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Confusion reigns over three “hijacked” ccTLDs

Kevin Murphy, March 12, 2013, Domain Registries

Control over three ccTLDs is currently up in the air due to the alleged hijacking of one of the registry operator’s domain names.

The TLDs for the Turks and Caicos Islands (.tc), the British Virgin Islands (.vg) and Grenada (.gd) are all nominally managed by a UK-based company called AdamsNames.

Last October, AdamsNames outsourced the back-end technical functions of the registry to KSRegistry, the registry sister company to German registrar Key-Systems.

But this week, it’s difficult to say who’s in charge any more.

KSRegistry, in an official statement, said yesterday that an unspecified “third party” had managed to take over the registry’s domain name, AdamsNames.net, and was operating a “shadow registry” there.

Today, the KSregistry GmbH, a hundred percent subsidiary of the Key-Systems GmbH, has learned that a third party has executed a transfer of the domain name adamsnames.net and now operates a shadow registry under this domain. According to the CEO of AdamsNames Ltd., Mr. Carsten Pauli, this transfer was not authorized by the registry operator.

Whois records show that the domain was transferred away from Key-Systems to Hexonet last week, and that the administrative contact changed from an address in London to an address in Istanbul.

The name on the records was Ertan Ulutas before and after the transfer.

So has Ulutas, by taking control over what is in effect the official registry web site, hijacked all three registries?

Statements appearing on AdamsNames.net this week tell a different story.

Whoever’s in control of the domain — presumably Ulutas — claims that the outfit is “currently experiencing a high level Corporate hijack from the minority shareholder Carsten Pauli and Key Systems GmbH.”

A statement today reads:

As you are all aware AdamsNames Ltd has been run by us for a while. Key Systems is our former Registry Backend provider. We recently noticed, the adamsnames.com domain, for which Key Systems was the Registrar had been illegally transferred into another account without any notice or authorisation from us.

Upon realising this we transferred our other gTLD domains to another Registrar. Due to this matter we lost trust in Key Systems GmbH and decided to run it ourselves. Please be aware that our Registry is fully operational.

All domains can be registered, renewed and updated as usual. We could not trust a company with three ccTLD’s if we could not trust them with one domain!

Whois records show that Pauli recently became the owner of AdamsNames.com. Ulutas was the previous owner. The domain is registered via Key-Systems.

KSRegistry, which has declined to comment beyond its prepared statement yesterday, said:

KSregistry GmbH still provides the technical back-end services for the ccTLDs .TC, .GD and .VG authorized by AdamsNames Ltd., but this is currently hampered by the actions of the third party.

In order to not endanger the integrity of the zone after addressing the issues, the Key-Systems GmbH as registrar has decided to not permit current modifications to domains under .TC, .GD and .VG. The resolution and renewal of the domains are not affected.

What seems to be happening here is that Pauli and Ulutas have had some kind of dispute, and that as a result the registrants and the reputation of three countries’ ccTLDs have been harmed.

Very amateurish.

UPDATE: Key-Systems founder and CEO Alexander Siffrin has issued the following updated statement in response to the latest claims on Adamsnames.net:

Key-Systems GmbH has at no time hijacked a domain name from Adamsnames Ltd. It has in the incident referred to by the party currently claiming to represent Adamsnames acted upon a request of the director of Adamsnames Ltd. who is also the signatory of the agreement outsourcing the technical backend of the registry to KSregistry GmbH.

On the other hand the transfer of the domain name adamsnames.net and with that the ability to change the management of the zone has to our knowledge been initiated without permission of Adamsnames Ltd.

It is noteworthy that at this time the domain names listed by the current technical operator do not list Adamsnames Ltd. as registrant:

ADAMSNAMES.NET
adamsnames.org
adamsnames.eu

You may draw your own conclusions.

.mii becomes the first new gTLD to face rejection

The applied-for new gTLD .mii is too similar to the US military gTLD .mil and will therefore be rejected by ICANN.

While many applications have been withdrawn, this is the first involuntary rejection to be announced by ICANN.

The applicant for .mii was MiTek USA, described by DI previously as the filer of the stupidest new gTLD applications of the current round.

It also applied for .connector, .mitek and .sapphire, the names of its product categories and brands.

All four of its applications will be formally rejected when ICANN publishes its Initial Evaluation results.

MiTek didn’t bother to answer the most basic questions in the new gTLD application, simply stating “TLD will not be resold. Purchased for brand protection only.” on almost every line.

The decision by the String Similarity Panel to rule .mii confusingly similar to .mil confirms what we already knew from the .hotels/.hoteis ruling — the letters I and L are confusing.

String similarity testing compares upper and lower-case letters as well as, I believe, different typefaces.

