Stephen M. Cohen

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Stephen M. Cohe's business card

Stephen Michael Cohen is an American who gained notoriety after acquiring control of the domain name in 1995. He also has citizenship in Mexico, Israel and in the principality of Monaco.[1] He was later implicated in involvement in running the controversial peer-to-peer service EarthStation 5.[2]

Cohen was born in Los Angeles[3] and attended Van Nuys High School in the Van Nuys area of Los Angeles. Cohen obtained his Juris Doctor degree at the University of Southern California Law School in 1972. [4]

In the 1980s, he operated a paid-membership bulletin board system (BBS) called the French Connection, geared toward swinging and other sexual topics,[3][4] and by the late 1980s, he organized swinger get-togethers at a home in Orange County, California. In 1990, he was arrested for operating a sex club in a residential zone; he was found not guilty by a jury verdict.[4][edit]

According to court documents, Cohen fraudulently obtained the lucrative Internet domain name in May 1995 from the original registrant, Gary Kremen, who had registered it in May 1994. Cohen obtained the domain by means of a forged letter to domain registrar Network Solutions, faxed from Kremen's company "Online Classified", fraudulently stating that Kremen had been dismissed and the firm was abandoning the domain and that Cohen could have it. Network Solutions blindly accepted the fax with no verification and transferred the domain to Cohen, an action that would prove grounds for a later civil suit by Kremen against Network Solutions.[5] It is estimated that Cohen illegally earned US$100 million between October 1995 and November 2000 from his ownership of

In April 2001, the court ordered damages of $65 million be paid to Kremen. Cohen left the United States in 2001 and was living in Tijuana, Mexico, when he was arrested on October 28, 2005.[6] As of 2011 the amount of damages owed to Kremen had increased to $82 million with interest and Cohen to this date, has refused to pay one penny towards the judgment.[6]

Cohen was held in a civil contempt for failure to disclose his assets. He was released from custody on December 5, 2006, by Judge Ware because "Kremen has failed to locate evidence of hidden bank accounts or other assets.”.[7] Courts have ruled in Kremen's favor several times since 2006, with evidence that seven individuals, including some of Cohen's family members, and twelve companies were used to help him hide the money.[8][9]


  1. ^ Blue, Violet. A URL - All Crime And No Sex SF Gate, 2006-12-21. Retrieved on 2007-08-09.
  2. ^ Anderson, John Ward. Techno-Rebels in West Bank?: File Swapping Firm Claims Odd Hide Out, Washington Post, 2004-02-22, pp. A29 via Retrieved on 2007-04-26.
  3. ^ a b McCarthy, Kieren. and a web of intrigue: Two men’s battle over a domain name shows how far the net has come. The Sunday Times, 2007-05-27, via Retrieved on 2007-08-09.
  4. ^ a b c Bicknell, Craig. The Sordid Saga of Wired, 1999-04-15.
  5. ^ Kremen v. Network Solutions, Inc. Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. James Ware, District Judge, Presiding. Argued August 13, 2002. Submitted July 25, 2003—San Francisco, California. Filed July 25, 2003. Before: Alex Kozinski and M. Margaret McKeown, Circuit Judges, and James M. Fitzgerald, District Judge. Opinion by Judge Kozinski. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 3, 2007. Retrieved August 21, 2007.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ a b Dineen, J. K. Updated Nov. 4, 2005, 1:10 p.m. ET.
  7. ^ " thief released from prison". The Register. 2006-12-09. Retrieved 2012-07-11.
  8. ^ Pardon, Rhett (2011-12-23). "Former Owner Still Chasing $65M Unpaid Judgment". Archived from the original on 2013-10-04. Retrieved 2012-08-03.
  9. ^ Pardon, Rhett (2012-01-09). "Kremen Can Continue Claims Against Cohen's Cousin". Retrieved 2012-08-03.

External links[edit]

  • (BOY) Boyle, Matthew. December 8, 2005, 4:33 PM EST. ", drugs and a rocky road: Tracking down the millions owed after the theft of a tangled web domain". /Fortune/News/Technology. [1].
  • (GLA) Glasner, Joanna. August 14, 2002, 2:00 AM. " Takes Aim at Registrar". Wired. /Tech Biz/Media. [2].
  • (SWA) Swartz, Jon. Posted March 31, 2005, 8:33 PM. Updated 1 April 2005, 8:21 AM. "Appeals court upholds ruling". USA Today. /Money. [3].
  • (VIO) Violet Blue. December 21, 2006. " A URL—All Crime And No Sex". /Open Source (Column). [4].