Go Daddy’s 60-day domain lockdown loophole

Kevin Murphy, September 8, 2011, 21:06:06 (UTC), Domain Registrars

Perhaps the most common complaint of the many leveled at Go Daddy over the years is that it refuses to allow customers to transfer domains to another registrar for 60 days after an ownership change.

The latest person to fire this criticism at the company is tech blogger Scott Raymond, who published a lengthy tirade against Go Daddy and its policy on ZDNet today.

Raymond points out that Go Daddy seems to be in violation of ICANN’s Inter-Registrar Transfer Policy, which explicitly prohibits the rejection of a transfer request due to a recent Whois change.

He’s not alone. Even Andrew Allemann of Domain Name Wire, hardly Go Daddy’s fiercest critic, said as recently as May that he thinks the company is in violation of the IRTP.

With good reason – this April 2008 ICANN advisory seemed to be specifically written with a ban on Go Daddy’s 60-day policy in mind.

But is the company non-compliant? ICANN doesn’t seem to think so.

I’ve tracked down this November 2009 email from David Giza, then ICANN’s head of compliance, in which he describes what seems to amount to a loophole Go Daddy and other registrars exploit.

Giza explains that the 2008 advisory “only addresses mandatory updates to Whois contact information, not a transfer or assignment to a new registrant”.

Registrants are obliged to keep their Whois data up-to-date; that’s what he means by “mandatory”.

Giza’s email adds:

the transfer policy does not prohibit registrars from requiring registrants to agree to the blocking of transfer requests as a condition for registrar facilitation of optional services such as the transfer of a registration to a new registrant.

We understand GoDaddy.com’s 60-day lock is a voluntary opt-in process where registrants are made aware of and agree to the restriction that the domain name is not to be transferred for 60-days following the completion of transfer. As such, this practice is not prohibited by the transfer policy.

In other words, there are “Whois Changes” and there are “Registrant Changes”, and registrars are only allowed to trigger a lock-down in the latter case, according to Giza.

And according to DNW’s reporting on the subject, that’s exactly what Go Daddy continues to do — locking the domain if certain fields in the registrant record are changed.

So the 60-day lock appears to be kosher, at least in the opinion of ICANN’s erstwhile compliance chief. Whether that could change under the department’s new management is unknown.

As it happens, the subject was raised by a recent working group that was looking into revising the IRTP, but it was so contentious that consensus could not be found.

The problem has been bounced down the road. The most recent mention came in this ICANN issue report (pdf, page 14-15).

Anyway, if I lost you several paragraphs ago, the net result of all this seems to be that Go Daddy probably isn’t breaking the rules, but that nobody can agree whether that’s a good thing or not.

The fact that one has to do this much digging into ICANN esoterica just to figure out whether Go Daddy is screwing its customers over isn’t very reassuring, is it?

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Comments (2)

  1. SL says:

    “60-day lock is a voluntary opt-in process”

    Agreeing to the lock is absolutely mandatory, no? Every time I’ve checked out it’s been a part of the terms and conditions that must be agreed to. Maybe I’m somehow misinterpreting that statement?

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      Giza’s email goes on to say:

      “Registrants are free to transfer to different registrars if they’re not satisfied with either the service or terms of service provided by their current provider (i.e., registrant “A” could transfer the name to a new registrar and then request the change of registrant to “B” at a registrar that is willing to offer that service without asking the new registrant to agree to reject transfer requests).”

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