I wanted to document a conversation I have been involved in over the last 24hrs or so with a person, related to what I would consider fair use of the UK domain sales data I have collated and provide easy access to on https://domainsaleshistory.uk

I’m not going to disclose who the person is, as it genuinely doesn’t matter. I just wanted to document the conversation in the hope I can revisit it at some point in the future and decide whether I would still make the same decision.

The initial inbound query

I would like to ask if you don’t mind if I can use some domain name sales posted on your domainsaleshistory.uk website.

I am looking at building my main website [redacted], i have a content writer at the moment and adding various stuff and i think adding domain name sales will i hope help drive the .uk prices up if they are posted on as many sites as we can get them on.

I will put a link back to your site with full credits.

My initial response

I would love that, and would very much appreciate any additional inbound links to help promote the site.

I know [name of another UK domainer] used to do the same thing for a bunch of their domains that were for sale. They would build landing pages for each of them, then provide a list of related domain sales with a link to the old site (seemly.co.uk). I’m not sure if they updated the links since the change in app URL though…

The price of an inbound link

At this stage the comms were very straightforward and it felt like there would be mutual benefit to this arrangement.

I would get an inbound link that would hopefully provide some benefit no matter how small, and the person would be able to use easily accessible domain sales data, allowing them to write some quality content around the chosen domains.

What came next hit me by both surprise and disappointment. It’s not the biggest problem in the world in the grand scheme of things, but it’s the first time I’ve had to try and communicate and articulate thoughts around protecting the project I have been building since around 2015.

The top 100 domain sales for each of the last 3 years

I was provided a link to the page that would host the article mentioned earlier.

The problem I had with it is that it contained 300 domains in total covering the top 100 domain sales over the last 3 years.

It was literally copy/pasted from my app into their web page, grouped and separated by year. The article was yet to be written.

No matter the quality of inbound link, I felt the sheer quantity and quality of the domain sales records far exceeded what I would deem as fair use.

What is fair use, and where do you draw the line?

I guess fair use is subjective and depends on context, but in my case I would define it as 10 rows.

I restrict rows per page for non-account holders to 10. This is purposely implemented “inconvenience” with the following thought process:

  1. Users will sign-up for greater convenience, enabling them to view up to 100 rows per page.
  2. Signed-up users give me a potential audience to try and generate revenue through premium features and tiered services.

When is using more than 10 rows deemed acceptable?

If you are writing an article around the top selling domains ending in “shop”, I would be much less protective of the data being used.

It’s a smaller market and a targeted niche. It’s not primary content, but would still prove to be an interesting read.

So what happened next?

I provided feedback stating that I originally expected an article which describes why some domains are deemed more desirable than others, or what characteristics can help determine the value of a domain, but I definitely didn’t expect to see 300 top selling domains over the last 3 years.

Avoiding indirect competition

I requested that only the Domain and Price columns were displayed, as the additional columns provide additional value to the dataset, to the point where the article becomes direct competition to my website.

Nobody cares about the 264th best selling domain of any year. In fact, most people won’t care about anything beyond the top 10, but to request access to publish such a large dataset when it is already so freely available and easy to filter in its current home, it felt like I was having to explain why I didn’t feel it was acceptable even when I felt it was obvious that I was trying to protect the investment of time and experience since 2015.

An attempted “compromise”

The person attempted to compromise by reducing the dataset size from 100 to 50 per year. This was still a huge problem to me, as it’s still a reasonably large dataset containing the most competitive and valuable data for the last 3 years of UK domain sales records.

A counter-compromise

I tried to counter-compromise a maximum of 25 per year, assuming the following conditions are met:

  1. Each year is on a unique URL (not a separate tab on the same page).
  2. Links to individual domain sale details pages must not be removed.
  3. If you display sales data gathered from the app, attribution by a link must be provided, preferably using the full URL query used to access the data you have displayed/stored.

I followed by saying:

I know that realistically there isn’t much I can do to stop you from doing what you want. Access to data via my website is in good faith and fair use, and I hope that it doesn’t get abused.

How the conversation ended

The conversation ended with the person stating:

I have removed all your data and will source this from over venues and link and promote them. These back and to messages don’t do any good so rather ruin a good relationship i would rather remove your data and move on.

I wish you good success on your site moving forward.

I am more than aware this won’t be the end of the matter.

Collating this information from other sources isn’t so easy, which is why my app exists in the first place. I’m almost certain the same dataset will be used with absolutely no attribution at all, but I guess that’s the price of protecting a non-monetised asset.

The need for Terms and Conditions

Unfortunately, this has highlighted the need to create both a fair usage policy, as well as Terms & Conditions.

This is not a strength of mine, and really isn’t something I anticipated having to prioritise. I know that realistically it’s not something I can enforce, but at least it’s there as a reference to point to if I ever need to have this conversation again.

Emergency T&C’s

I ended up coming up with the following T&C’s based around fair use, data storage, and attribution.

Author: Chris

5 min read