Tag Archives: cybersquatting

Why everyone needs to think big about domain names

Sydney gTLD plain logoProtecting your name online has never been more important.

This is an age where Twitter can damage corporate reputations and an unregistered domain name can severely shake public confidence.

As the global regulator for web addresses  releases hundreds of new top-level domains, protecting your own domain name has become even more crucial.

While there are protections  to stop copyright infringement on domain registrations, brands still need to proactively protect their online reputation – particularly from cyber squatters.

As Sharon Williams, Taurus Marketing CEO, explains: “If you don’t have control of your own name someone else can.”

Many big names have learnt this the hard way. When it comes to domain names, if you snooze – you lose.

Exhibit A: Donald Trump

In 2014, the U.S. District in Brooklyn awarded Donald Trump $32,000 in damages after J. Taikwok Yung, trading as Web-adviso, registered four domains associated with his trademark.

Yung’s websites, www.trumpmumbai.com, www.trumpindia.com, www.trumpbeijing.com and www.trumpabudhabi.com, used to purportedly parody the real estate mogul, were also ordered to be handed back to Trump.

In this case, Trump’s victory was a good – but not great – outcome. Yung registered his Trump websites in 2007, but it took six years for the situation to be resolved. Who knows how many jokes were had at Trump’s expense in that time? 

Exhibit B: Verizon

In 2008, Verizon Communications faced a very serious cyber squatting problem when not one – not four – but 663 domain names were listed by registration company OnlineNIC.

Verizon successfully argued that the 663 domain names had been deliberately chosen to be confused with legitimate Verizon names and was awarded $33.15 million ($50,000 per domain name) in damages.

Whether they received any of that however is another question. OnlineNIC never appeared in court. 

Exhibit C: Madonna and Sting

Madonna was one of the first big name celebrities to learn the importance of protecting your domain name. Back in 2000, www.madonna.com was used as a porn website. Madonna argued that the site damaged her personal brand and reputation, and it took a long (and arguably embarrassing) legal battle for Madonna to finally obtain the transfer of the web address.

Sting had similar problems. That same year, he lost his lawsuit to reclaim www.sting.com because he couldn’t prove the owner had purchased it in ‘bad faith’. But eventually it appears that Sting has reclaimed the domain name, with the site now promoting Sting’s music and tours.

The moral of the story

It doesn’t matter if you’re a mining giant, real estate magnate or pop star – domain names matter.

Anyone can be a victim of cyber squatting and pay the price: some with their reputation, others with lengthy legal battles and a drop in earnings.

Now is the best time to be proactive. What happens online affects business offline.

What can you do about it?

According to Ms Williams, brands and businesses need to be extra vigilant about online risks like cyber squatting to protect their name and reputation.

This means:

1. Getting your ship in order 

“It’s a great idea to make sure all your intellectual property is bedded down,” says Ms Williams. “Aim to own or take control to own all the domain names that you could want – in and out of country, all the extensions (eg .net and .com.au) – so that it is recognised you are serious about your brand.”

2. Defensive registering 

“Own all your domain names and the associated brand and product names. Protecting your brand online is about building online reputational fat in the market, so that people know and understand who you are and what you stand for.”

3. Risk mitigation 

“Business is hard enough, so don’t let yourself be put in the position of not being in control of your domain and your brand names.”

This article from the .SYDNEY website was sourced with permission by ARI Registry Services from:


Bad Faith in Cyberspace: Grounding Domain Name Theory in Trademark, Property, and Restitution by Jacqueline D. Lipton, Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Abstract: The year 2009 marks the tenth anniversary of domain name regulation under the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) and the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). Adopted to combat cybersquatting, these rules left a confused picture of domain name theory in their wake. Early cybersquatters registered Internet domain names corresponding with other’s trademarks to sell them for a profit. However, this practice was quickly and easily contained. New practices arose in domain name markets, not initially contemplated by the drafters of the ACPA and the UDRP. One example is clickfarming – using domain names to generate revenues from click-on advertisements.

To avoid trademark liability, most clickfarmers and cybersquatters utilize personal names, geographic and cultural indicators, and generic terms as domain names. The application of current regulations to these practices is unclear, largely because of the lack of a coherent policy basis for domain name regulation.

This article develops a new model for domain name regulation. It incorporates trademark policy within a broader theoretical framework incorporating aspects of restitution and property theory. The author suggests that a broader theoretical approach to domain name regulation would facilitate the development of more coherent domain name rules in the future. This discussion is particularly timely in light of the forthcoming implementation of a new generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) application process.

This article by Jacqueline D. Lipton is available for download in full from:

ICA Responds to ICANN CEO’s Davos Remarks on “Hogging Names” and “Cybersquatting” by Philip Corwin, Internet Commerce Association

Internet Commerce Association logoDuring the recent World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, ICANN CEO engaged in an interview in which he touted the purported benefits of the new gTLD program. Unfortunately, in the course of those remarks he appeared to accuse domain portfolio owners of “hogging names” as well as equate them with “cybersquatters”.

