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[council] Concerns Regarding Report of Deletes Task Force

  • To: council@dnso.org
  • Subject: [council] Concerns Regarding Report of Deletes Task Force
  • From: Louis Touton <touton@icann.org>
  • Date: Fri, 11 Apr 2003 12:00:24 -0700
  • Sender: owner-council@dnso.org
  • User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.0.2) Gecko/20030208 Netscape/7.02

To the GNSO Council:

The agenda for the Council's next meeting (17 April 2003) includes the
following item:

  "6. Vote to approve the Deletes Task Force recommendations and
  report for submission to the ICANN Board."

Because the Deletes Task Force commenced work before the GNSO PDP came
into effect on 15 December 2002, a Staff Manager has not been assigned
and the Task Force has not otherwise had significant staff
involvement/support to date. As part of the overall process of
transitioning to the PDP, Dan Halloran and I have just reviewed the
Deletes Task Force's Final Report, as posted at
<http://www.dnso.org/dnso/notes/20030323.DeletesTF-final-report.html>.

Based on that review, we have concerns regarding some aspects of the
report. The purpose of this message is to alert the GNSO Council to the
staff's concerns with the recommendations as currently framed.

Concern A: The Proposed Mandatory Deletion Policy Does Not Allow for
Extenuating Circumstances

In its current form, the report makes two recommendations that require
registrars to delete domain-name registrations within 45 days after they
expire. These recommendations appear to apply absolutely, not allowing
exceptions for various extenuating circumstances under which deleting
registrations by that deadline could harm innocent registrants or result
in loss of DNS nameservice for other domains.

The recommendations are 3.1.1 and 3.1.2:

  "3.1.1 Domain names must be deleted if a paid renewal has not been
  received by the registrar from the registrant or someone acting on
  the registrant's behalf by the end of the Auto-renew Grace Period
  (generally forty-five days after the domain's initial expiration).
  As a mechanism for enforcing this requirement, registries may elect
  to delete names for which an explicit renew command has not been
  received prior to the expiration of the grace period."

  "3.1.2 Domain names must be deleted within 45 days of the expiration
  of the registration agreement between the registrar and registrant,
  unless the agreement is renewed."

It appears that a registrar has no ability to delay deletions past 45
days in extenuating circumstances. Here are a few hypothetical
situations intended to highlight the serious problems such an
unqualified rule could cause:

Hypothetical #1: Shortly before the 45-day deadline, the registrar
discovers that its contact data for the registrant has been altered due
to hacking or some other incident in the registrar's systems. The
registrar concludes that, as a result of the alteration, a renewal
notice was never sent to the proper address for the registrant, so that
the registrant has never paid a renewal fee and has never entered into a
renewed registration agreement. Nonetheless, the registrar is required
by 3.1.1 and 3.1.2 to delete the registration, resulting in DNS service
to the registrant being shut off. The service can only be restored,
after some delay, through restoration under the redemption grace period.

Hypothetical #2: The registrant's main office is located in a building
that has suffered a disaster due to
flood/fire/earthquake/war/terrorism/etc. The renewal notice was sent to
that address, but it appears doubtful that the registrant would have
been able to complete the renewal process by the deadline. Nonetheless,
the registrar is required by 3.1.1 and 3.1.2 to delete the registration,
resulting in DNS service being shut off.

Hypothetical #3: A registration is the subject of court proceedings over
who is the proper domain-name holder. The court issues an order
requiring that the registrar "freeze" the domain registration, to
prevent any changes. The registrant does not pay the renewal fee,
putting the registrar in the position of either violating the court
order or breaching 3.1.1 and 3.1.2 (and therefore its accreditation
agreement with ICANN).

Hypothetical #4: A registrar has submitted a "registrar certificate" to
a court concerning a domain name that is currently involved in court
proceedings. In the registrar certificate, the registrar has submitted
the registration to the court's jurisdiction and has promised not to
modify, transfer, or delete the registration during the court
proceedings. No renewal takes place within 45 days after expiration, so
that 3.1.1 and 3.1.2 require the registrar to act contrary to the
registrar certificate.

Hypothetical #5: A domain name registered through a registrar is used to
support the host names of nameservers that provide secondary nameservice
for 20,000 domains held by other customers, which are registered through
many different registrars. The registration is not renewed. As a result,
nameservice for the 20,000 other domains must be migrated to other
hosts. This is not accomplished in 45 days, and as a result 20,000
domains disappear from the Internet.

Hypothetical #6: Shortly after the expiration date of a registration,
the registrar is informed that the registrant has filed for bankruptcy.
The registrar's legal advisors have cautioned the registrar to refrain
from terminating services to the bankrupt registrant without court
permission. Recommendations 3.1.1 and 3.1.2, however, require the
registrar to delete the registration.

