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GAC slams registrars over “silly” crime domain moves

Kevin Murphy, October 24, 2011, 15:39:54 (UTC), Domain Registrars

ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee is seriously annoyed with domain name registrars over what it sees as a failure to take the demands of law enforcement seriously.

The first official day of ICANN’s 42nd public meeting in Dakar, Senegal, was highlighted by a fractious discussion between the GAC and the Generic Names Supporting Organization.

Governments are evidently losing patience with the industry over what they see as incessant foot-dragging and, now, halfhearted bone-throwing.

The US, which is easily the most influential GAC member, was harshly critical of recent efforts by registrars to self-regulate themselves some law enforcement cooperation policies.

US GAC representative Suzanne Radell, saying she was speaking on behalf of the GAC, described a registrar move to start publishing legal service addresses on their web sites at some point in the future as as “paltry”, “mind-boggling” and “silly”.

She heavily implied that if the industry can’t self-regulate, the alternative is governments doing it for them. She was backed up by her counterparts from the UK, Australia and the European Commission.

Registrars have been talking to law enforcement for a few years about how to more effectively work together to prevent crime online.

In October 2009, agencies including the FBI and the UK Serious Organised Crime Agency publish a set of 12 recommendations about how to clean up the industry.

A lot of it was pretty basic stuff like a prohibition on registrar cybersquatting and an obligation to publish an abuse point of contact.

Despite a lot of talking at ICANN meetings, up until a couple of weeks ago there had not been a great deal of tangible progress.

The GNSO passed a resolution, proposed by registrars, to ask for an Issue Report to discuss whether registrars should be forced to post on their sites: a physical address for legal service, the names of key executives, and an abuse contact.

In ICANN’s world, an Issue Report usually precedes a Policy Development Process, which can take a year or more to produce results.

While the GNSO motion passed, it was opposed as inadequate by factions such as the Intellectual Property Constituency, which has close ties to the US government.

As the IPC seemed to correctly predict, the GAC was not amused.

“It is simply impossible for us to write a briefing memo for our political managers to explain why you need a policy to simply put your name on your web site,” Radell told the GNSO Council yesterday. “It is simply mind-boggling that you would require that.”

She pointed out that at a session during the Singapore meeting, registrars had indicated a willingness to address more of the law enforcement demands.

“That’s the context in which we are now coming to you saying this looks pretty paltry and actually it looks a little silly,” she said.

Mason Cole from the registrar constituency denied that they were “roadblocking” law enforcement’s demands, saying that a PDP is the fastest way to create a policy binding on all registrars.

“I think law enforcement was very clear when they made their proposals to us that what they were looking for was binding, enforceable provisions of policy that could be imposed on the registrars,” he said. “A code of conduct or a voluntary method would not arrive at binding, enforceable policy and therefore probably wouldn’t achieve the outcomes that law enforcement representatives were seeking.”

The debate didn’t end yesterday. Radell said she intends to take it up with the ICANN board of directors, presumably at their joint meeting tomorrow.

The implicit threat underlying the GAC’s protest is a legislative one, and Radell and other GAC members made it pretty clear that their governments back home regard domain names as a crucial tool in fighting online crime.

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Comments (2)

  1. Mike Hails says:

    The US Government and UK Government’s did not intially take the Internet seriously ,and allowed it pretty much to be run as a private company would be run. NOW they both have realised that it has become the thing that underpins the whole of their economy’s and thus are trying to take full control of it so that THEY can exploit it for their own benefits. They are doing this in the UK where they introduced a clause in the Digital Act that would explicitly allow them to “take over” what effectively is a Private not for profit company called “Nominet” who run the UK registry IF Nominet do something that UK Govt does not like !!!!. Seriously. This is what I see happening also with ICANN and US Govt where they want to control everything . We have all seen the results of Government control both sides of the Atlantic, i.e. a massive deficit. I can see the day coming when ICANN will actually be “US Govt” department run by bureaucrats. Got to fight them.

  2. Darren Robinson says:

    Generic Domains should be exempt from national Intellectual Property disputes, as they should not be governed by ANY particular nation’s laws. There is merit in adhering to protocols (such as the Madrid Protocol), but there is a limit to the effectiveness of this system. Generic Domains registration should effectively act as a kind of IP registration, with the same kind of infringement checks. There should be safeguards that allows for ‘fair use’ and ‘prior art’ as there are in many countries IP systems, which prevents unfair bias in favour of a holder. It could and probably should be equally seen as similar to the way companies are registered, where each company has to pass a ‘distinction’ test – which tries to ensure that there is as little chance as possible of confusion between registered entities (i.e. A Domain Registrar Ltd [internet services] will generally be considered different to Ado Main Registrar Ltd [wedding officials], but would potentially be considered A-Domain Registra Ltd [internet services]).

    There is little dispute that the Intellectual Property system generally needs to bring it into the 21st Centaury. IP was originally envisioned to ensure fair compensation for intellectual works. Copyright for example was introduced to stop plagiarism/passing-off and its adoption can be linked to the spread of the printing press. Today however it is used to prevent people using particular bits of IP solely at the whim of the holder. The IP system has become far to inclined to protect the holder’s interests rather than ensuring them a fair return.

    Cyber-squatting is acknowledged as being a bad thing in the most blatant cases, but just because you are accused of cyber-squatting shouldn’t mean you automatically forfeit your rights because a bigger more powerful interest has you in their sights. Suspension rather than transfer would be the more equitable result as it removes the apparent threat without compromising the domain owners investment – this would particularly be relevant to parked domains, but may be relevant to instances where a successful complain has been lodged against libellous use.

    Governments do what government do best, which is look after those that keep them in power. International affairs should be largely taken out of their hands. The old American ideal of small government is rather appropriate in this instance, but I suspect it will be conveniently forgotten this time around.

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