Many ICA members felt that these remarks were gratuitously negative and displayed a disturbing lack of understanding of the domain monetization and secondary sales marketplace and of certain practices engaged in by new gTLDs, especially the premium pricing of thousands of desirable domains. The remarks also failed to acknowledge the substantial contributions that domain portfolio owners and managers make to ICANN’s financial well-being and to its overall community and processes.

Consequently, the ICA Board authorized the drafting and transmittal of a letter to CEO Chehade responding to his remarks. The letter follows —


February 4, 2015

Mr. Fadi Chehade

President and CEO

Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers

12025 Waterfront Drive, Suite 300

Los Angeles, CA 90094-2536


Dear Mr. Chehade:

I am writing on behalf of the members of the Internet Commerce Association (ICA) in regard to remarks that you recently made in a video interview while attending the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. In this interview, while discussing the new gTLD program, you stated:

The reality is, the more there are names, the less people will actually be hogging names in order to charge a lot for them. Because if somebody took your name on dot-x, you can go get another name on dot-y now.” and “We went from twenty-something top-level domains … to hundreds now… We think it will actually reduce cybersquatting eventually.” (Emphasis added)

The ICA objects to your statement as it expresses a disdainful view towards the legitimate activity of domain investing, a hostile view of domain investors who are significant ICANN stakeholders who are deeply affected by its policies, a lack of awareness of the market realities of domains as an asset class, and an unwarranted promotion of new gTLD domains over those at legacy gTLDs.

The Internet Commerce Association ICA) was established in 2006 to represent the interests of professional domain investors and developers. We have been a member of ICANN’s Business Constituency (BC) since 2007, and our Counsel Philip Corwin was just elected to represent the BC on ICANN’s GNSO Council. Mr. Corwin is also a member of the Internet Committee of the International Trademark Association (INTA) and its Internet Governance Subcommittee.

As has been reported in the press, many domain investors, including ICA members, took considerable offense at your remarks and viewed them as disrespectful and indicating a disturbing misunderstanding of domain name industry practices, as well as a lack of appreciation for the role that our industry plays in supporting ICANN and the new gTLD program.

ICA estimates that our members own and/or manage approximately ten percent of all registered domains. As domain registrants are the “taxpayers” of the domain name system, and the original source of all monies that are up-streamed to ICANN by registrars and registries, and as those funds constitute the major financial underpinnings of ICANN operations, that means that our members support about ten percent of ICANN’s infrastructure and budget. Thus, for example, of the 197 trips that you reported taking during calendar year 2014, ICA members funded about 20.

ICA members have been major investors in domains offered at new gTLDs, and have provided consulting services and investment funds to some new gTLDs. Absent their substantial financial commitment to new gTLD domains, the program’s total registrations would have been substantially lower than those recorded to date, and would have fallen even further below ICANN’s own projections. ICANN had to reduce its FY15 budget by $10 million due to the unanticipated shortfall in new gTLD registrations, but the cut could have been substantially larger absent significant domain registrations by professional registrants.

Your statement that “if somebody took your name on dot-x, you can go get another name on dot-y now” is true to a point, so long as one does not factor in affordability. You mischaracterize the price advantages of new gTLDs, ignoring that premium-priced registrations and premium-priced renewals are the norm among new gTLD registries.  New gTLD registry operators are free to charge whatever they think the market will bear and they are not “hogs” for doing so, especially as the new gTLD program was intended to encourage a variety of registry business models.

If ICANN’s objective in launching the new gTLD program was to create a name space where “hogging names” is not possible and where those who control the domain names are not able to “charge a lot for them”, it has failed.  In the new gTLD program that ICANN created and whose rollout you have overseen, new gTLD registries play the role that domain investors have exercised in the legacy gTLD extensions, but with tremendously greater market power.  Each new gTLD registry has a monopoly over its name space and solely determines the prices at which its domains can be purchased.  Nearly all new gTLD registries are reserving portfolios of thousands of desirable domains that are only available at premium prices.

In the new gTLD space registration and renewal prices are typically much higher than in the legacy extensions. Some new gTLDs set a minimum registration price of thousands of dollars per domain.  Most other new gTLD registries offer affordable minimum registration pricing yet have set premium prices on thousands of their most desirable domains – the more desirable the domain, the higher its price.  Registration prices for certain desirable domains in the new gTLDs are priced at thousands, tens of thousands, and sometimes even in excess of one hundred thousand dollars for the rights to a single domain.  For example, Wine.club was recently offered for public auction by the .Club registry and the winning bid was $140,000.  Certain .forsale domains were released with registration and renewal pricing of tens of thousands of dollars per domain per year, producing a present value of the cost of ownership for a single domain approaching one million dollars.

The members of the ICA fail to see the distinction between a domain investor offering a .com domain for market value, and the .Club registry offering a .club domain for market value or the .forsale registry offering a .forsale domain for what the registry believes to be market value.  In all these extensions, market realities mean that when domains have substantial inherent value it can lead to the domain owner or the registry being able to “charge a lot for them.”  Indeed, some new gTLD registries have entered into bidding wars that raised tens of millions of dollars for ICANN specifically for the right to be able to “charge a lot” for domains in the new gTLD extensions involved in contention sets.