PICs could be Beijing deal-breaker for new gTLDs

ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee may delay the approval of new gTLDs if applicants don’t submit Public Interest Commitments tomorrow.

That’s the message coming out of ICANN today, on the eve of the deadline for PICs submission set less than one month ago.

PICs, you will recall, are binding, enforceable commitments that new gTLD applicants are able to voluntarily add to their registry contracts with ICANN.

They’re meant to satisfy the GAC’s request for ICANN to tighten its grip on new gTLD registries and to give applicants a way to avoid GAC Advice and formal objections against their bids.

Applicants that commit to do whatever was asked of them in GAC Early Warnings, for example, may be able to avoid having the warning mutate into a full-blown GAC Advice kiss of death.

When ICANN announced the PICs idea a month ago, it gave applicants until March 5 to submit them. It intends to publish them on Wednesday for public comment and the GAC’s perusal.

But applicants are understandably nervous (to put it mildly) to comply, given that PICs would be enforceable via a dispute process that has yet to be written but could put their contracts at risk.

Responding to these concerns during a conference call today, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade urged applicants to hit the deadline or risk the GAC delaying its Advice discussions beyond Beijing.

“I don’t think we can delay the submission of the PICs,” Chehade said. “If we do, then we will definitely not have the GAC come back to use with their committed advice in Beijing.”

“Unless we want to get them to do this advice beyond Beijing, we should stick with the 30 days or so we’ve asked people to get this done and make it happen,” he said.

The Beijing meeting runs April 7 to 11. The GAC is expected to issue its advice shortly after the meeting ends.

ICANN reckons it will be able to start approving new gTLDs April 23, but has also stated on numerous occasions that it will not approve anything before the GAC has spoken.

Chehade said today, based on his conversations with influential GAC members, that pushing the PICs deadline out beyond March 5 by even a few days would seriously endanger the current GAC Advice timeline.

New gTLD applicants are now in the tricky position of having to decide between potentially costly delays today and an unknown dispute system that could prove dangerous in future.

ICM’s claims against Manwin thrown out of court

Kevin Murphy, February 28, 2013, Domain Registries

ICM Registry has suffered a blow in its ongoing lawsuit with porn merchant Manwin Licensing, with a judge this week dismissing all of the registry’s counterclaims against the YouPorn owner.

ICM was sued by Manwin on antitrust grounds in late 2011, but returned fire last October with is own set of allegations, which also included claims that Manwin’s boycott of .xxx was anti-competitive.

But the judge in the case, Philip Gutierrez, on Tuesday granted Manwin’s motion to dismiss all of ICM’s claims.

Gutierrez ruled that ICM had failed to argue it had standing to complain under competition law, stating: “Harm to ICM only is not sufficient to constitute antitrust injury. It must allege harm to the competitive process.”

He also granted Manwin’s motion to strike ICM’s claims under California’s anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) laws, which are designed to protect free speech.

The judge decided that Manwin’s boycott of .xxx was protected under the anti-SLAPP statute.

ICM is now entitled to re-draft and re-submit its counterclaims; if it does not do so it will have to pay Manwin’s legal fees in connection with the anti-SLAPP action, Gutierrez ruled.

“The judge has granted us 30 days to amend our counterclaims. We are exploring all options open to us,” ICM CEO Stuart Lawley said.

Manwin’s owner, Fabian Thylmann, was arrested in Brussels last December and extradited to Germany to face charges of tax evasion.

Nominet to revise second-level .uk proposal after domainer outrage

Kevin Murphy, February 28, 2013, Domain Registries

Nominet has temporarily killed off its plan to allow people to register second-level .uk domain names, after vocal opposition from domain investors.

The non-profit registry said yesterday it is “not proceeding with our original proposal on ‘direct.uk’”, but may revise the concept to give more rights to existing .uk domain name owners.

Nominet had been running a community consultation since October on the idea. It said yesterday:

It was clear from the feedback that there was not a consensus of support for the direct.uk proposals as presented, with some concerns cutting across different stakeholder groups. Although shorter domains (e.g. nominet.uk rather than nominet.org.uk) were considered desirable, many respondents felt that the release mechanism did not give enough weighting to existing registrants, and could lead to confusion if they could not obtain the corresponding domain.

UK domainers had been the most prominent opponents of the plan, complaining loudly that trademark owners were to be given the right to take .uk names where they do not already own the corresponding .co.uk or .org.uk names.

This would not only harm domainers, but also big companies that own generic .co.uk domains without matching trademarks, they said, and would lead to consumer confusion.

Nominet now plans to see if it can revise the proposal to come up with a “phased release mechanism based largely on the prior registrations of domains in existing third levels within .uk”.