ICANN to the Rescue
If ICANN has done anything well its protecting the rights of intellectual property owners. A mandatory arbitration process was created through which trademark holders can reclaim domain names created by others that infringe the trademark. It costs a couple thousand dollars to do this, if you have a decent lawyer and the infringing party doesnt dispute the process. Infringing domains are extremely prevalent and its common for the owner not to bother responding to the arbitration process. Two grand is too much, but at least trademark owners have recourse. If your domain is simply stolen, ICANN doesnt care, and youre on your own.The specific proposal he was concerned about is called the OPOC, or Operational Point of Contact. Heres the initial description of the proposal (PDF). Currently Whois has to contain three contacts, the Administrative, Billing and Technical contacts. The distinctions never really amounted to what the designers intended, and most people dont know what it really means. And in order to escape abuse, many people put false information in these fields, which is against the rules and leaves the owner at risk of not receiving important communications. The discussion at the Internet Society indicated that OPOC now no longer includes the address or phone number as public information, just the country and state of the registrant. Put briefly, OPOC replaces them with one contact point and theres an understanding that it might be the hosting service or someone else who can deal with domain issues and can get in touch with the actual owner if necessary. The proposal also makes unrelated suggestions about record keeping and processes for transfers. This would be a good thing, but it still seems to me to be inferior to the arrangements you can make with various registrars to protect your privacy. There are two approaches taken: Theres the GoDaddy approach, in which a proxy service actually becomes the registrant of the domain. E-mail sent to the address does not go to you unless you arrange for it, and theyll also do spam filtering on it. Network Solutions private registration is different. They hide the address and phone numbers and set up a forwarding e-mail account to you where the name in the address changes every 10 days so that spammers cant do much damage with it. But you, and not a proxy service, are the registrant. A shady company is registering domains after others test the names through Whois. Click here to read more. Theres some dispute over whether some or all of these techniques violate ICANN rules, especially the proxy approach, but they seem too entrenched to do anything about. But private registration services were banned on the .us top-level domain. The private registration services will pass on contact information pursuant to a valid subpoena or, I would suppose, the ICANN arbitration process, so it gets in the way but isnt too much of a problem. OPOC doesnt solve other problems, including the ones about which I have been very concerned, such as domain theft and mass-scale name speculation. One reason is the transfer policy that says that transfers will go through unless the owner stops it. Another reason Im leery of OPOC is that it was designed by registrars. There are lots of reputable registrars, but ICANN has created a situation where anyone can become a registrar and often for obviously shady purposes. In fact, Bruce McDonald, the trademark attorney in the panel group I mentioned, said in it:
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One of the panel members at the Internet Society discussion was a trademark attorney who argued against any changes that would make it harder to find the owners of domains in order to bring them to the arbitration process.
- Who are the people who are registering these fictitious Web sites? Weve conducted innumerable private investigations. In nine out of 10 cases, by the use of various investigative techniques, weve observed that the party in interest is almost always the domain name registrar.
- ...rather than striving to become an organization committed to private, bottom-up coordination operating for the benefit of the Internet community as a whole, ICANN has chosen instead to focus its attention exclusively upon that select stakeholder community that feeds its coffersit has become primarily a registry-registrar Guild Manager.