Go Daddy has called for domain name registrars, not registries, to be responsible for seizing domain names associated with criminal activity.
In testimony submitted yesterday to the US House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet, general counsel Christine Jones said that instructing registries to turn off domains can sometimes cause more harm than good.
Registrars, she said, often aid law enforcement with investigations into, for example, child pornography, and that registry interference can be dangerous.
In her prepared remarks (pdf), Jones wrote:
The registry in many instances has no knowledge of these highly confidential and sensitive matters, and we have experienced several occasions in which the sudden disabling of a domain name by a registry disrupted weeks or months of work investigating serious criminal activity by the registrant.
We would like to see future government and private industry efforts focused on naming the registrar as the primary contact for courts and law enforcement regarding all criminal and civil matters relating to domain names.
Also testifying was John Morton of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency responsible for recent controversial domain name seizures under Operation In Our Sites.
The ICE operation has so far bypassed registrars, going directly to registry operators such as VeriSign. This is arguably more efficient, and avoids jurisdictional problems associated with non-US registrars.
Other registrars have previously echoed Jones’ remarks. Registrars have the relationship with the customer, after all. When a domain is seized by a registry, they have to deal with the fallout.
As we saw with the first phase of the ICE seizures last year, the fact that the registrar had no knowledge of the matter led to a misunderstanding and ICANN being blamed in several media reports.
But yesterday’s Congressional hearing, which aimed to gather information for legislation expected to replace the Combatting Online Infringement and Counterfeiting Act (COICA), spent very little time discussing domains.
At one point, Rep. John Conyers took Morton to task for ICE’s accidental seizure of over 80,000 third-level domains as part of a child porn sting.
Jones was also quizzed about the difference between filtering domains at the ISP level (which she said was unworkable and potentially dangerous) and blocking them at the registry-registrar level.
But Google was in the room, in the form of general counsel Kent Walker, and he took most of the flak, with Congressmen lining up to grill him over Google’s apparently happiness to connect users to bootleg digital content and counterfeit physical goods.