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Euro registrars miffed about ICANN privacy delays

Kevin Murphy, February 21, 2014, Domain Registrars

Registrars based in the European Union are becoming increasingly disgruntled by what they see as ICANN dragging its feet over registrant privacy rules.

Some are even refusing to sign the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement until they receive formal assurances that ICANN won’t force them to break their local privacy laws.

The 2013 RAA, which is required if a registrar wants to sell new gTLD domains, requires registrars to keep hold of registrant data for two years after their registrations expire.

Several European authorities have said that this would be illegal under EU privacy directives, and ICANN has agreed to allow registrars in the EU to opt out of the relevant provisions.

Today, Luxembourgish registrar EuroDNS said it asked for a waiver of the data retention clauses on December 2, but has not heard back from ICANN over two months later.

The company had provided ICANN with the written legal opinion of Luxembourg’s Data Protection Agency

In a snippy letter (pdf) to ICANN, EuroDNS CEO Lutz Berneke wrote:

Although we understand that your legal department is solely composed of lawyers educated in US laws, a mere translation of the written guidance supporting our request should confirm our claim and allow ICANN to make its preliminary determination.

EuroDNS has actually signed the 2013 RAA, but says it will not abide by the provisions it has been told would be illegal locally.

Elsewhere in Europe, Ireland’s Blacknight Solutions, said two weeks ago that it had requested its waiver September 17 and had not yet received a pass from ICANN.

“Why is it my problem that ICANN doesn’t understand EU law? Why should our business be impacted negatively due to ICANN’s inability to listen?” CEO Michele Neylon blogged. “[W]hile this entire farce plays out we are unable to offer new top level domains to our clients.”

But while Blacknight is still on the old 2009 RAA, other European registrars seem to have signed the 2013 version some time ago, and are already selling quite a lot of new gTLD domains.

Germany’s United-Domains, for example, appears to be the third-largest new gTLD registrar, if name server records are anything to go by, with the UK’s 123-Reg also in the top ten.

ICANN is currently operating a public comment period on the waiver request of OVH, a French registrar, which ICANN says it is “prepared to grant”.

That comment period is not scheduled to end until February 27, however, so it seems registrars agitated about foot-dragging have a while to wait yet before they get what they want.

.co.no opens for business after court win

The Norwegian registrant of the domain name co.no has won a court case against .no registry Norid that will allow it to finally launch as a pseudo-ccTLD, according to the company.

A Trondheim court ruled that Norid cannot revoke Elineweb’s registration of co.no for alleged policy violations, but has also ruled that the domain cannot be transferred to a third party.

Therefore, Elineweb plans to start offering third-level .co.no domain names to companies and individuals unable to register the names they want under Norid’s strict policy regime.

The company will open .co.no on a first-come, first-served basis — having already conducted sunrise and landrush periods — tomorrow at 10am Central European Time.

The full list of 70+ accredited registrars can be found here.

DI first covered the lawsuit back in October 2011.

The .co.no namespace is managed by CoDNS, a subsidiary of the registrar EuroDNS that already operates .co.nl as a pseudo-ccTLD, in partnership with Elineweb.

The two namespaces are not official ccTLDs, but they are both recognized by the Public Suffix List, which makes them behave similarly in browsers.

Norid sued over .co.no domains

Kevin Murphy, October 27, 2011, Domain Registries

The registrant of the domain name co.no has sued Norwegian registry Norid over claims that it tried to hold up the launch of .co.no as an alternative namespace.

Elineweb registered the domain back in 2001.

Last October, along with back-end partner CoDNS, the company said it would offer third-level .co.no domains to the public as an alternative to second-level .no names.

The idea was to bring gTLD-style friendliness to the strictly regulated .no ccTLD – where at the time companies were limited to 20 domains each.

Elineweb concluded a sunrise period this February, but subsequently delayed its full launch after Norid started asking it questions about the co.no domain’s ownership.

Norid was evidently not pleased. For the best part of 2011, it’s been conducting an investigation into whether the .co.no project complies with its policies.

In 2009, Norid added co.no and other two-letter domains to a reserved list. Already-registered domains on the list could continue to be used, but could not be transferred between registrants.