In contrast, in the original extensions including .com, registration and renewal prices are typically between $8-$10 per year. Renewal rates on .com domains are held fixed under the current registry contract with Verisign as a result of a U.S. government approval condition. Consequently, there is a two decade history of .com price discovery where the market has determined that meaningful, intuitive domains have substantial inherent commercial value.  No participant in the legacy name spaces wields market power. A domain buyer in the legacy extensions enjoys the benefit of thousands of domain owners competing with each other to offer the most desirable domains at the most compelling prices.

Meaningful, intuitive domains are inherently valuable, whether in .com and other legacy extensions or in the new gTLDs. The “strings’ for which applications were submitted and the substantial prices paid in contention set auctions, whether private or ICANN-run, are further evidence of perceived value. The absence of pricing controls in new gTLDs has in fact shifted pricing discretion away from portfolio registrants and toward registry operators. In .com and other legacy gTLDs with low annual registration fees, domain investors price domains they offer for resale based upon their perceived market value.  In the new gTLD program, the registries are pricing annual domain registration based upon on their perception of market value. In both instances, the marketplace is working.

The maintenance of a large domain portfolio does not make any organization or individual a “hog.” If it did then just about every major ICANN-accredited registrar would fall within that category, as they warehouse tens of millions of domains collectively and often join with our members in creating a liquid and dynamic secondary domain marketplace. Whether domains are “dark”, “parked”, developed, or resold on the secondary market at prices that buyers and sellers find mutually acceptable, all of these practices are legal and ethical so long as conducted in conformity with relevant law and policy.

Domain investors are not “hogs” and they most certainly are not deliberate trademark infringers, or “cybersquatters”. It is not clear what you intended by your reference to “cybersquatting”, though it is concerning that you used this pejorative term just after making disparaging remarks about domain investors.  “Cybersquatting” is generally equated to engagement in intentional trademark infringement.

If you intended to apply the term “cybersquatting” to the domain industry practice of parking a portfolio of domain names, such use would be wholly inaccurate.  Many domains held in portfolios are “parked” and monetized through relevant ad links much as Google and other search engines monetize search results (in fact, Google is a major provider of such ad services to domain investors). A June 2008 ICANN Policy Issues Brief on domain name monetization reported:

Pay-per-click (PPC) is when someone, a registrant, registers a domain name that might attract a large number of Internet users to it. The registrant then hosts revenue generating content or links to other websites at the domain name, which typically feature advertisements for products or services related to the name. Each time a user visits the website and clicks on the one of the links or advertisements, it creates revenue for the registrant…Domain parking is a practice used by registrars, individual registrants and Internet advertising publishers to monetize type-in traffic…The practices of using parking and PPC to monetize domain names have not to date generated the same concerns as tasting. (Emphasis added)

ICA subsequently supported actions proposed by the GNSO to curb abusive domain name tasting, a practice then engaged in primarily by registrars. That proposal was adopted and has resulted in the effective termination of abusive domain tasting.

While individual registry operators are free to determine whether domain parking is permitted at their registries, and while their pricing policies also influence the economics of domain monetization, ICANN heeded ICA comments that  “New AG language that equates parked domains with negative social consequences and costs is unjustified, inappropriate, and at odds with prior ICANN findings and policy, proposed URS evaluation criteria, and WIPO guidance to UDRP examiners.” As a result, ICANN deleted proposed provisions from the final Applicant Guidebook (AG) that would have established a general policy against domain parking at all new gTLDs.

ICA has respected trademark rights from its earliest days, while also advocating for reasonable balance between the rights of trademark owners and domain registrants. Shortly after its formation, ICA adopted a Code of Conduct that establishes best practices for the industry, including a strong stance against intentional trademark infringement (cybersquatting):

Protection of Intellectual Property Rights. A registrant shall follow accepted trademark law and respect the brands and trademarks of others. Members will not intentionally and in bad faith register and use a domain name that is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark. Registrants shall respond promptly to legitimate disputes relating to alleged infringement of intellectual property rights.

Our members pride themselves on maintaining clean, noninfringing portfolios and on having an excellent record of success in UDRP or trademark litigation actions that might be brought against them by overzealous trademark owners. The World Intellectual Property Organization’s “WIPO Overview of WIPO Panel Views on Selected UDRP Questions, Second Edition (“WIPO Overview 2.0“)” is quite clear in stating that domain portfolio monetization does not automatically equate to trademark infringement, stating:

2.6 Do parking and landing pages or pay-per-click links generate rights or legitimate interests in the disputed domain name?

