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In major snub, Verisign refuses to let ICANN audit .net

Kevin Murphy, January 11, 2013, Domain Registries

Verisign has delivered a significant blow to ICANN’s authority by refusing to take part in its contractual compliance audit program.

The snub runs a risk of scuppering ICANN’s plans to make compliance a cornerstone of its new management’s strategy.

In a letter to ICANN’s compliance department this week, Verisign senior vice president Pat Kane said that the company has no obligation to submit to an audit of .net under its ICANN contract.

Kane wrote:

Verisign has no contractual obligations under its .net Registry Agreement with ICANN to comply with the proposed audit. Absent such express contractual obligations, Verisign will not submit itself to an audit by or at the direction of ICANN of its books and records.

The company is basically refusing to take part in ICANN’s Contractual Compliance Audit Program, a proactive three-year plan to make sure all gTLD registries and accredited registrars are sticking to their contracts.

For registries, the plan calls for ICANN to look at things like compliance with Whois, zone file access, data escrow, monthly reporting, and other policies outlined in the registry agreements.

Verisign isn’t necessarily admitting that it thinks it would not pass the .net audit, but it is sending a strong signal that it believes ICANN’s authority over it has limits.

In the program’s FAQ, ICANN admits that it does not have explicit audit rights over all contracted parties, stating:

What’s the basis for including all contracted parties, when the ‘Right to Audit’ clause isn’t present in 2001 RAA and Registry Agreements?

One of ICANN’s responsibilities is to conduct audits of its agreements in order to ensure that all contracted parties are in compliance with those agreements.

If Verisign is refusing to participate, other registries may decide they don’t want to cooperate either. That wouldn’t look good for ICANN, which has made compliance a key strategic priority.

When Fadi Chehade started as CEO last September, one of his first moves was to promote compliance boss Maguy Serad to vice president, reporting directly to him.

He told DI that he would be “bringing a lot more weight and a lot more independent management from my office to the compliance function”.

At his inaugural address to the community in Prague last June, he spoke of how he planned to bring IBM-style contract management prowess to ICANN.

Compliance is also a frequently raised concern of the Governmental Advisory Committee (though generally geared toward rogue registrars rather than registries).

Vietnamese registrar on the ICANN naughty step

Kevin Murphy, December 26, 2012, Domain Registrars

ICANN has issued a broad breach notice against Vietnamese domain name registrar Mat Bao.

The company hasn’t escrowed its registrant data as required since February, according to ICANN, and it owes over $4,500 in accreditation fees.

It also hasn’t given ICANN a URL for its registrar web site, nor is it providing Whois service, according to the breach notice.

The registrar has fewer than 1,000 gTLD domain names under management, according to the latest registry reports.

ICANN has given it until January 17 to resolve its problems or risk losing its accreditation.

Delinquent top 20 registrar not delinquent after all

Kevin Murphy, August 27, 2012, Domain Registrars

China’s largest domain name registrar isn’t shirking its ICANN fees, despite previous allegations to the contrary.

Xin Net, which has over 1.6 million gTLD domains under management, received a breach notice from ICANN last month which stated that the company was $2,000 in arrears with its payments.

The company was given until August 22 to correct the problem or risk losing its accreditation.

But in a subsequent compliance notice ICANN admitted that “due to an error the registrar’s account reflected a delinquent balance”.

The admission was buried deep in the notice and not immediately obvious to anyone browsing ICANN’s compliance pages.

The original notice also alleged a breach of the Inter-Registrar Transfer Policy with respect to the domain names rongzhu.net, qsns.net and zuixincn.com, which was not an error.

ICANN posts breach notices to its web site fairly regularly — 84 of them since mid-2008 — and more often than not they allege failure to pay fees in addition to other problems.

Tiny Russian registrar gets canned

Kevin Murphy, August 8, 2012, Domain Registrars

ICANN is to terminate a Russian registrar’s accreditation.

Name For Name Inc, which was given a breach notice last month, is being shut down for basically failing to act as a registrar.

Verisign had already cut off its .com/.net registrar contract and the company was not managing names, providing Whois, or doing any of the other things registrars are supposed to.

Under normal circumstances, a termination sees a mass transfer of all the domains under management to a nominated registrar, but in Name For Name’s case I can’t see that happening.

The company only had five gTLD domain names under management, according to the latest count.

Its accreditation will be terminated September 6.

ICANN also this week issued a breach notice to Visesh Infotecnics (Signdomains.com), apparently as the result of a badly handled domain name hijacking.

Five registrars on the ICANN naughty step

Kevin Murphy, April 28, 2012, Domain Registrars

ICANN has sent breach notices to five domain name registrars, including two owned by Epik and DomainTools, for failing to cooperate with a Whois accuracy audit.

InTrust Domains, Planet Online, Server Plan, Infocom Network and DomainAllies.com did not respond to ICANN’s 2011 Whois Data Reminder Policy audit, according to ICANN.

The WDRP is the longstanding policy that requires all ICANN-accredited registrars to remind their customers to keep their Whois records up to date once a year.

The annual WDRP audit asks registrars to state how many reminders they sent out and how many Whois records were updated as a result, among other things.

The non-compliant registrars, with the exception of Server Plan, are also evidently past due paying their ICANN accreditation fees, according to the breach notices.

All five registrars have been given 15 days to rectify the problems or risk losing their accreditations.

Given that the audit is, I believe, a simple web-based form, I don’t think anyone is going to go out of business as a result of these breaches.

It’s interesting to dig a little bit into who owns these registrars.

DomainAllies.com belongs to DomainTools parent Thought Convergence.

InTrust, which has come in for criticism for shady marketing practices under its previous management, was acquired by Epik last July.

Planet Online, meanwhile, is one of those odd registrars that hides its own contact information behind a Whois privacy service (though its web site does carry a physical address).