Norid has reportedly concluded that co.no has technically changed hands, hence Elineweb’s lawsuit. It wants the court to rule that its proposed service is legal.

“.CO.NO is a common initiative between Elineweb AS the registrant of the domain name and CoDNS BV, the technical back-end provider,” Elineweb said in a press release.

“We never tried to hide the fact that Elineweb is the registrant of the domain name, which is, besides a public information displayed in NORID whois database,” manager Sander Scholten said.

CoDNS, owned by Luxembourg registrar EuroDNS, is already the back-end provider for .co.nl, a pseudo-TLD offered in the Netherlands.

News of the lawsuit comes just a couple of weeks after Norid announced that it would raise the limit on the number of .no domains any given company can register to 100.

Facebok.com had 250 million hits a year

Kevin Murphy, June 22, 2011, Domain Policy

The typo domain name facebok.com was receiving an estimated 250 million visits per year, according to a Facebook attorney.

As I’ve previously reported, the domain was subject to controversy after Facebook won it in a UDRP adjudication and was subsequently sued by the cybersquatter.

“Obviously, it’s Facebook except lacking one O, and attracting a lot of traffic – 250 million was the estimate by our SEO team, 250 million hits a year,” Facebook’s Susan Kawaguchi said during a panel on UDRP here at the ICANN meeting in Singapore.

“Somebody was making a lot of money off of it,” she said.

Facebok.com bounced users to what Kawaguchi described as a “social survey scam” – a site that used Facebook’s look-and-feel to get users to sign up for expensive text message services.

After Facebook won the UDRP in September, a bogus Panama-based shell company sued Facebook and the registrar, EuroDNS, claiming to be the true owner of the domain.

The suit persuaded EuroDNS to put the transfer to Facebook on hold, and ICANN threatened to terminate the registrar’s accreditation as a result.

The situation has since been resolved, and Facebook owns the domain, but EuroDNS may find itself in trouble with the Luxembourg court.

Facebok.com given to Facebook despite “theft” claim

Kevin Murphy, May 30, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN says registrar contract trumps national court. Registrar warns of legal consequences.

The typo domain name facebok.com has finally been returned to Facebook, over eight months after it was subject to a successful cyberquatting complaint.

The domain does not currently resolve, but Whois records show it was transferred to Facebook from its previous registrant, one “Franz Bauer”, last Thursday.

The case was marked by controversy, after ICANN threatened to shut down its sponsoring registrar, EuroDNS, for failing to transfer the domain last within 10 days, as required by UDRP rules.

EuroDNS had resisted the transfer after being named in a lawsuit, in its native Luxembourg, filed by a suspicious Panama shell company going by the name Facebok.com. The plaintiff claimed the domain had been “stolen” by Bauer.

But ICANN told the registrar last week that the Registrar Accreditation Agreement only allows the registrar to defer a transfer if the original registrant – not a third party – sues.

In a letter noting that EuroDNS is “a long-standing and respected member of the ICANN community”, the ICANN compliance department said:

the only kind of documentation that will stop the registrar from implementing a panel decision ordering a transfer is evidence that the registrant/respondent has commenced a lawsuit against the complainant in a jurisdiction to which the complainant has submitted under UDRP Rules. The mere filing of a complaint by a third party does not excuse the registrar from fulfilling its obligations under the policy.

in recognition that there has been a court filing, ICANN must reiterate that failing to comply with the relevant contractual provisions of the RAA subjects EuroDNS to escalated compliance action up to and including termination of the EuroDNS accreditation.

That seems to have been sufficient clarity for EuroDNS to push through the transfer, but the registrar is not happy about the situation, which may leave it in a tricky legal position in Luxembourg.

In a reply to ICANN, EuroDNS CEO Xavier Buck suggested that the story may not be over yet:

the action you demand from EuroDNS will have tremendous consequences for our company in the pending judiciary case.

Consequently, EuroDNS reserves all rights to seek indemnification from ICANN for any damages or loss caused by the action we have been forced to take not to lose our Registrar accreditation.

The lawsuit was filed last September, just days after the UDRP case was decided, but has not yet gone to court.

Under its previous ownership, facebok.com redirected to a series of scam sites that may have proved rather lucrative.

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