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Pirate Bay founder among candidates for Nominet advisory council

Nominet has opened up the voting for its inaugural UK Registrar Advisory Council, and there’s at least one eyebrow-raising candidate.

Peter Sunde, who founded the Pirate Bay file-sharing web site and served time for copyright infringement, has put his name forward to be one of six members who will ultimately serve on the council.

The UKRAC is a new creation of Nominet, part of its effort to make peace with members who conducted a coup in March.

The council will comprise two members from the larger registrars, two from the medium-small registrars, and two independents/domainers.

Sunde has put himself forward as a member of the small-medium category, through Sarek, one of two registrars he’s known to be involved in.

He recently told DI that ICANN won’t give Sarek a formal accreditation in the gTLD space because the org is worried that he’ll be a “pain in the ass”.

He told Nominet members he is “from the activist community” and has a love for “the influence that comes with being a registrar”.

He’ll be competing for a seat with an eclectic array of other hopefuls.

There’s Lesley Moody MBE, managing director of AES Digital, who I think it’s fair to say is a much more establishment figure, focused as much on the responsibilities of members to the company as vice versa.

Likewise, Benedict Addis of the Registrar of Last Resort Foundation is also on the ballot. He’s a security guy and former UK cyber-cop, who has for a long time been a voice of law enforcement in the ICANN community.

One of Addis’ proposers, Andrew Bennett, is also standing in his own capactiy. He’s from Netistrar and has been a vocal critic of Nominet over multiple administrations for well over a decade.

Rounding out the ballot of Sunde’s opponents are John Richards of Watchet Web Design, Dan Rodgers of Domain Registrar Services Ltd and Stephen Yarrow of Driver Information Systems.

In the large registrar category the nominations are Arnaud Franquinet of Gandi, Ashley La Bolle of Tucows, Prudence Malinki of MarkMonitor, Barbara Sher of Register.com (part of Newfold Digital) and Rex Wickham of TwentyTwentyMedia.

In separate blog posts today, La Bolle and Wickham have both expressed support for the PublicBenefit.uk campaign that led to the current Nominet reforms.

In the independent registrar category, which is for members who are accredited mainly to register names more cheaply for their own use, the candidates are relative newcomer Ciprian Cucuruz of Webber Multimedia and Susannah Clark, who does business as “Girl Next Door” and expresses skepticism that the UKRAC is much more than a Nominet PR exercise.

Given they’re the only two candidates for the two available seats, they both appear to be shoo-ins.

The election will be run using a single transferable vote system, with each member getting a single vote unrelated to the size of their .uk installed base. Voting closes July 22 and results announced a few days later.

The full list of candidates and all their personal statements can be found here (pdf).

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XYZ scraps .tickets rules but won’t lower the price

XYZ.com has just formally announced the acquisition of the new gTLD .tickets, which we reported on in April.

The company said it plans to keep the domains at the current high price of $500 retail per year, in contrast to its recent practice of dropping its fees on some of its recent acquisitions.

But it is going to remove “complicated registration restrictions” and make .tickets names available according to the rules for gTLDs in the rest of its portfolio, which should broaden its channel appeal.

The company argues that, in the absence of stringent registration rules, the high prices make it “cost prohibitive” for bad actors to cybersquat.

.tickets was being managed by original applicant Accent Media until earlier this year.

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EURid scraps residency rules for three countries

.eu registry EURid said today that it’s broadening the eligibility criteria for registrants to ex-pats from three countries.

The rule change means that if you’re a citizen of Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein but do not live in those countries or in the EU, you’ll be able to register domains regardless of residency.

Those three countries are in the European Economic Area but not the EU. EEA residents have been able to register .eu names for a long time, but non-resident citizens were barred.

The rule applying eligibility to citizenship rather than residency has been available to full-fat EU citizens since 2019.

The number of affected people appears to be low. The combined population of all three countries is under six million, almost all of whom are Norwegian, and Norway is believed to have 100,000 citizens living overseas.

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Epik buys DNForum, explores member ownership options

Kevin Murphy, July 6, 2021, Domain Services

Controversial registrar Epik has acquired DNForum and says it is thinking about ways to make the site member-owned.

DNForum is a forum targeted mainly at domain investors. It competes with NamePros and has seen multiple sets of owners over the last few years.

Posting on DNForum, Epik CEO Rob Monster said he hopes to improve industry communication, interoperability and commercial opportunities — registrars will be welcome to pitch their promotions to users.

He said that Epik is “actively investigating a legally compliant way to turn DNForum into a member owned community based on crypto token”.

While popular with domainers, Epik has attracted controversy in recent years for soliciting and welcoming the business of domain names that have been “cancelled” elsewhere due to political extremism.

Whether this laissez-faire stance on free speech will extend to DNForum’s moderation practices in future remains to be seen.

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Nominet throws money at member-chosen charities

Nominet is to make up to £600,000 ($830,000) a year available to charities nominated by its members.

The upcoming GiveHub platform comes as part of the .uk registry’s ongoing effort to appease members who believe the company has not being doing enough to live up to its public interest mandate in recent year.

Nominet said yesterday that it will make up to 10 grants available each month, up to a total value of £50,000.

Recipients will be nominated by members and vetted by a panel of five volunteer members. They’ll have to be UK-based registered charities “whose work aligns with our commitment to making the world more connected, inclusive and secure”, Nominet said.

GiveHub is expected to launch for a six-month pilot on August 2 and Nominet is currently looking for volunteers to serve on its grants panel.

