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US resident sues State over France.com domain name

A row has broken out over the internet address, France.com, with the former owner of the site - a Frenchman living in the US - suing the French State for the use of the domain name.

Frenchman and long-time American resident Jean-René Frydman originally bought the France.com website domain in 1994, when the internet was still only a closed, confidential platform.

Mr Frydman had originally intended to use the website domain as a hub for Francophiles and French speakers living in the USA, and in 1997 began to use it as part of his travel agency business.

At this point, he claims, he had the support of the French tourist office, and claims to have sent 100,000-150,000 tourists to France through the domain.

His use of France.com was put to an end in 2016, however, when the Paris High Court ordered the transfer of the address to the French State. This decision was confirmed in the Court of Appeal in September 2017, and the domain name transferred.

France.com now redirects automatically to France.fr - the official French tourist board website - and Mr Frydman no longer has use of the original “.com” address.

Now, Mr Frydman - who is still based in Miami, USA - is suing the French State for use of the address, saying that his business has suffered through lack of internet presence.

He is also suing the foreign secretary, Jean-Yves Le Drian, and Verisign, the group that manages internet addresses ending in “.com”.

Mr Frydman accuses the State of “violating the American right of intellectual property”, and says that he had full control and ownership of the domain name for 20 years, during which time France did not intervene. In fact, he says, he even had outright support for the name’s use, and endorsement from French tourism agency Atout France.

Mr Frydman said: “We tried to find some kind of agreement [with the French authorities]. But they said that they wanted [the France.com address], and that they wouldn’t pay anything towards it.”

He added: “It is absolutely clear that I will find support for this [action against France] and I will hold them accountable.”

No date has yet been set for a hearing of the case in court, but the French embassy to the United States refused to respond to the issue when asked by the Agence France-Presse, stating that it could not comment on ongoing judicial proceedings.

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