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Registrars responsible for proxy cybersquatters

Domain name registrars can be liable when their customers break the law, if those customers use a privacy service, according to new ICANN guidance.

The ICANN advisory clarifies the most recent Registrar Accreditation Agreement, and seems primarily pertinent to UDRP cases where the registrar refuses to cooperate with the arbitrator’s request for proper Whois records.

The advisory says:

a Registered Name Holder licensing the use of a domain is liable for harm caused by the wrongful use of the domain unless the Registered Name Holder promptly identifies the licensee to a party providing the Registered Name Holder with reasonable evidence of actionable harm

In other words, if a domain gets hit with a UDRP claim or trademark infringement lawsuit, as far as the RAA is concerned the proxy service is the legal registrant unless the registrar quickly hands over its customer’s details.

Law enforcement and intellectual property interests have been complaining about registrars refusing to do so for years, most recently in comments on ICANN’s Whois accuracy study.

ICANN offers a definition of the word “promptly” as “within five business days” and “reasonable evidence” as trademark ownership and evidence of infringement.

I don’t think this ICANN guidance will have much of an impact on privacy services offered by the big registrars, which generally seem quite happy to hand over customer identities on demand.

Instead, this looks like it could be the start of a broader ICANN crackdown on certain non-US registrars offering “bulletproof” registrations to cybersquatters and other ne’er-do-wells.

I wouldn’t be surprised to find the number of ICANN de-accreditations citing refusal to cooperate with UDRP claims increasing in future.

The new ICANN document is a draft, and you can comment on it here.

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ICANN closes .xxx forum after 14,000 comments

Kevin Murphy, May 13, 2010, Domain Policy

ICANN has finally shut down the latest public comment period on the proposed .xxx TLD, and now faces the task of finding the few dozen grains of wheat in about 14,000 pieces of chaff.

It’s general counsel John Jeffrey’s task to provide the round-up on this, possibly record-breaking, public comment period, although I understand ICM Registry may also provide its own, alternative, summary document.

I had a quick chat with Jeffrey yesterday. He told me comments were kept open beyond the advertized Monday shutdown because ICANN staffers are allowed to use their discretion when forums are seeing a lot of activity.

He also noted that the comment period was not a referendum on the merits of .xxx; ICANN had solicited feedback on a specific set of process options on how to handle .xxx.

It’s my impression that the 10,000+ identical form emails from the American Family Association may, rightly, wind up being considered as a single comment.

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.jobs seeks comment on dictionary domains

The sponsor organization behind the restricted .jobs domain is soliciting comment on a plan to substantially liberalize the TLD, allowing generic and two-letter registrations.

The Society For Human Resource Management has published a very brief survey, asking HR folk what they think the pros and cons to the plan might be.

The .jobs domain is run by Employ Media. It’s currently restricted to companyname.jobs registrations, and as such has been predictably unsuccessful.

Now Employ Media wants to branch out into geographical and generic domains. As I reported last month, it looks like it’s trying to remove essentially all of its significant registration restrictions.

The attempt at a policy shift follows a deal made with DirectEmployers Association to monetize geographic domains that raised eyebrows at ICANN late last year.

ERE.net has more here.

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German domains see severe downtime

Many domains ending in .de, Germany’s country-code TLD, have seen downtime today, after something went wrong at Denic, the registry manager.

Details are sketchy at the moment, but it appears from chatter on the DNS-Ops mailing list that several instances of the .de zone stopped serving addresses this morning.

It appears that the affected servers were responsible for .de domains beginning with F through Z, so facebook.de would have worked, but heise.de would not.

The German slice of Twitter has been going a bit nuts with comments, and the German press is already on the case.

This is obviously a huge headache if you’re German or do business in Germany — I hate to think how many transactions could have been disrupted by the downtime — and I expect Denic will take a lot of flack at home over the coming days and weeks.

The problem, however, does appear to have been fixed. SANS estimates the outage as a little over an hour.

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Google Translate turns ccTLDs into .com

Kevin Murphy, May 12, 2010, Domain Tech

I’ve found Google Translate an invaluable tool for researching overseas news stories, but it’s a pain in the neck for reading about domain names in foreign languages.

The service seems to have developed the habit of turning all freestanding ccTLDs into “.com”.

For an example, head over to Norid and turn on Norwegian-to-English translation (or, if you don’t have the Google Toolbar, use Google Translate on the web).

Every instance of “.no”, Norway’s country-code domain, is translated into a .com, more specifically “. Com”.

Ditto for German. Translate this story about Denic’s troubles today to see all instances of “.de” translated into “. Com”.

However, the front page of Afnic sees .fr translated to “. Com”, leaving .re, for the Reuinion Islands, untouched.

I should point out that the service leaves domain names alone, so nic.fr is still nic.fr. But you’ve still got to wonder what Google’s designers were thinking.

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