The best, most exciting, most important story surrounding the formation of the Internet we know today is the incredible tale of Sex.com.
The domain was registered in the very early days of 1994 – when domains were free – by a Chicago geek called Gary Kremen. It was then stolen in 1995 but lifelong con-man Stephen Cohen who used it to build up an enormous multi-million-pound empire.
But Kremen fought and fought and fought, using up his own personal fortune from the sale of dotcom boom shares, and after years of battles – in and out of the courts – finally won the domain back. As a result, he put domain names in their proper place in law for the first time.
But rather than pay the $65 million the judge ordered, Cohen fled across the Mexican border. Kremen has been chasing Cohen around the world, trying to get his money, using the proceeds from Sex.com to fund it. Finally, after years of chasing, Cohen was picked up in Tijuana late last year and transported across the US border.
He is now sat in jail in San Jose, California, and will not be allowed out until he helps Kremen recover some of the money.
Believe me when I say that is the most straight and dull version of events it is possible to write. However, my job for the next three months will be to give this unbelievable story the treatment it is due.
I have been trying to write the full version of this story for two years now. I’ve written numerous news stories as the case has progressed, as well as the odd feature or two, but in terms of getting the whole thing down in a book, I have been held back by one literary agent after another. Eventually I decided to cut out the middleman and go straight to publishers.
And yesterday, at around 3.45pm, I finally signed a publishing contract for the book. Here is the publisher, Nicholas Cheetham, doing the deed. And above you can see the initial mocked-up book cover.
If you’re interested in the story, here are a few choice articles I’ve written on the case. I intend to update this blog from now on with news about writing the book. The hope is that this will prevent me from being distracted by other items of news going on at the moment. We shall see.
Update: I have set up a website dedicated to the Sex.com story and the book at Sexdotcom.info. It features a massive archive of articles, plus a “latest” section, two timelines and sections on the people involved and the legal issues debated. Check it out.
Sex.con – 26 June 2003.
Sex.com thief appears in court – October 2005
Sex.com thief arrested – October 2005
Sex.com epic battle finally ends – April 2004
Sex.com, Sex.com, you’re my Sex.com – June 2003
Sex.com conman continues ludicrous legal fight – May 2003