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[nc-whois] [CNET] Lawmakers seek to purify Web records


Lawmakers seek to purify Web records
Mon May 6, 8:00 PM ET

Gwendolyn Mariano CNET News.com

People who provide false data when registering a domain name on the  
Web could be thrown into jail for up to five years, if a recently  
introduced bill becomes law.

Reps. Howard Berman, D-Calif., and Howard Coble, R-N.C., introduced 
the legislation Thursday, targeting Internet address registration 
procedures that make it easier for Web site publishers to stay 

"Whoever knowingly and with intent to defraud provides material and 
misleading false contact information to a domain name registrar, 
domain name registry or other domain name registration authority in 
registering a domain name shall be fined...or imprisoned not more 
than 5 years, or both," the bill said.

Bogus information has long been included in some domain name 
registries, making it difficult for law enforcement officials and 
others to track down people who own Web sites through lists such as  
WHOIS, a database for the .com, .net and .org domains that contains 
contact information of people who register Web sites.

Some critics, however, said the bill may go too far, noting that 
individuals or organizations may have legitimate reasons for placing 
anonymous data on the registries.

Lee Tien, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier 
Foundation, said the proposed bill is unclear as to what is defined 
as "false" or "intent to fraud." He said there are some cases where 
individuals would intentionally give incorrect data when setting up 
a domain for spamming so that they would not be tracked down.  But 
others such as attorneys or nonprofit organizations, for example, 
would set up domain names on behalf of someone else or give 
anonymous information to protect sensitive or private information.

"There's a possibility that the requirement for the 'intent to 
defraud' could be construed to be for commercial purposes as opposed 
to other purposes that might effectively be anonymous...You would 
hate to leave that up to what a court defines it should be," Tien 
said. "When we are trying to clamp down on 'false' or 'misleading'  
information and contact information, how does that affect those who 
would simply want to be private?"

The bill has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. 
Spokesmen for Berman and Coble could not be immediately reached for 

Thomas Roessler                        <roessler@does-not-exist.org>

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