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The question is pretty straightforward: Is it legal to point a domain on the web to someone else's ip (website)?

The domain owner is not actually copying the content, but just opening the website in his or her own domain.

The resolution happens in the USA and the domain was bought at Google Domains

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    If you could get it to work (the server will probably reject the hostname that it doesn't know) you might run into trademark laws, or if you did it with the intent to deceive, you may run into law around that, or if the domain name is disparaging, you may run into libel laws. There are plenty possible other laws you might run into. The question you should ask yourself is, why would you want to do this? – Erwin Bolwidt Feb 25 at 7:08
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    It may depend on the purpose. (There was a story when an owner of a site under DDOS attack has changed its domain name to resolve to IP of the site of assumed organizer of the attack, which caused the attack downing it. That probably would be less legal if it ended up in court) – max630 Feb 25 at 8:28
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    So, to be clear (as both answerers so far have not got this): You aren't talking about iframes. You aren't talking about scraping or any sort of copying. You aren't talking about "deep linking" or any sort of hyperlinking. You are talking about setting up and publishing DNS mappings from your subdomain.example.com to the IP address(es) of a target WWW server owned by someone else, and whether that is legal to do. – JdeBP Feb 25 at 8:51
  • Like what Trump did to JebBush.com? – A. K. Mar 1 at 4:24
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Yes

One could certainly put up a site whose only content was a link to another domain. And I can't find any law which this would violate.

If the link is a "deep link", and if it bypasses a log-in page, while the other site is so designed that all access is intended to go through the login, i believe (but cannot at the moment verify) that the owner of the other site could claim that this violates their copyright. In any case it is not a good idea.But a link to an appropriate page should have no problem, nor should pointing your domain at an appropriate entry page.

Therefor, since simply repointing a domain should have the same effect as simply linking, in those cases where it works at all, it should be legal. Doing it with an iframe, which would truly open another site within your site, may not be if the other site forbids such use, as in a TOS. The case law on that is not settled, but many sites object to it, as the answer by BlueDogRanch points out.

I don't see a good reason why one would want to do this, but that isn't the question. Copying the HTML of another site and modifying the URLs while keeping the content the same would pretty cle4arly be a copyright infringement, besides being a lot of work to little obvious point. It also isn't what the question asked about.

Building a one-page site that has only a simple link or a redirect would clearly be legal, and would serve the purpose of causing your domain to lead a user to another site, but it isn't, strictly speaking, what was asked about either.

  • What if the website opens in my domain? – Faminha102 Feb 25 at 1:37
  • By "opens in your domain" you mean that the displayed URL starts with your domain? I don't see why that would matter. – David Siegel Feb 25 at 1:42
  • Yes, exactly... as an example, let's say that I configure my domain example.com to display the content of law.stackexchange.com website, so you would be able to see everything that you see right now, but the URL would be example.com. I wouldn't change the content, or ad ads, or anything else. – Faminha102 Feb 25 at 1:44
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    This answer doesn't seem to me to address the question at all, which is "Is it legal to point a domain on the web to someone else's ip?"; there's nothing in it about linking, and "deep linking" certainly wouldn't even be possible, let alone part of the question. – Michael Homer Feb 25 at 6:51
  • @Faminha102 this comment confuses the substance of your question because you're describing something that isn't technically possible. You can't "configure your domain to display the content of" another website without copying it. You can only configure it to send requests for your domain to the third party server. Whether that server responds the same as for requests for its own domain is within its owner's control and this is probably material to the legal status of such a configuration. – Will Feb 25 at 9:27
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It doesn't work that way. Simply pointing a domain at a server IP won't do what you think, for any number of reasons, i.e., load balancing, proxies, CDNs, shared IPs, the way the webserver is configured, etc. You may be able to display a simple home page on a server with a single IP. But simply pointing the domain isn't going to rewrite the source code of the site and magically make it appear to be your domain.

You could "scrape" the site and download all content and convert the URLs to your own domain, but that requires your own server, and is typically not legal, depending on the TOS of the site you scrape; see the earlier LE question Terms and condition for web scraping

What you are probably thinking of is an iframe: HTML iframe tag. You can use an iframe to display the content of another site in a window on your own hosted domain on your own server.

But the legality of iframing a site depends on the TOS of the site you frame and appears to be in legal flux; earlier LE question Can you be accused of hotlinking/copyright violation if you use an iframe?

Many sites forbid the use of iframes as they see it - case law or not - as copyright infringement. And servers can be configured to block iframing by other hosts.

Try using an iframe for law.stackexchange.com; you'll see the error Load denied by X-Frame-Options, because Stack Exchange forbids iframing their sites, though iframing appears to not be mentioned in Stack Exchange's TOS language.

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    This does not answer the question at all. The technical side of things is irrelevant, let alone that some not big sites hosted in old-school way still do work by opening their IP in web browser. – Greendrake Feb 25 at 4:57
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    Read my answer. Do the terms "legality", "TOS", etc., appear? If you can't understand the technical issues, you won't understand the legal issues that pertain. – BlueDogRanch Feb 25 at 5:04
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    It may or may not work that way, depending from how the target WWW site is served. The question is, in the cases where it does work that way, whether it is legal to do this. – JdeBP Feb 25 at 8:44
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This will be legal except for some bizarre and very unlikely scenarios — unlikely both technically and sensically.

The only scenario when it is technically possible

Nowadays that is rarely possible: the IP address(es) that you find will either be shared with other sites, or point to an intermediary service making the site highly available and fault tolerant, or both. This requires the correct domain name to be passed with the HTTP request for it to be successful.

But once upon a time it was pretty common to setup websites in such a way that they had just one IP address associated with them (often they did not even care what domain name was used to access them, or whether it was used at all, which was making it possible to open the website in a web browser just by the IP address). This setup is nowadays rare but still existent; it is the only case where pointing another domain name is possible.

Examples of scenarios when it is illegal

  • Rob owns a very popular website and wants to create some troubles to Bob who owns a website much less popular. Rob points his popular domain name to the Bob's IP address. Given that no automatic scaling is enabled on the target, Bob's site gets down. Or, if scaling is enabled and not limited, Bob gets astronomical bill from its cloud provider (Rob's visitors suffer for a while but Rob is fine with that);
  • Rob wants to create bad publicity for someone presented on the web. He registers a domain name like "theseguysarecheatsandthieves.com", points it to the target IP and does some SEO so that the target is findable on the new domain name. Rob hereby commits defamation;
  • Rob wants to steal Bob's customers. As in the previous example, he registers and points to the site a more appealing domain name than the original one. He does some good SEO and now the majority of Bob's customers come via Rob's domain name. Finally, Rob points his domain to his own site and serves the customers that Bob once had.

Why is it legal otherwise?

Without speculating about the possible goal of pointing a domain to someone else's website address, attainability of that unspecified goal, and available alternatives, let's see what consequences may arise if someone does just what the OP says and draw conclusions from those.

So, we assume that the target can be opened by its IP address as mentioned earlier. In this case, any domain name can be pointed to that IP; upon entering the domain name in the web browser, the site will open. It won't be necessary to even register a domain to point it: one could simply edit their local hosts file.

What trouble does that create, barring the weird cases exampled above? None. No copyright infringement, no fraud, no hacking, no damage, nothing. Who's right are violated? No ones. Hence it is perfectly legal.

  • Downvoting without giving a reason looks so temerarious and pathetic. – Greendrake Feb 26 at 19:21
  • I don't see why this was downvoted. – David Siegel Feb 26 at 23:32

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