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

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.