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UK domains get government oversight

With the passing of the Digital Economy Bill last night, the UK government has created powers to oversee Nominet, the .uk registry manager, as well as any new gTLD that is “UK-related”.

The Bill would allow the government to replace a registry if, in its opinion, the registry’s activities tarnish the reputation or availability of UK internet services.

It also allows the minister to apply to a court to alter the constitution of a registry such as Nominet.

The legislation was created in response to concerns that the registry could be captured by domainers, following a turbulent few years within Nominet’s leadership.

Nominet has since modified its constitution to make this unlikely, and is now of the position that the government will have no need to exercise its new powers.

The Bill does not name Nominet specifically, but rather any domain registry that is “UK-related”.

An internet domain is “UK-related” if, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, the last element of its name is likely to cause users of the internet, or a class of such users, to believe that the domain and its sub-domains are connected with the United Kingdom or a part of the United Kingdom.”

This almost certainly captures the proposed .eng, .scot and .cym gTLDs, which want to represent the English, Scots and Welsh in ICANN’s next new gTLD round.

Nominet seeks new chair

Kevin Murphy, March 30, 2010, Domain Registries

Bob Gilbert has stepped aside as chairman of .uk registry Nominet, to be replaced temporarily by deputy chair Gordon Dick.

The news comes as Nominet seeks to draw a line under a tumultuous few years that have seen the non-profit company attempt to fight off domainers on the one hand and a power grab by the UK government on the other.

These efforts have been hit and miss.

While Nominet has successfully reformed its corporate governance to make it less vulnerable to capture by special interests, the government will still shortly enact the Digital Economy Bill, which gives the business secretary unprecedented reserve powers to appoint a new .uk registry manager.

“Having successfully updated Nominet’s constitution, a time consuming exercise for all involved, it is now time for the company to move into its next phase of development under new leadership,” Gilbert, who joined Nominet in 2005, said in a statement.

Nominet bill set for UK law

Kevin Murphy, March 25, 2010, Domain Registries

The UK government is set to pass a controversial law that will create powers to regulate domain names more or less arbitrarily and even seize control of the .uk registry.

The Digital Economy Bill is best known for its Draconian anti-piracy provisions, but it also gives the relevant Secretary of State the power to replace Nominet as the .uk registry manager.

To oust Nominet, the secretary of state would have to decide that certain fairly broad criteria had been met. Quoting from the bill’s explanatory notes:

The registry itself, its end-users (that is, owners of or applicants for domain names) or registrars (that is, agents of end-users) have been engaging in practices prescribed in regulations made by the Secretary of State which are unfair or which involve the misuse of internet domain names; or

The registry’s arrangements for dealing with complaints in connection with domain names do not comply with requirements prescribed in regulations made by the Secretary of State.

The practices in question are expected to include: cybersquatting, drop-catching, “pressure sales tactics”, phishing, distributing malware, spamming or “intentionally misleading the public into believing there is a connection between the domain name owner and other organisations”.

Basically, the daily background noise of the internet. (continue reading)

UK won’t drop Nominet takeover bill

The UK government has “no plans” to remove its right to oust Nominet as the .uk registry from the forthcoming Digital Economy Bill, according to ComputerWorld.

The controversial bill is best known for its draconian restrictions on peer-to-peer file sharing, but it would also give the government the right to remove Nominet (continue reading)