Domain Registrars

Registrars Should Help Prevent Cybersquatting

In the United States, smoking is perfectly legal for people who are 18 years of age or older. Likewise, it is perfectly legal to consume alcohol if you are 21 years of age or older. Corner stores and supermarkets are required to check the identification of anyone trying to buy one of these products if they look younger than a certain age. There are also notices on the packaging explaining the health risks of consuming these products. Of course people still do consume the products after reading the warning labels, but the government lets them know the risk and gives them something to think about.
As it stands right now, knowingly profiting off of the trademark and goodwill of a company via domain name is against the Lanham Act and can lead to penalties of up to $100,000 per domain name. Also as it stands right now, this fact may not be known by thousands of domain registrants who knowingly register infringing domain names each day, but unknowingly break the law.
When I first entered the domain business, I frequently heard stories about the Internet pioneers who registered domain names of major brands before those brands thought to register them on their own. They were frequently rewarded with large sums of money from the brand owner, as Internet law was still fuzzy, and owning a generic domain name like, or wasn’t against any laws. If a person does not know that they aren’t permitted to sell a domain name that includes the word Microsoft to the company named Microsoft, they may register the domain name with that intent. While seasoned domain investors know the law, unseasoned buyers may think what they are doing is legitimate.
I will be the first to admit that I registered a few domain names that may have infringed on brands while I was in graduate school when I first started out investing in domain names. Little did I know, there were laws against doing this – and this was in 2003! I am very fortunate that I never faced any penalties for doing this, and since learning about the Lanham Act, I haven’t knowingly registered an infringing domain name because I don’t have the stomach to worry about potential legal issues. No, I am not better than anyone else, but the knowledge of the law and knowledge of the stiff penalties encouraged me to stick to very defensible generic domain names.
With cybersquatting continuing to grow and be reported in the mainstream press, I think we need to begin to hold the registrars somewhat accountable. Sure it would be impossible to completely prohibit people from registering infringing domain names because who is to say what is infringing or not. However, I think the registrars should provide a notice at the checkout stage of domain registration if a person is about to buy a domain name that probably contains a famous mark. I said this same thing back in July, but as cybersquatting continues to grow, now is the time to reiterate it.
I don’t think registrars should disallow someone from registering a domain name with a famous mark as that would be utterly subjective. But I do think they should put a notice about the Lanham Act, in case a person is unaware of the ramifications of owning an infringing domain name. It is scary to think that a $7.00 domain registration can cause a $100,000 lawsuit.
Registrars should at least give notice to their customers. At a time when the domain industry is facing tumult from outsiders, domain registrars should at least do something to help protect and inform their registrants, rather than simply take their money and not care what happens after. I know this is a stretch, as we have seen some registrars automatically offer up advertising on domain names that are simply parked on their servers, and they don’t seem to pay attention to whether they are monetizing a trademarked domain name or not. It’s a stretch, but it’s time domain registrars become more accountable.

Cuba-Related Websites Shutdown; Domains Taken

In this morning’s New York Times, there’s an article about an English travel agent who owned several Cuba-related domain names which were shut down by his registrar eNom, due to their listing on the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). While owning and operating these websites on his own soil is legal, since they were being managed by eNom, a US-based domain registrar, eNom had to take possession of the domain names and essentially put the owner out of business.
While I am not going to debate the merits of this decision by the Treasury Department, I do think it is important for everyone to take a few moments and check to see where their domain registrar is located. Just a few months ago, a similar situation occurred with Internet gaming giant Bodog, whose domain names were taken and awarded to a litigant who filed suit in the US. While the situation was different then, it still shows that a US government decision or a ruling in a US court could potentially lead to losing domain names.
When doing business in another country, it is important to know that country’s laws related to your business.   Since many non-Americans who own domain names are doing business with American-based companies, it is important to know US law when it comes to domain names and online activities. If you should have any questions related to domain name law, I urge you to contact an attorney.

DNN: Network Solutions Sued

According to today’s post on DomainNameNews, a class action lawsuit was filed against Network Solutions and ICANN by the law firm of Kabateck Brown Kellner. The firm issued a press release announcing the action earlier today.
This is the second article written by Frank and Adam today about Network Solutions, the first being an article about the company monetizing a racially sensitive domain name owned by the NAACP, presumably to prevent links like this from being displayed.

Hidden Issue of "Ghost Records" at Domain Registrars

A few months ago, I encountered a problem at one of my registrars where domain names were still listed in my account even though I transferred these names out to buyers who used other registrars. While the Whois records displayed the correct ownership, these names were still showing up in my account. This was confusing as the names still looked like they were under my control, but I didn’t have any control over them and they weren’t really in my account.
I contacted my account manager who asked me to list all of the names that shouldn’t be listed in my account, so the issue could be resolved by technical support. I was afraid to do that, as I feared a mistake would lead to the cancellation of a domain name I owned. Since there were at least a few dozen of these names, and I have a significant number of domain names in this account, the process of going through my records would have been tedious. Also, since many of the names involved were average names that I had sold, it wouldn’t have been as obvious as some premium generics I sold, and I was afraid that I would accidentally list a name I still owned.
I had never experienced this “ghost record” issue at other registrars, so I put the question out there on a domain forum, and a number of people emailed me telling me that they had gone through the same problem with various registrars at some point. Fortunately, as luck would have it, I was contacted by Jason Lavigne, Business Development manager at &, who gave me a suggestion to pass along to my registrar. With Jason’s permission to post, this is what he advised me to do:

“The problem can be greatly reduced by regularly running a script to check against the whois or by using the registry message queue. The registry message queue advises registrars every time a domain is added or removed from a registrar and is more reliable than using the whois. If a registrar checks their message queue daily for transfer away notices and then adjusts their database they should be able to minimize ghost records as we’ve done at”

With this information, I emailed my account representative and asked to have the customer support group run the transfer away script against the Whois records. A couple of days later, these ghost records were all removed from my account, and the problem disappeared.
Thanks a bunch to Jason for that great advice!

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