The move comes a few months after a huge shakeup of the company caused by a member revolt that narrowly saw half of its board of directors, including its CEO and chair, culled amid calls for lower prices and more money given to good causes.

Nominet had committed £4 million to public benefit in the first half of this year, double the amount it has been giving for the last few years under previous management.

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ICANN backtracks on executive pay transparency

Kevin Murphy, July 2, 2021, Domain Policy

ICANN has not disclosed the results of a recent board vote to award the CEO his bonus, apparently reversing an earlier move to make that kind of information public.

The board voted last week to give Göran Marby his “at risk” compensation for the second half of the org’s fiscal 2021.

It’s not clear from the resolution whether he’s getting his full 30% or just a portion thereof.

It’s also not clear whether the vote was unanimous or not.

As I noted in February, ICANN disclosed that three directors voted against a resolution to give Marby a pay rise, which put him well over the million-dollars-a-year mark.

I wondered aloud back then whether the unprecedented decision to publish the vote on a matter of executive compensation was an accident, or a move towards increased transparency by the org, which I would have applauded.

The resolution from last week contains no such information, suggesting February may have been a publication accident after all.

The minutes from the February meeting have yet to be published, four months after the fact.

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Brexit-hit domains can still be recovered

EURid has removed thousands of .eu domain names belonging to UK registrants from its zone file, but has dangled the possibility that they could still be recovered.

Due to Brexit, the UK is no longer a member of the European Union and its companies and citizens are no longer eligible for .eu domains, and EURid has been warning them for years that their domains are in jeopardy.

The latest phase kicked in yesterday, when the affected names were moves from a “suspended” to a “withdrawn” status. They now no longer function on the internet.

They’ll be released back into the available pool of names in batches early next year.

But EURid is now saying that affected registrants may be able to recover their names if they email the registry directly with proof of compliance before December 31.

Registrants can comply with the eligibility policy if they’re EU citizens living in the UK or UK citizens legally resident in the EU.

According to EURid’s web site, about 3,500 .eu domains are currently registered in the UK, but it’s not clear whether that includes domains that were withdrawn this week.

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Net4 domains now parked after “fraud” ruling

The primary operating domain names of disgraced registrar Net 4 India are now parked, after the company lost its ICANN accrediation and was hit by a finding of fraud in an insolvency case.

The names net4.com and net4.in, which once hosted its customer-facing retail site, now return parking pages.

It emerged in recent court documents that Net4 paid $14,068 for net4.com in March 2011 via Sedo.

Net4 saw its ICANN termination terminated in May. All of its gTLD domains under management were transferred to PublicDomainRegistry, which also made side deals with registries to accept .tv, .me and .cc domains.

.in registrant were being dealt with by NIXI, the local ccTLD registry.

Net4 had been in insolvency proceedings for a few years before its customers started noticing serious problems renewing and transferring their names, or even contacting customer support.

Now it emerged that the insolvency court in late May found that Net4 had acted “fraudulently” in order to “defraud” its creditors.

The company had defaulted on millions of dollars in loans from the State Bank of India, debts that were subsequently sold to a debt recovery company called Edelweiss, which filed for Net4’s insolvency.

In a lengthy and complex May ruling (pdf), the Delhi insolvency court found that Net4 had transferred its primary operating assets including its domains, trademarks and registrar business to a former subsidiary, Net4 Network, in order to keep them out of the hands of Edelweiss.

Net4 had “fraudulently transferred” the assets in “undervalued and fraudulent transactions” designed to put the assets “beyond the reach of the Creditors so as to defraud the Creditors”, the court ruled.

The court ruled that the resolution professional handling the case is now free to pursue Net4 Network and its director for the money that would have otherwise have been held by Net4 proper.

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Pride Month not transformative for .gay

June may be celebrated as Pride Month in some parts of the world, but the occasion hasn’t had a huge impact on registrations in the .gay gTLD, which launched late last year.

Zone files show 11,323 active .gay domains yesterday, up by 723 compared to June 1. That’s up only slightly on the 700 domain growth seen in May.

Registry spokesperson Logan Lynn said that “we do Pride 365 days a year”, adding:

Additionally, we have been running Pride promos and doing some storytelling about .gay’s first year with registrar partners like GoDaddy, Namesilo, Hover, Name.com, and Blacknight. .gay is a growing platform and has had a fantastic year, especially with tech-forward community members, such as gaymers and LGBTQ and allied developers. It would be reductive to expect a June-specific spike for our brand. We are not just a once-a-year product, but instead a platform for progress and real change for, and with, LGBTQ communities.

He added that the company, Top Level Design, is getting ready to announce some “.gay celebrity influencers” in the near future.

Pride Month is often acknowledged by the US government as a period to celebrate equality and commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots. It is celebrated, if not officially recognized, in other countries.

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Schwartz makes deal to sell ass.com for over $6 million

Kevin Murphy, June 23, 2021, Domain Sales

Veteran domain investor Rick Schwartz today said he’s made a deal to sell the domain name ass.com for over $6 million.

The deal appears to include the mouthwatering sum up-front, along with ongoing royalties. He tweeted a couple hours ago:

The most obvious use for the domain would be a porn site, but that wouldn’t explain hashtags such as “realestate” and “crypto”.

If confirmed, the deal would be the 11th most expensive domain ever sold, according to DNJournal.

Schwartz sold porno.com for $8,888,888 in February 2015.

Updated for clarity.

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