Panels have generally recognized that use of a domain name to post parking and landing pages or PPC links may be permissible in some circumstances, but would not of itself confer rights or legitimate interests arising from a “bona fide offering of goods or services” [see also paragraph 3.8 below] or from “legitimate noncommercial or fair use” of the domain name, especially where resulting in a connection to goods or services competitive with those of the rights holder. As an example of such permissible use, where domain names consisting of dictionary or common words or phrases support posted PPC links genuinely related to the generic meaning of the domain name at issue, this may be permissible and indeed consistent with recognized sources of rights or legitimate interests under the UDRP, provided there is no capitalization on trademark value (a result that PPC page operators can achieve by suppressing PPC advertising related to the trademark value of the word or phrase). By contrast, where such links are based on trademark value, UDRP panels have tended to consider such practices generally as unfair use resulting in misleading diversion. (Emphasis added)

ICA members are quite aware of this viewpoint relating to UDRP enforcement and avoid ad links that might be viewed as based upon “trademark value”. Likewise, national cybersquatting statutes recognize the non-infringing nature of legitimate domain monetization methodologies employed by professional portfolio owners.

Respect for trademark law is of course directly tied to consumer protection. In this regard, we are aware that many in the trademark community are quite concerned that, while their names are available at new gTLDs for sunrise registration, the prices being asked by registry operators are often very high. Consumer protection is also at stake in the continuing debate over whether Public Interest Commitments (PICs) provide sufficient protection to the public against scams and other potentially abusive practices at new gTLDs – both the GAC and various ICANN constituencies have expressed strong skepticism on this point, especially in regard to strings associated with regulated industries and professions. ICANN collected about one-third of a billion dollars in first round new gTLD application fees, and has taken in more than $30 million more from “last resort” contention set auctions, yet the New gTLD Program Committee has yet to establish a policy that effectively responds to these consumer protection concerns.

On behalf of ICA members, I hope that this letter makes you more aware of the high standards maintained by professional domain investors, and that both domain investors in legacy extensions and new gTLD operators price their domains subject to the same marketplace laws of supply and demand.  We hope that in the future you will refrain from referring to domain portfolio owners as “hogging” domains or, worse, equate participants in our industry with those who engage in deliberate “cybersquatting” or other practices that are adverse to the public interest.

For the sake of more broadly informing the general public and ICANN community of the corrective facts cited in this letter, we would ask that it and any response you may care to provide be posted at ICANN’s correspondence page.


Jeremiah Johnston, President
Internet Commerce Association

Cc:      Steve Crocker, Board Chairman
Bruce Tonkin, Board Vice-Chairman

This article by Philip Corwin from the Internet Commerce Association was sourced with permission from:

Jurisdictional Limits of in rem Proceedings Against Domain Names by Michael Xun Liu, University of Michigan Law School

Abstract: In 1999, Congress passed the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) to combat “cybersquatters” who profited by registering domain names that were confusingly similar to established trademarks. Under the ACPA, trademark owners have a specific cause of action against domain name registrants accused of cybersquatting. Moreover, the law gives U.S. courts in rem jurisdiction over trademark infringing domain names registered to parties that are not subject to personal jurisdiction.

Over the past decade, proceeding in rem against domain names has proven to be an effective strategy for trademark owners. While many companies have used the ACPA against cybersquatters, others have relied on the in rem provision to secure domain names registered to foreign companies that happen to use a similar mark for their goods or services. From a policy perspective, this latter practice is troubling because it allows district courts to determine whether foreign companies can use their marks as domain names, even if these companies lack minimum contacts with the court’s forum. To prevent such overreach, courts should limit the ACPA’s in rem jurisdiction to domain names that were registered in a bad faith attempt to profit from another’s trademark.

This article can be downloaded in full from:

ICA on the Record at ICANN Singapore by Philip Corwin, Internet Commerce Association

Internet Commerce Association logoWe have finally had a chance to review the transcript of the Public Forum with the ICANN Board held on March 27th in Singapore. ICA generally takes advantage of those opportunities for interaction to acquaint the Board with matters of concern to the domain investment community.

Two issues were addressed in our Singapore statement. The first was the attempt by UN-affiliated International Governmental Organizations (IGOs), as well as some International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs), to block their acronyms from being available at any new gTLD – a position that could eventually threaten some valuable domains at incumbent gTLDs. Our remarks reiterated support for the unanimously adopted GNSO Council resolution on this matter. Subsequent to the Singapore meeting we filed a comment letter that told ICANN it was time to respond to these unreasonable demands with a firm and responding “No”.

The second matter was cybersquatting at new gTLDs. From its inception ICA’s Code of Conduct has taken a strong stand against intentional trademark infringement. Several domain industry bloggers have noted clearly infringing activity going on at new gTLDs. And one law firm reported in February in regard to the just-launched .Bike gTLD:

[O]f the 20 brands selected for the study, as of February 10, 2014, all 20 were registered as domain names in .BIKE. However, only four of the 20 brands have clearly been registered by the actual brand owner. According to WHOIS data, another three are being held by the registry Donuts, and it is unclear for what purpose—whether as a premium name, as part of a blocking program, or otherwise. The other 13 are all being held by third parties who seemingly have no relation to the brand owner, quite possibly cybersquatters. While the sample size of this study is small and not necessarily statistically significant, it supports the supposition that most bicycle brands either were not aware of the .BIKE launch or did not take protective steps to prevent potential cybersquatting once the launch occurred.

