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[comments-whois] Comments of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. to Interim Report of the Names Council's Whois Task Force

Title: Comments of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. to Interim Report of the Names Council's Whois Task Force

Comments of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.

Interim Report of the Names Council's Whois Task Force

November 8, 2002

Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. ("Turner") is pleased to provide its comments in response to the "Interim Report of the Names Council's Whois Task Force."  Turner is a subsidiary of AOL Time Warner, Inc. and owner of many well-known brands in the media and sports industries, including CNN, Cartoon Network, Powerpuff Girls, Atlanta Braves, the Goodwill Games, and many others.  We thank the Task Force for their time and effort in developing this Report and agree with the vast majority of the suggestions therein. 

The reliability and ease with which Turner can access Whois information is critical to both the management of Turner's own domain name portfolio and protecting Turner's intellectual property from unlawful activity, such as trademark infringement, dilution, tarnishment and other harms. Both of these concerns counsel in favor of accurately maintaining accessible whois records and can be demonstrated with the following anecdotal examples.

Accurate whois information helps Turner detect whether there has been an error in registering a domain name. For example, Turner registered the domain name CARTOONNETWORK.kz with Register.com, an ICANN-approved registrar. Register.com inadvertently registered the domain name in the name of one of its other clients, The Weather Channel. Accordingly, Register would not have sent the renewal request to Cartoon Network, but to The Weather Channel, when the domain name came up for renewal. Because we were able to access the whois information and inform Register.com of their mistake, we were able to ensure that the domain name was timely renewed.

Accurate and accessible whois information also assists Turner with enforcement of its marks on the Internet. Turner, like many other companies, is the target of numerous cybersquatters, many of whom provide false addresses, often in countries other than the U.S., in an effort to evade jurisdiction or enforcement of judgment. One such registrant is John Zuccarini, a well-known cybersquatter, who registered many domain names of famous marks, including typographical errors of CARTOON NETWORK, Turner's well-known children's cable television network, and POWERPUFF GIRLS, a popular program on The Cartoon Network. Mr. Zuccarini registered these domain names under several aliases, providing addresses in numerous countries by which he could not be contacted. He then posted pornographic sites under these domain names or re-directed the domain names to pornographic sites and "mousetrapped" the user so that he or she could not leave the sites. Turner received several complaints from concerned parents about these domain names and immediately sent demand letters to the addresses provided in the whois information. The letters were either returned as undeliverable or we received no response thereto.

Subsequently, the FTC brought suit against Mr. Zuccarini for activity related to these and other web sites. Although the FTC obtained judgment against Mr. Zuccarini, it was unable to enforce that judgment because it was unable to locate Mr. Zuccarini, including at the addresses he provided in the whois records.

Thereafter, Turner filed a complaint under ICANN's UDRP procedures against Mr. Zuccarini, which along with the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, provides that provision of false contact information, among other things, may be a basis for finding bad faith. Mr. Zuccarini filed no response to the complaint and a decision is anticipated this week. Notably, it would have been more difficult for Turner to file an ACPA action because of the inability to locate Mr. Zuccarini for service of process.

The registrar's failure to require that Mr. Zuccarini provide accurate whois information has allowed him to evade many of the companies upon which he preys in order to trade upon their fame to proliferate his pornographic web sites. Because these companies are unable to locate Mr. Zuccarini to enforce their rights, they, like Turner, must spend thousands of dollars filing suit against him, with little hope of receiving damages for the harm his unlawful behavior has brought about. Moreover, the inability of Turner to search for various domain names registered by Mr. Zuccarini and his aliases through a bulk whois system has required Turner to incur additional search costs with no assurance that we have caught all unlawful uses, thereby potentially requiring us to file multiple actions at additional expense. A requirement that Mr. Zuccarini correct the false whois information would have averted all of these expenses.

These are just a few of the examples of why it is imperative to Turner that registrars maintain accurate and accessible whois information in a uniform and consistent format.  The Report recognizes the importance of these concerns, and we therefore support the recommendations offered by the Task Force.   

Respectfully Submitted,

Rick D. McMurtry
Senior Counsel
Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.

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