he hopes if the original Amazon comes here, they might work together.
Experts express concerns about the emergence of possible blackmailing grounds, where the domain owners tend to demand too much money from the companies who actually need and deserve the domain.
This violation of copyright is also deceiving the customers and general populace, the experts pointed out.
Like many others, Foreign Investors' Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Rupali Chowdhury is concerned about the emergence of such malpractice in Bangladesh that carries a negative message to the world in terms of copyright protection.
"It is damaging Bangladesh's image across the world and foreign investors might retreat from any investment plan here," she said, adding, "The government should seriously stop such attempts."
BTCL General Manager Ruhul Quddus told The Business Standard that they were fully cooperating with Facebook regarding the complaint filed over the registration of facebook.com.bd.
"Most of those who requested the .com.bd domains filed their applications a long time ago. Only those eligible will be given the permission as per the BTCL policy," he said.
He also noted that the BTCL is yet to identify the foreign websites which had been registered under the .com.bd domain. "We have to look into this and then take the next steps," the BTCL official said.
Ruhul assured that proper action would be taken if any irregularity was found.
Facebook vs A-1 Software
Facebook filed the case against A-1 Software Limited and a person named SK Shamsul Islam with the Dhaka District Judge's Court on 22 November.
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Facebook and one of the top billionaires in the world, filed the lawsuit seeking $50,000 in compensation.
At the same time, Facebook demanded the cancellation of the domain's registration in the name of A-1 Software and its allocation in favour of Facebook.
The popular social media platform also sought the imposition of a permanent ban on the domain name, thereby preventing its transfer by the defendants.
However, A-1 Software put up a notice for the domain's sale with a $6 million price tag. The hearing of the case was scheduled for 14 December.
Ruhul told The Business Standard the BTCL was aware of the international laws prohibiting purchase of such domains. "However, in most cases, the .com.bd domains were purchased or applied for long before those foreign brands became popular globally," he said.
He also noted that the specific sites were blocked by the BTCL right after they had received formal complaints.
"The site where the .com.bd domain can be purchased from is automated. Hence, anyone can apply for the domain instantly," he added.
The BTCL general manager highlighted that in some cases, there could be errors in background checks. "We are improving the system and there will be no recurrence of this type of incident in future," he added.