Just after that study was issued I received an unsolicited e-mail from an individual in India offering many new gTLD domains for sale – including formula.bike, a name associated with an Italian manufacturer of specialty racing bike parts.

We don’t yet know the extent of intentional cybersquatting at new gTLDs and whether it is significant, and not every generic word registered at a particular new gTLD is going to meet the dual UDRP/URS standard of bad faith registration and use. We also don’t know if any of these cybersquatted domains is receiving any substantial traffic and thereby generating any type of significant income to the registrant (doubtful); or whether any are being for bad purposes beyond infringement.

What we do know is that such activities are not just stupid because they invite legal action, but that they are wrong. And we know that when UDRP reform is initiated in 2015 certain trademark interests may point to these activities as evidence that allegedly supports changes that would reduce the due process rights of legitimate domain registrants. Ditto for proposed changes to national laws such as the U.S. Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA).

That’s why it’s important for ICA to get on the record reiterating our condemnation of such infringement and asking what ICANN is doing to monitor and analyze the situation. When we engage in that UDRP review discussion we want no questions raised about the commitment of ICA and its members to respecting trademark law — so that we can better press the point that domain rights and trademark rights should be equitably balanced.

The transcript follows–




BILL GRAHAM: Thank you. Next. Mr. Corwin


PHILIP CORWIN: Good afternoon. Philip Corwin speaking in my capacity as counsel to

the domain name investors and developers of the Internet Commerce

Association and briefly addressing two issues related to the new TLD

program. The first is the ongoing discussion of the protections for

acronyms of IGOs and INGOs at new TLDs. ICA is strongly in support of

the resolution adopted unanimously by the GNSO council on this issue.

We think it’s important at a time when we’re ‐‐ a multistakeholder

model is being watched by the world — for that resolution to be put into

effect and also to address concerns about the role of governments in a

post‐NTIA environment. I would note that many short acronyms are

extremely valuable domain names. They can be used in a totally noninfringing

fashion and that it’s extremely critical to my members that

there being a meaningful appeals process which is both perceived and

actually provides a fair treatment of both parties.


Turning to the second issue, it’s too early to make a judgment but we

have noticed from various analyses and reports that there is

unfortunately some intentional cybersquatting going on at new TLDs.

ICAs Code of Conduct since its inception has strongly condemned that.

We’re monitoring this situation. We’re also monitoring the use of the

URS and so far it does seem to be being used as a narrow supplement to

the UDRP, and we certainly hope that ICANN staff is giving full attention

to this issue because it’s important to the perception of the program

and setting up the environment for the discussion of UDRP reform

which will start next year. Thank you very much.


BILL GRAHAM: Thank you. We’ll have a brief presentation on the NGO/INGO names at

the beginning of the next session.

This article by Philip Corwin from the Internet Commerce Association was sourced with permission from:

The Prevention of Cybersquatting in Europe: Diverging Approaches and Prospects for Harmonization by Ventsislav Pantov [MIPLC Master Thesis Series]

Social Science Research Network logoAbstract: This thesis examines the phenomenon of cybersquatting, its nature and development and the means employed against it in the European continent.

The analysis shows that there is a myriad of approaches in combating cybersquatting. First, many systems of domain name dispute resolution exist, both private and official. Most of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) systems that have been adopted largely rest on the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) which is already established and has gained a track record. Some jurisdictions have adopted the UDRP completely in spite of its narrow scope. Others have preferred to extend the range of distinguishing signs protected and have adopted extended versions of UDRP. A third group of countries has developed their own sui generis ADRs that are unconnected to the UDRP. The most distinctive characteristic of all ADR examples analyzed is the availability of twofold procedure due to their “open ended” nature. Meanwhile, some jurisdictions have adopted classic arbitration procedures for their domain name disputes which result in final judgments with res judicata effect.

As regards substantive grounds of claim there is also a large variety of approaches. Notably, most of the European countries prefer to extract the bases of anticybersquatting claims from general laws regarding trademarks, unfair completion, passing off, personal and trade name protection. This paper demonstrates that in some cases the traditional legal measures turn out to be insufficient for the challenges of the Internet, which leads to unsatisfactory jurisprudential solutions. In this regard, the cybersquatting activities taking the shape of blocking registrations cause problems for the courts either in establishing “use in commerce” in the trademark context, or misrepresentation in the circumstances of a passing off action. Another tension is observed in the field of clashes between competing rights such as trademarks and personal and trade names, which due to the lack of clear rules results in uncertainty.

Few jurisdictions (e.g. Belgium, Finland, France and Denmark) considered the issue significant enough to enact tailor-made anticybersquatting legislation. The enactment of an anticybersquatting act solves to a great extent the problems caused by the attempts to adapt traditional legal principles, without prejudice to their subsidiary application. Thus, the available examples of special anticybersquatting legislation originating from Belgium and Finland combined with some solutions borrowed from the U.S. Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act form the basis of a proposal for enactment of an instrument harmonizing anticybersquatting law in Europe. This process is also conceivable, given the fact that the .eu domain names related disputes are already uniformly managed on an EU level by a Commission Regulation, which also provides some useful examples. Finally, some potential obstacles on the way of harmonization as well as some arguments against it are also considered.

