Domain Investing Ethics

About a year ago, I wrote an article about ethics in domain investing. That article primarily covered buying and/or registering names that could either be considered trademarks or infringing on a brand or personal brand. I want to expand on that today because I don’t think it did a good enough job discussing ethics as it relates to my domain investing business.

As I mentioned before, I do my best to steer clear of obvious trademarks. I stick to buying generic / descriptive domain names that could be used by many different types of brands. I am sure there are some that one company or another would feel that they should have rights to own, but I can safely say that every domain name owned by my company is very defensible and defendable. In retrospect, domain investing ethics involve more than avoiding trademark or infringing domain names. In light of Sahar Sarid’s arrest, I want to expand on the discussion of ethics in domain investing.

When I buy a domain name, I want to do my best to ensure its monetization will not go against my own moral principles. I would not do something I believe is sketchy to make money. Further, if I find the topic of a domain name is offensive or ethically wrong, I can’t imagine wanting to own it.

Ethics is a different topic than the law. It might be legal to have a certain type of advertisement showing or monetization method, but it could be unethical and I wouldn’t do it. Everyone (should) have their own set of ethics, and I would hope they are guided by them.

A small handful of examples, of which there are many more, that I would personally be opposed to doing with my domain names include:

  • Forwarding a non-adult domain name to porn or something sketchy because I know a small business or person let it expire and I hope they will buy it from me.
  • Affiliate marketing to sell a health related product that likely has no benefit or could be harmful.
  • Monetize traffic that takes advantage of people who face hardships.
  • Put adult ads or forward domain names that children will likely visit.
  • Knowingly own racist domain names or domain names that might be racially insensitive.
  • Zero click landing pages that serve up malware or bloatware that do not benefit the user and are accidentally installed.

This is a very small example of ethically challenging monetization strategies that I could think of off the top of my head. Some of the above examples might be illegal depending on the jurisdiction, but regardless of the legal status, they would make me uncomfortable and I would not want to make money in this manner.

Everyone makes mistakes. People can be blinded by money or not really look at the big picture. It is important to learn from these mistakes and not repeat them. I would rather leave money on the table and operate an ethically sound business than do something I would be embarrassed about.

Some people think owning a portfolio of domain names as investments is unethical. I don’t think that is the case any more than a company that owns real estate as investments. I think this shows that each person’s ethics are guided by their own experiences and background. I think we can all take a look inwards to ensure we are making not only legal business decisions, but ethical ones as well.

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn


  1. Sahar Sarid case is not a question of ethics, since Extortion, Money Laundering and Identity Thief are CRIMES, I’m sure you know the difference.
    The ethical aspect in this case is “secondary”, given that crimes have by definition no ethical basis (or disrespect for ethics altogether).
    An example of ethics in domain investing could be for ex. purchasing and using adult names, names related to guns, children exploitation, etc.
    So your “Everyone makes mistakes” phrase is totally out of context (and disrespectful of honest people) in that case, since the guy is a serial, recidivous criminal. has been in “business” for many years.
    Without mentioning the fact that many members of the domain industry has praised this guy in the past and even did business with him …
    Now it’s JAIL TIME, and the same will be for the other criminals around in the Domain Industry, first in line are the organizers of fraudulent/shill bidding auctions and their accomplices … stay tuned! 🙂

    • Yes – that situation is legal in nature rather than ethical.

      To be clear, my article is more of a general overview about ethics regarding ownership and monetization of domain names with the idea being sparked by the news.

      The reason I mentioned making mistakes is that some people do things without really looking at the big picture or thinking about the impact on others. For instance, the zero click landing pages that lead to malware would likely be considered a mistake. Some people may not realize it is happening on their names and/or didn’t realize the end result.

      It is not in relation to the Sahar situation.

      In any case, I think there is a lot of shady and scammy stuff in the domain space and it would be good to see it cleaned up.

    • Thanks for the clarification 🙂
      P.S. When I said “children exploitation” I meant underage child labor exploitation, which unfortunately is still “legal” and allowed in some countries.

  2. I asked people something about this last year. Because I’ve noticed that after major crimes or even death happens…someone would register the name of either the killer or the deceased victim within minutes or hours of it being on the news.

    Just as I was typing this I checked the domain name

    Dimitrios Pagourtzis is the Texas school shooter. The domain was registered on the same day they announced that the event took place.

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