Jean-Noël Frydman: “If it happened to me, it can happen to anyone.”

A French-born American has now sued his home country because, he claims, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has illegally seized a domain that he’s owned since 1994: France.com.

In the mid-1990s, Jean-Noël Frydman bought France.com from Web.com and set up a website to serve as a “digital kiosk” for Francophiles and Francophones in the United States.

For over 20 years, Frydman built up a business (also known as France.com), often collaborating with numerous official French agencies, including the Consulate General in Los Angeles and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

However, sometime around 2015, that very same ministry initiated a lawsuit in France in an attempt to wrest control of the France.com domain away from Frydman. Web.com locked the domain, and Frydman even roped in the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard Law School to intervene on his behalf.

By September 2017, the Paris Court of Appeals ruled that France.com was violating French trademark law. Armed with this ruling, lawyers representing the French state wrote to Web.com demanding that the domain be handed over.

Finally, on March 12, 2018, Web.com abruptly transferred ownership of the domain to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The company did so without any formal notification to Frydman and no compensation.

“I’m probably [one of Web.com’s] oldest customers,” Frydman told Ars. “I’ve been with them for 24 years… There’s never been any cases against France.com, and they just did that without any notice. I’ve never been treated like that by any company anywhere in the world. If it happened to me, it can happen to anyone.”