This abstract was sourced, and the article is available to download in full, from:

ICANN: Study on Whois Privacy & Proxy Service Abuse

ICANN logoPurpose (Brief): This study, conducted by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in the United Kingdom, analyzes gTLD domain names to measure whether the percentage of privacy/proxy use among domains engaged in illegal or harmful Internet activities is significantly greater than among domain names used for lawful Internet activities. Furthermore, this study compares these privacy/proxy percentages to other methods used to obscure identity – notably, Whois phone numbers that are invalid.

These findings will help the community understand the role that privacy and proxy service abuse plays in obscuring the identities of parties engaged in illegal or harmful activities, including phishing, cybersquatting, hosting child abuse sexual images, advanced fee fraud, online sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals, and more.

Current Status: This Public Comment solicitation represents an opportunity for the community to consider the study results detailed in this report, provide feedback and request further clarifications. In parallel, ICANN and NPL will conduct Webinars to facilitate feedback by summarizing this study’s purpose, methodology, key findings, and conclusions.

Next Steps: NPL will consider all comments submitted to this Public Comment forum during the comment period, incorporate any needed clarifications, and then publish a final version of this Whois Privacy and Proxy Service Abuse study report. It is expected that this report will inform future GNSO policy development in relation to the Whois system.

Detailed Information
Section I: Description, Explanation, and Purpose:

At the request of the GNSO Council, ICANN engaged the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in the United Kingdom to test the hypothesis that “A significant percentage of the domain names used to conduct illegal or harmful Internet activities are registered via privacy or proxy services to obscure the perpetrator’s identity.

To provide empirical data of use to Whois policy-making, NPL set out to measure whether the percentage of privacy/proxy use among domains engaged in various kinds of illegal or harmful Internet activities is greater than among domain names used for lawful Internet activities. Additionally, because privacy/proxy policy changes could prompt malicious registrants to elude contact in other ways, NPL also measured other methods used to obscure perpetrator identity – notably, invalid Whois phone numbers.

This study, led by Dr. Richard Clayton of the University of Cambridge, gathered large representative samples of domain names implicated in various illegal or harmful online activities, ranging from unsolicited phishing, typosquatting, and malware distribution to hosting child abuse sexual images, advanced fee fraud (also known as “419 scams”), and online sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals. Key technical inputs were also provided by Professor Tyler Moore of Southern Methodist University and Dr Nicolas Christin of Carnegie Mellon University.

By examining sampled incidents and Whois data associated with domain names across the top five gTLDs – .biz, .com, .info, .net and .org – this study measured how often privacy or proxy services were abused by perpetrators (alleged and confirmed). Additionally, these results were compared to privacy/proxy use among domains engaged in lawful and harmless activities (e.g., banks and legal pharmacies), chosen to mirror studied illegal/harmful activities. Finally, researchers attempted to call registrants for a subset of these domain names not using privacy or proxy services, to determine whether they could in fact be contacted with only Whois data.

This draft report summarizes project activities, methodology, sampled data and findings, including statistical analysis of differences observed by the research team. These study findings will help the community understand the role that privacy and proxy service abuse plays in obscuring the identities of parties engaged in illegal or harmful Internet activities.

The GNSO Council is now seeking community review and feedback on the draft report. The purpose of this Public Comment period is to ensure that study results have been communicated clearly and to solicit feedback on desired clarifications (if any).

Section II: Background:

As part of its effort to develop a comprehensive understanding of the gTLD Whois system, the GNSO Council expressed an interest in conducting an in-depth study of privacy and proxy service abuse among gTLD domain names registrants engaged in illegal or harmful Internet activities. At the GNSO’s request, ICANN issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) in May 2010 describing a study to methodically analyze a representative sample of gTLD domains associated with a variety of illegal or harmful Internet activities. By comparing how often these “bad actors” use privacy/proxy services with overall privacy/proxy use, the GNSO hoped to prove or disprove its hypothesis that a significant percentage of the domain names used to conduct illegal or harmful Internet activities are registered via privacy or proxy services in order to obscure the perpetrator’s identity.

After considering RFP responses received from researchers willing to undertake this Privacy/Proxy Abuse study, as well as questions raised by both researchers and reviewers, the GNSO Council decided to fund a somewhat revised study proposed by NPL. Specifically, NPL proposed studying many but not all of the illegal/harmful activities enumerated by the RFP, using samples obtained largely from “live feeds” and authoritative sources. NPL declined to study DoS attacks, DNS poisoning, IP theft, and on-line stalking using incidents submitted by victims, questioning their relevance and/or the ability to gather reliably representative samples.

In April 2011, this revised study was approved by the GNSO Council and awarded to NPL. When initiating this study, the GNSO Council asked that the study report expressly note that this study’s purpose is only to analyze “bad actors”. Notwithstanding the legal or harmless domain names studied here for comparison purposes, many legitimate privacy/proxy customers are unaccounted for within the scope of this study. This study does not attempt to measure privacy/proxy use or Whois accuracy across all gTLDs, as did broader studies such as that performed by NORC at the University of Chicago in 2010.

