ICANN Digs into Panix.com Domain Theft—but Not Too Deep

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2005-04-04 Print this article Print

Opinion: Notwithstanding ICANN's claims to the contrary, its new transfer rules are partly to blame for the Panix.com incident and others certain to come. But it's not the only party coming out of this smelling bad.

In my continuing series on domain name theft I have observed the problem shift as the technology and standards have shifted. The problem used to be sloppy registrar practices. We still have that, although some registrars have gotten better. However, new domain name transfer rules issued by ICANN last year have greased the wheels for domain slamming, in which domains are fraudulently switched from one registrar to another, probably as part of stealing ownership of the domain itself. We had our first significant slamming incident in January, the theft of the panix.com domain. Panix is the oldest ISP in New York and one of those beloved companies that can scare up some sympathy fast, and so it happened in this case. An uproar ensued, and Panix got its name back relatively quickly.

But what about domains with smaller fan bases? When theres no public outrage to scare ICANN and the registrars, will you get your domain back quickly? Will you get it at all? The developing news on the matter is not encouraging.

ICANN told me that it does not know of any big problem with domain slamming and asked me for examples. If youve had a problem with a domain being stolen, please contact me about it and I will see to it that senior ICANN officials get the information.

ICANN investigated the Panix incident by requesting an account of what happened from the two registrars involved, Melbourne IT and Dotster. Click here to read the letter from ICANN reviewing the matter and links to the other correspondence.

Almost everyone comes out looking bad from this, and we dont even know who all the parties are. The domain slammer in this case acquired the domain through a Melbourne IT reseller. ICANN is not willing to disclose who the reseller is, stating that it does not have a relationship with that reseller, and neither Melbourne IT nor Dotster replied to my inquiries. Incidentally, if youre interested, nobodys saying who the actual domain thief was, but the whois data for the new panix.com owner pointed to a "vanessa Miranda" of Las Vegas.

Next page: ICANN responds.

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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