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NORTH WALES Police face website cybersquat auction.

A MAN hoping to open a cannabis cafe has vowed to sell a website using North Wales Police's name to the highest bidder.

Jeff Ditchfield registered www.northwalespolice.com after paying pounds 12.99 to an internet hosting company.

He says the site, which he uses to detail criticisms of the police force, has in turn generated more than 200,000 visits to a site promoting his as-yet unopened cannabis cafe - a practice known as ``cybersquatting''. Many visitors will have visited the site looking for the official North Wales Police site - north-wales.police.uk - and been directed to this site instead. Mr Ditchfield wants to open a Dutch-style cannabis cafe in Rhyl. He says the website was available to the police free of charge, but they had not contacted him to arrange a transfer. Now he says the rights to the site will be sold to the highest bidder, claiming the high number of visitors mean it is an attractive to advertisers. Profit from the sale will be invested in community projects in Rhyl.

Mr Ditchfield's site - which contains a link to the official North Wales Police site for confused surfers - is the latest in a series of high-profile cybersquats.

Accountants PriceWaterhouse Coopers' relaunch as ``Monday'' went awry last month when they registered a .com site to promote the change, but didn't buy a .co.uk address. That left the field clear for jokers to play a song on the .co.uk website with the lyrics ``we've got your name, la, la, la.'' Attempts to remove the site have so far failed.

Cardiff solicitors Eversheds advises businesses to check when their domain name registration is due for renewal to safeguard their e-commerce activity. Any .uk domain name registrations must be renewed every two years. Failing to renew a domain name can be disastrous for businesses, said Mark Rhys-Jones, head of IT dispute management at the firm.

He said, ``Not only will a business be unable to operate a website from the domain name, but if the domain name also forms part of the company's e-mail address, its e-mail system will also be inoperable. Further, if a domain name lapses, businesses will also put themselves at risk to unscrupulous people who may snap up the name - so-called `web-nappers'.'' North Wales Police were unaware of any plans by Mr Ditchfield to auction the site, and said last night no action was planned.
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Comment:NORTH WALES Police face website cybersquat auction.(News)
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUW
Date:Jul 27, 2002
Words:400
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