Hypothetical #7: During the 45-day period after expiration, the
registrant asserts that it has made a renewal payment to the registrar,
but the registrar has been unable to complete its investigation into the
payment dispute before the 45-day deadline. The registrar is uncertain
whether it must delete the registration in order to comply with 3.1.1
and 3.1.2.

Hypothetical #8: The registrar has a long-standing relationship with a
registrant; the registrar knows that one of the registrant's domain
registrations that has expired is for an important and heavily used
name, and suspects that the registrants' failure to renew was caused by
an oversight. The registrar is unable to resolve the issue with the
registrant within the 45-day period. As a result, recommendations 3.1.1
and 3.1.2 require the registrar to delete the registration, shutting off
nameservice for the domain.

Based on a plain reading of the recommendations of 3.1.1 and 3.1.2, in
many if not all of these hypothetical cases the registrar would
apparently be required to delete names, even though contrary to
technical prudence or even other legal requirements. While it may make
sense to prescribe a uniform time frame for registrar deletion of
expired names, the hypothetical situations described above point to the
difficulty of making hard and fast rules without allowing for exceptions
in extenuating circumstances.

Concern B: The Recommendations Concerning Mandatory Disclosures
Inappropriately Restrict Certain Registrar Business Models

Recommendations 3.1.4 and 3.1.6 seem to prevent registrars from adapting
and evolving their service offerings over time since they mandate that
policies and prices be provided "at the time of registration", even
though the policies and prices may not come into effect until after the
registration expires (and after the registrant has the opportunity to
transfer to another registrar). These provisions state:

  "3.1.4 Registrars must provide a summary of their deletion policy,
  as well as an indication of any auto-renewal policy that they may
  have, at the time of registration. This policy should include the
  expected time at which a non-renewed domain name would be deleted
  relative to the domain's expiration date, or a date range not to
  exceed ten days in length."

  "3.1.6 Registrars should provide, both at the time of registration
  and in a conspicuous place on their website, the fee charged for the
  recovery of a domain name during the Redemption Grace Period."

It is not clear whether registrars would be able to modify their
procedures or prices at any time after initial registration of a domain
name.

Also, recommendations 3.1.5 and 3.1.6 seem to obligate all registrars to
operate websites. In some business models currently available to
registrars, including reseller models and models used in some regions of
the world, registrars do not operate principally through websites, but
use other means to communicate with prospective and actual customers.
There is no current requirement that registrars operate websites, other
than for a web-based Whois service. These recommendations appear
unnecessarily to restrict these alternative registrar business models.

Concern C: Mandatory "Payment" Policies Could Stifle Registrar Business
Models

Recommendation 3.1.1 (and possibly recommendation 3.1.6) appears to
require that registrars charge all customers for registration and RGP
services. Some registrars operate business models under which some or
all registrants are not charged specifically for registration services.
In accord with ICANN's mission, Registrar Accreditation Agreement
3.7.10 specifically precludes any policy that regulates registrar
prices: "Nothing in this Agreement prescribes or limits the amount
Registrar may charge Registered Name Holders for registration of
Registered Names." By requiring that renewals be paid, recommendation
3.1.1 contradicts this principle. Implementation of a requirement that a
fee be charged for renewals would also raise serious concerns under
relevant antitrust and competition laws.

Concern D: Overlap with Whois Recommendations

On 27 March 2003, the ICANN Board adopted four consensus-policy
recommendations relating to Whois accuracy and bulk access. One of those
recommendations states:

  "B. When registrations are deleted on the basis of submission of
  false contact data or non-response to registrar inquiries, the
  redemption grace period -- once implemented -- should be applied.
  However, the redeemed domain name should be placed in registrar hold
  status until the registrant has provided updated WHOIS information
  to the registrar-of-record."

This recommendation is currently early in the implementation process.

The Final Report of the Deletes Task Force contains this recommendation
on the same topic, but proposing a somewhat different policy:

  "3.3.1 The Redemption Grace Period will apply to names deleted due
  to a complaint on WHOIS accuracy. However, prior to allowing the
  redemption in such a case, the registrar must update the
  registration with verified WHOIS data and provide a statement
  indicating that the data has been verified in conjunction with the
  request for the name's redemption. The same rules that apply to
  verification of WHOIS data for regular domain names following a
  complaint will apply to deleted names."

By proposing overlapping policies so soon after one another, the GNSO
would significantly complicate the task of implementing the policies.

Thank you for your attention. Please feel free to contact me if you have
any questions.

Best regards,

Louis Touton
General Counsel





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