White House IP Protection Paper Looks At Curbing Abusive Domain Name Registration

The protection of intellectual property (IP) is a growing challenge for governments and business around the world that spend a lot of time and money to protect their branded goods, copyrighted material, patented inventions and trade secrets. Often the protections are done overly zealously.Curbing abusive domain name registrations is one means identified on how to protect IP in a White House paper released in December with research needed into how illicit actors exploit the domain name environment going forward.The report identifies that examining a “‘follow-the-money’ approach to disrupt illicit financing models (via payment processors, ad networks and the like), to practices and policies aimed at curbing abusive practices within e-commerce platforms, social media channels, the domain name ecosystem, and the search environment, among others” will all contribute to protecting IP.It is an issue the Obama Administration has taken seriously and is committed to continuing to be vigilant in The losses are huge. According to one estimate from the International Chamber of Commerce in 2008, the worldwide market for counterfeit and pirated products alone was projected to be $1.77 trillion in 2015, and growing at rate of 22% per year.It is an issue the Obama Administration has taken seriously and is committed to continuing to be vigilant in addressing threats to intellectual property — including corporate and state sponsored trade secret misappropriation — that jeopardise our status as the world’s leader for innovation and creativity, pose a considerable threat to public health and safety, undermine legitimate business, and harm other national interests.The issue of curbing abusive domain name registrations is one means of protecting IP addressed in a paper, the FY 2017-2019 Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement [pdf], released by the White House in December.One of the best practices in the domain name environment identified in the paper was a partnership with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Donuts and Redix domain name registry platforms. Their solution as noted in the paper works to promote a safe and secure domain name system. Under the programme, a “trusted notifier” system has been established as part of collaborative efforts to mitigate blatant and pervasive illegal online activity in violation of platform terms of service.Looking at abusive domain name registrations, the paper notes how entities engage “in online counterfeit sales, the unlawful exploitation of copyrighted materials, and other large-scale infringing activity may engage in a combination of ‘domain name hopping’ and ‘venue shopping’ for perceived domain name safe havens. These tactics have been reported within both the gTLD and ccTLD domain name environments.”The report goes on to say that:
“While the TLD environment provides internet users with a diversity of choice, operators of websites engaged in illicit IP-based activities exploit this openness. To evade law enforcement, bad actors will register the same or different domain name with different registrars. They then attempt to evade law enforcement by moving from one registrar to another, thus prolonging the so-called “whack-a-mole” pursuit. The result of this behaviour is to drive up costs of time and resources spent on protecting intellectual property rights.””By way of illustration, an operator of a large file-sharing site found guilty of facilitating criminal peer-to-peer file sharing of movies, music and games continued to circumnavigate the globe and exploit the domain name environment by moving from ccTLD to ccTLD to evade law enforcement.”A “Notorious Markets” Out-of-Cycle Review by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative listed illustrative markets facilitating counterfeiting and piracy. From 2013-2015 it found a total of 26 of 54 named sites, or almost half of named online sites, operate within the ccTLD environment. The report notes that as ccTLDs are outnumbered in registration numbers by gTLDs by more than 2 to 1, “the frequency of bad faith ccTLD sites appear to be disproportionate in nature and worthy of further research and analysis.”To deal with the issues in more detail, the paper identifies a number of areas where research is needed, into the precise nature and dimensions of the various challenges in IP enforcement in order to improve the effectiveness and targeting of policy, including legal reform, trade policy, and capacity building. In the domain name environment, the report identifies how do illicit actors exploit various domain environments to successfully evade law enforcement through “domain name hopping” and other strategics as an area for further research.The report can be downloaded from: