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A screenshot from the website of the Barriere and District Chamber of Commerce, whose website domain was taken over and replaced with pornography after the agency neglected to renew it. The chamber says the domain's new owners are demanding nearly $10,000 to get it back.

The mayor of a British Columbia town says she's appalled that a pornography website acquired the Internet domain name for the local chamber of commerce.

Virginia Smith said the chamber in Barriere believed the domain name was automatically renewed, but it had expired.

"Their website domain was expected to roll over and it didn't and by the time they discovered it, it had been captured."

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The new owners of the domain name are demanding the chamber pay $9,700 before the porn site is taken down, Smith said, calling that extortion.

"It's just one of those horrible tragedies."

Smith said she was stunned to learn about the new site after her staff logged in as usual, only to find the "horrible" content.

"I can see both sides to the story, that yes, perhaps the chamber should have been far more diligent. That unfortunately didn't happen and now we have a situation that has to be dealt with.

"I think it's a horrible situation and I don't think it speaks too well of the chamber or general mankind as such, with that kind of a site."

The Barriere Chamber of Commerce has a new website. No one from the chamber was immediately available for comment.

Smith said the chamber has hired a lawyer, but Hasan Cavusoglu, an associate professor of management information systems at the University of British Columbia, said that may not help.

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Cavusoglu, of UBC's Sauder School of Business, said anyone can use a name the moment it expires, meaning there is often no legal recourse.

"It can be used by porn websites and it could be used by malicious websites that are tricking people," he said, adding software is available to track sites and determine when their domain name will expire.

"One can actually create a replica of the original website."

He said the chamber could have protected itself by paying for an extended amount of time to own the domain name because registrars provide such options.

"Since they did not show interest, someone else took the name."

Domain name registrars may email a renewal reminder to whoever registered the name but that's not helpful if an employee has left a company, Cavusoglu said.

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"There should be an email that was attached to a department, and not an individual," he said.

"They should have been more careful."

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