The findings from this study are intended to provide empirical data needed to understand the role that privacy and proxy service abuse plays in obscuring the identities of parties engaged in illegal or harmful activities. This empirical data will create a baseline for evaluating potential Whois and Privacy/Proxy service policy changes.

Section III: Document and Resource Links: 
Section IV: Additional Information: 

Whois Privacy/Proxy Abuse Study Terms of Reference [PDF, 321 KB]

Whois Privacy/Proxy Abuse Study Staff Report [PDF, 437 KB]

GNSO Council Motion April 2011

NPL Selected to Conduct a gTLD Whois Privacy and Proxy Abuse Study

Additional Whois studies have also been conducted at the request of the GNSO Council, as summarized at: gnso.icann.org/issues/whois/

Comment / Reply Periods (*)
Comment Open Date: 24 September 2013
Comment Close Date: 22 October 2013 – 23:59 UTC
Reply Open Date: 23 October 2013
Reply Close Date: 13 November 2013 – 23:59 UTC
Important Information Links

This ICANN announcement was sourced from:

Boston Marathon Blasts See Cybersquatters Exploit Tragedy

The two bombs exploding seconds apart, creating a bloody chaotic scene near the finish line of the Boston Marathon today has seen cybersquatters quickly exploit the tragedy.Within half an hour the domains BostonBombing.com, BostonBombing.net, BostonBombing.org, BostonBombing.us and BostonBombing.info were all registered according to Domainer Income and within an hour there were over 125 domains registered relating to the blasts.While a few of these domains are possibly going to be used for genuine charitable or other efforts, the majority are destined to be used as scam-related websites.Scam websites set up using the domain names may be for fraudulent charitable websites or provide links to malware-infected sites.In addition to the domain registrations, a number of Twitter accounts were also registered according to a report on the San Francisco Chronicle website. One registered less than an hour after the blasts saw a Twitter message from “@_BostonMarathon” being retweeted. The scam message said:
“For every retweet we receive we will donate $1.00 to the #BostonMarathon victims #PrayForBoston.”The Chronicle report noted “Twitter has suspended that account, but sadly, the same tweet was still being blindly retweeted.”

Daily Wrap: Opposition To Google, Amazon gTLDs; Iranian Group Pressures ICANN/RIPE On Internet Disconnection; Canadian Lodges ICANN Cybersquatting Complaint & Olympic gTLD Protections

A number of those involved in the domain name industry, led by Michele Neylon of Ireland’s Blacknight, are planning to complain to ICANN about dozens of single-registrant new gTLD applications filed by Google and Amazon, reports Domain Incite.

The report notes the “signatories of a new letter are bothered by plans by these companies and others to hold dictionary word gTLDs for their own exclusive use, not allowing regular internet users to register domains.”

So far the letter has been signed by 13 people, many of whom work for registrars.

Another Domain Incite report notes “ICANN wants to try to put the unresolved issues surrounding the Uniform Rapid Suspension system to bed and is planning a meeting in a couple of weeks time to solicit community input.”

There have also been calls for Iran to be disconnected from the internet to impede its activities.

According to a New York Times report, “United Against Nuclear Iran, an advocacy group that helped pressure a global banking communications network to expel sanctioned Iranian banks, said it had undertaken a new effort to force the authorities who assign international Internet addresses to block sanctioned Iranian entities and persons from access to the Web.”

The group has sent letters to ICANN and RIPE NCC that claim the organisations “may be in violation of Iran sanctions and that by disconnecting Internet access, ‘the dictatorial regime of Iran would be severely impeded in pursuing its illegal and amoral activities.’”

ICANN did not respond to the Times’ requests for comment, but RIPE, based in Amsterdam, said in a statement on their website that “RIPE NCC is in contact with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that we operate in accordance with Dutch law and all applicable international sanctions. Our advice from the Ministry has been that the RIPE NCC is not in violation of these sanctions. However, we will investigate in cases where new information is provided to us and we will ensure that changing circumstances do not place the RIPE NCC in violation of sanctions.”

And in another Domain Incite report, “ICANN and several domain name companies have been slapped with a bizarre, virtually incomprehensible anti-cybersquattng lawsuit in Virginia.”

“Canadian Graham Schreiber, registrant of landcruise.com, has beef primarily with CentralNic — the UK-based company that sells third-levels domains under us.com, uk.com and the like — and one of its customers.”

Schreiber has apparently “discovered that a British individual named Lorraine Dunabin — who has a UK trademark on the word Landcruise — had registered both landcruise.co.uk and landcruise.uk.com.”

And then “having failed to take the .co.uk using Nominet’s Dispute Resolution Service (repeatedly referred to in the complaint as UDRP), Schreiber has instead filed this lawsuit to accuse Dunabin of ‘Dilution, Infringement [and] Passing off’ by registering the .uk.com.”

