Amidst all the stories about opportunists buying up the domain names of other companies with the intent of selling them for a hefty profit later on, the story of John Zehr makes a welcome contrast.
Zehr touts himself as a reformed cyber-squatter who's changed his ways and is generously donating the names he bought back to their corporate trademark holders.
"I got in the domain name speculation business because I could see that internet 'real estate' was becoming quite valuable," Zehr says. "Over the past 6 months, I've registered about 1,500 domain names with the intent of reselling them."
He said he discovered a cache of potentially valuable names that had not yet been purchased by trademark holders, names such as "abcnewscast.com", "superbowlcast.com" and "dowjonescast.com". But where others might have sat and waited for the corporations to come begging, Zehr is planning give them back to their rightful owners. "After much soul-searching, I've come to the conclusion that the companies that own these trademarks should be able to claim them at no cost to them," he says.
With the domain name as the primary way companies are found on the Internet, easily-recognisable names have become hot property. Compaq, for example, recently paid millions for "altavista.com", which had been owned by a private individual.