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Government ‘cybersquatting’ case rattles India

Kevin Murphy, October 4, 2010, Domain Services

Cybersquatting mischief is making headlines in India today, after the nation’s main opposition party accused the government of directing a confusingly similar domain name to its own site.

According to various reports, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party served a “legal notice” on the ruling Indian National Congress party over the domain name bjp.com.

The BJP hosts its primary site at bjp.org. According to the party, the .com domain has been redirecting users to the Congress’ own site. Today, it resolves to a page parked at Sedo.

The contested domain is currently registered behind eNom’s privacy protection service. It appears to have changed hands several times over the years, most recently to an Indian.

Unless the BJP has some other evidence connecting its rival to the domain, it looks like this may be a case of cheap political point-scoring.

Revlon gets the UDRP bug

Kevin Murphy, September 22, 2010, Domain Services

Revlon has become the latest company to start aggressively enforcing its trademarks via the UDRP.

The company has over the last few months filed 24 complaints with WIPO, covering 29 domains, most of which appear to be parked.

Apart from a couple of typos, the domains all contain the Revlon trademark in full, along with another noun or two, and look like slam-dunk cases.

It has already won a couple of cases, such as revlonhairproducts.com, which I expect the panelist could have adjudicated in her sleep.

Group wants trademark study before new TLDs launch

Kevin Murphy, September 21, 2010, Domain Services

The International Trademark Association has told ICANN it believes a study into the economic “harms” of launching new TLDs is “essential” before the program gets under way.

INTA president Heather Steinmeyer wrote, in a September 8 letter (pdf) published today (my emphasis):

We applaud the recommendation… to conduct a study to assess the harms associated with intellectual property abuse and related forms of consumer fraud in the domain name system, including how the current gTLDs have affected intellectual property and consumers since their introduction. Indeed trademark owners believe that such a study is not only a sensible recommendation, but an essential prerequisite before any rollout of new gTLDs.

Steinmeyer offered INTA’s assistance with any such study.

The recommendation she refers to can be found in “An Economic Framework for the Analysis of the Expansion of Generic Top-Level Domain Names”, a report prepared for ICANN by three independent economists in June.

That report made a number of suggestions for possible further studies of the possible benefits and harms (although Steinmeyer only mentions the harms) of introducing new TLDs. It did not make any firm conclusions.

Following a public comment period that ended July 22, the status of that report appears to be ‘in limbo’.

The public comments have not yet been compiled into a summary and analysis document and as far as I can tell no other action has been taken on the report’s recommendations.

At least one ICANN director, chairman Peter Dengate Thrush, seems to consider the problem of balancing trademark protection and other parties’ interests pretty much resolved.

Just last week, in a fairly strongly worded statement at the Internet Governance Forum in Vilnius, Lithuania, he said:

The IP lawyers… have had their chance to make all these cases in a five-year process, and the intellectual property protections that have been put in place are the result of a delicate balance that has been wrought with everybody in the community, not just with the IP lawyers. IP lawyers always want more protections.

ICANN urged to kill new TLD morality veto

Kevin Murphy, September 17, 2010, Domain Services

ICANN has been asked to eliminate references to “morality and public order” objections from its new top-level domain application process.

A cross-constituency working group has advised ICANN’s board of directors to scrap the term and to ensure that whatever replaces it does not enable individual governments to veto new TLDs based on their own local laws.

The so-called “MOPO” or “MAPO” part of the Draft Applicant Guidebook attracted criticism because ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee seemed to want to use it to grant themselves the right to block any TLD application they deemed too controversial.

The fear from the GAC was that if nations started blocking whole TLDs at their borders, it could ultimately lead to the fragmentation of the DNS root.

The fear elsewhere was that some edgy TLD applications, such as .gay or .sex, could be rejected due to the unilateral objections of backward regimes, harming freedom of speech.

But if ICANN incorporates the working group’s new recommendations into the next version of the DAG, that probably won’t be allowed to happen.

The group this week forwarded an interim report to the ICANN board for its consideration. While incomplete, it already carries a few recommendations that managed to find consensus.

Notably, the report recommends that, “National law not based on international principles should not be a valid ground for an objection”, which would seem to scupper any chances of Uganda or the Holy See blocking .gay, for example.

The working group has so far failed to reach consensus on how governmental objections should be registered and processed, but one option is:

The Applicant Guidebook should allow individual governments to file a notification (not an objection) that a proposed TLD string is contrary to their national law. The intention is that an “objection” indicates an intent to block, but a “notification” is not an attempt to block, but a notification to the applicant and the public that the proposed string is contrary to the government’s perceived national interest. However, a national law objection by itself should not provide sufficient basis for a decision to deny a TLD application.

The working group, which counted a few GAC members among its number, has managed to unanimously agree that the awkward term “morality and public order” should be dumped.

One possible contender to replace it is “Objections Based on General Principles of International Law”.

The group has also discussed the idea that a supermajority vote could be required if the board decides to reject a TLD application based on a MOPO objection.

The report is a work in progress. The working group expects to send an updated document to the ICANN board shortly before its retreat later this month.

Whether any of this will be acceptable to the GAC as a whole is up for debate.

DNS Made Easy whacked with 50Gbps attack

Kevin Murphy, August 9, 2010, Domain Services

The managed DNS service provider DNS Made Easy was knocked offline for 90 minutes on Saturday by a distributed denial of service attack estimated at 50Gbps.

This could be the largest DDoS attack ever. The largest I’ve previous heard reported was 49Gbps.

The company, which promises 100% uptime, tweeted that the attack lasted eight hours, but only saw one and a half hours of downtime.

Here are some tweets from the company, starting on Saturday afternoon:

Out of China. Over 20 Gbps…. Don’t really know how big actually. But it’s big. We know it’s over 20 Gbps

Update…. Over 50 Gbps… we think. Since core Tier1 routers are being flooded in multiple cities…..

Trying to organize emergency meeting with all Tier1 providers. We probably have over 50 senior network admins looking into this.

This is flooding the provider’s backbones. By far the largest attack we have had to fight in history.

And, post-attack:

The good: Not everyone was down, not all locations were down at once. The bad: There were temporary regional outages.

Almost back to normal in all locations. Full explanation, details, and SLA credits will be given to all users as soon as possible.

We did not see a 6.5 hour long outage. That would be ultra-long. DDOS attack was 8 hours. Less than 1.5 hours of actual downtime.

It will prove costly. The company’s service level agreement promises to credit all accounts for 500% of any downtime its customers experience.

Quite often in these cases the target of the attack is a single domain. Twitter and Facebook have both suffered performance problems in the past after attackers went after a single user for political reasons.

For a DNS provider, any single domain they host could be such a target. I’d be interested to know if that was the case in this incident.