In another Domain Incite report, “ICANN’s board of directors has set itself a deadline [of 31 January] to come to a decision on special new gTLD protections for the International Olympic Committee and Red Cross.”

Daily Wrap: Manwin’s Antitrust Case Against ICM, ICANN Continues, Saudi gTLD Objections, Problems For Americans And .SY Domains, Romeny/Ryan Cybersquatters And Domain Name Addiction

A federal judge has ruled he will not dismiss Manwin’s antitrust claims against ICANN and the .XXX registry, ICM Registry. According to XBiz, a “federal judge has pared Manwin’s antitrust lawsuit against ICM Registry and ICANN, granting in part and denying in part motions to dismiss the case.”

The XBiz report notes that “Luxembourg-based Manwin filed suit last November, alleging that ICM Registry received the original and renewal registry contracts without competition, is charging above-market .XXX prices, imposes other anticompetitive .XXX sales restrictions and has, because of its ICANN contract, precluded other adult-oriented top-level domains from operating.”

Manwin is an adult industry conglomerate that includes YouPorn among its stable of brands.

XBiz also looks at the comments on new gTLD applications, and at the time of their article notes that “about 13 percent (776 of 6,151) of the comments on the ICANN Application Comments forum are directed at [.ADULT, .SEX and .PORN].”

Headlines such as “Porn domain not needed or wanted,” “Please don’t make the world worse” and “No more indecency” are atypical XBix notes, as are some of the contributors — one repeat poster is Morality in Media President Patrick Trueman.

And Saudi Arabia’s Communications and Information Technology Commission has got in on the act, complaining about the abovementioned three gTLD applications, as well as the applications for .HOT, .BABY, .TATTOO, .SEXY, .BAR, .CASINO, .DATING, .WINE, .SEXY and .STYLE.

“Many individuals and societies find this string offensive on religious and/or cultural grounds,” the Saudi Arabian regulating agency posted on the ICANN site. “We oppose the introduction of [these] gTLD [strings] on both of these grounds, and because pornography causes huge damage to society’s social fabric.

It should be noted that Saudi Arabia has also objected to .ISLAM.

Andy Wasley, from Stonewall, who works for equality and justice for lesbians, gay men and bisexuals, told the BBC “Saudi Arabia already prevents its 1.9 million lesbian, gay and bisexual people from visiting community websites, like Stonewall’s, that offer support and information. It’s disappointing that it now wants to censor the internet for 420 million gay people worldwide.”

The BBC notes Saudi Arabia has also objected to:

  • .SEX on the grounds it would increase the proliferation of pornographic material on the web.
  • .VIRGIN, .SUCKS, .DATING and .BABY because they might also be used by pornographic sites.
  • .TATTOO because the practice is contrary to religions “such as Islam and Judaism”.
  • .WINE and .VODKA since they could glamourise the consumption of alcohol.
  • .AFRICAMAGIC because it “implies that it is linked to black magic and this is considered offensive”.

Slate looks at the predicament of Art.sy, “a slick, fine-art website that aims to digitise all of the world’s artworks.” But .SY is the ccTLD for the “Syrian Arab Republic, and .SY domain names can only be purchased and renewed from a Syrian government entity run by a member of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. By maintaining its undoubtedly cute domain name, Art.sy appears to have been breaking United States sanctions against the war-torn country.”

But things became complicated when “in early 2011, authority for Syrian domain name subscriptions was taken over by the National Agency for Network Services (NANS), another Syrian government entity, which directed that all registration and renewal payments be made to an account at the Commercial Bank of Syria.”

Slate then notes that “although the company’s money was going to fund a known dictator and U.S.-designated sponsor of terrorism, it was not, as yet, breaking any laws, because Syria was not yet under sanctions. However, with the rise of the Arab Spring and Assad’s bloody clampdowns on his population, on Aug. 10, 2011, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) at the U.S. Treasury Department designated the Commercial Bank of Syria a Specially Designated National (SDN) and froze all property and assets of the bank. This prohibited U.S. persons from engaging in any transactions including payments, transfers, and ‘other dealings’ in which the bank had an interest. A week later President Obama announced Executive Order 13582, which prohibited ‘investment in Syria by a United States person, wherever located.’”

“Art.sy thought the timing of its purchase made it immune to these rulings—a position the company still maintains.”

Cybersquatters were quick on the job when it came to domain names for the Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan Republican campaign team.

“Even before Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan was announced as Mitt Romney’s running mate, entrepreneurial cybersquatters swooped in to buy up relevant Web domain names,” reports the Daily Caller.

Some of the domain names registered include paulryan.com, romneyandryan.com and romney-ryan.com, which are now up for sale.

An Irish Paul Ryan has had paulryan.com registered since 2001 and when contacted by the Daily Caller declined to say if the Obama or Romney campaigns had contacted him about buying paulryan.com, but he told them “I am having the domain name valued, I have had a lot of interest in it.”

Meanwhile Fast Company has an article saying that if you have registered more than 300 domain names “you may be suffering from ‘domain name addiction’–the tendency to register many URLs without following through on one strong idea, says recovering addict Lea Woodward.”