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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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US Feds seize 33 Iranian news site domains

Kevin Murphy, June 23, 2021, Domain Policy

The US government said it has seized control of 33 domain names previously belonging to an Iranian TV news station that the US considers linked to terrorism.

The Department of Justice said the domains had been registered by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union, which it said is controlled by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, designated as a terrorist organization.

Among the domains is presstv.com, used by Press TV, an Iranian state-owned station that broadcasts news in English and French.

The DoJ said the sites were “disguised as news organizations or media outlets” and “targeted the United States with disinformation campaigns and malign influence operations”.

All of the seized names reportedly use .com, .net and .tv domains, which are all operated by Verisign.

The DoJ obtained a court order to grab the names.

As an overseas registrar was used to register the names, it appears the court order instructed Verisign, based in the US, to hand them over.

The domains now direct to a US government placeholder informing visitors of the seizure. Some of the affected web sites have reportedly started using new domains.

Under US law, “Specially Designated Nationals” listed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control are forbidden from obtaining services from US companies without a special license.

The DoJ said it has seized an additional three domains owned by Kata’ib Hizballah (Kataib Hezbollah), an Iraqi militia backed by Iran.

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Domain firms plan “Trusted Notifier” takedown rules

Kevin Murphy, June 23, 2021, Domain Policy

Domain name registries and registrars are working on a joint framework that could speed up the process of taking down domain names being used for behavior such as movie piracy.

Discussed last week at the ICANN 71 public meeting, the Framework on Trusted Notifiers is a joint effort of the Registrar Stakeholder Group and Registries Stakeholder Group — together the Contracted Parties House — and is in the early stages of discussion.

Trusted Notifiers are third parties who often need domain names taken down due to activity such as copyright infringement or the sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, and are considered trustworthy enough not to overreach and spam the CPH with spurious, cumbersome, overly vague complaints.

It’s not a new concept. Registries in the gTLD space, such as Donuts and Radix, have had relationships with the Motion Picture Association for over five years.

ccTLD operator Nominet has a similar relationship with UK regulators, acting on behalf of Big Copyright and Big Pharma, taking down thousands of .uk domains every year.

The joint RrSG-RySG effort doesn’t appear to have any published draft framework yet, and the discussions appear to be being held privately, but members said last week that it is expected to describe a set of “common expectations or common understandings”, establishing what a Trusted Notifier is and what kind of cooperation they can expect from domain firms.

It’s one of several things the industry is working on to address complaints about so-called “DNS Abuse”, which could lead to government regulations or further delays to the new gTLD program.

It obviously veers into content policing, which ICANN has disavowed. But it’s not an ICANN policy effort. Whatever framework emerges, it’s expected to be non-contractual and voluntary.

Trusted Notifier relationships would be bilateral, between registry and notifier, with no ICANN oversight.

Such deals are not without controversy, however. Notably, free speech advocates at the Electronic Frontier Foundation have been complaining about Trusted Notifier for years, calling it “content policing by the back door” and most recently using it as an argument against Ethos Capital’s acquisition of Donuts.

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Did Harry and Meghan squat the Queen? [clickbait]

Kevin Murphy, June 23, 2021, Gossip

With tabloid rags everywhere continuing to clamor for any scrap of information that might drive a rift between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Queen Elizabeth II, perhaps it was inevitable that domain names would one day enter the fray.

And now they have, with the registrations of lilibetdiana.com and lilidiana.com making headlines this week.

Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, Harry and Meghan’s second child and first daughter, was born at 1940 UTC on June 4.

“Diana” is of course a tribute to the Duke’s late mother, the Princess of Wales, while “Lilibet” is a reference to the Queen’s childhood nickname and the pet name by which her recently deceased husband, Phillip, addressed her.

The choice of name has been seen partly as an effort to renovate bridges that were charred when the Sussexes decoupled themselves from the taxpayer’s teat, abandoned royal duties, and buggered off to America to talk smack about their family on Oprah.

Reports quickly emerged that the choice of name might have been made without first seeking the Queen’s permission — reports that have been strenuously denied, backed by a threat of legal action.

But Whois records, as mostly useless as they are nowadays, have now stepped in to complicate matters.

According to Whois, lilibetdiana.com was registered just a few hours prior to the birth, June 4, presumably while the Duchess was in labor. But lilidiana.com was registered a few days earlier, on May 31. Both were registered via GoDaddy.

The Sussexes spokespeople tole The Telegraph that the names were merely two among many that were registered defensively in advance of the birth, before the couple had committed to a name:

Of course, as is often customary with public figures, a significant number of domains of any potential names that were considered were purchased by their team to protect against the exploitation of the name once it was later chosen and publicly shared.

Interestingly, lilibetdiana.uk and lilibetdiana.co.uk, which one might imagine would be on the defensive reg checklist, were only registered after the announcement of her birth on June 6, and via a different registrar, suggesting third-party ownership.

Three questions emerge from the Whois-related revelations:

First, do the records support the assertion by anonymous Palace sources that the Queen was not consulted in advance, or the contrary claim from the Sussexes?

Two, does anyone actually really care? I lost interest several paragraphs ago.

And C), am I really about to hit “Publish” on this article?

If you’re reading this, I guess I did. I’m sorry. I’m off to take a long, hot shower, to wash away the shame.

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There’s really only one question about the return to face-to-face ICANN meetings

Kevin Murphy, June 22, 2021, Domain Policy

The struggles of remote working during unsociable hours and the possibility of a return to partially in-person meetings for Seattle in October were the subject of lots of well-deserved debate at the virtual ICANN 71 public meeting last week, but in reality I think there’s only one question that matters.

The question is posed by Americans to everyone else, and it goes like this: “You guys cool if we go ahead without you?”

Sure, lots of interesting and important questions were raised last week, particularly during the hour-long final session.

If ICANN decides to require proof of vaccination to attend in person, will it accept all brands of vaccine, or will it do a Bruce Springsteen and exclude those who have received the AstraZeneca jab, which is not currently approved in the US?

Is it a problem for overseas travelers that the number of vaccinated Americans currently appears to be plateauing, as ludicrous political divisions see primarily “red state” folks refuse to take their medicine?

What about attendees working for companies that have eliminated their travel budget for the rest of the year?

What if there’s a new flavor of Covid, worse than the current delta variant, in play in October? What if travel corridors into the US are still closed when ICANN 72 comes around? What if attendees have to self-isolate for weeks in expensive hotels upon their return to their home countries? Has ICANN done any research into this?

These are some of the questions that have been raised, and while they’re all very interesting I can’t help but feel that they’re completely irrelevant in the context of an ICANN meeting.

ICANN doesn’t know what the pandemic state of play internationally is going to be four months from now. Nobody does. Not the epidemiologists, not the healthcare leaders, not the governments.

ICANN isn’t a government. It isn’t the United Nations. It’s a technical and policy coordination body that sometimes appears to have a sense of its own importance as inflated as its budget. Its powers to assure an internationally diverse community can gather in literally the same room in October are close to non-existent.

But it’s a pretty safe bet that domestic travel in the US will still be permitted in October (did it ever even really stop?) and therefore it’s a pretty safe bet that community members based in America will be able to bump elbows in Seattle.

The only question remaining therefore is: how much of the rest of the world is ICANN willing to risk excluding to make that happen?

It’s a question its board of directors will answer in July. I don’t envy them the responsibility.

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