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[comments-whois] Comments on the Interim Report of the Names Council's WHOIS Task Force

Title: Comments on the Interim Report of the Names Council's WHOIS Task Force

On behalf of the members of the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), we are very pleased to provide our comments on the Interim Report of the Names Council's WHOIS Task Force.  See http://www.dnso.org/dnso/notes/20021015.NCWhoisTF-interim-report.html.

As the principal trade association of the software code and information content industry, the 800 members of the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) develop, market and host software and electronic content for business, education, consumers and the Internet.  SIIA's members are software companies, e-businesses, and information service companies, as well as many electronic commerce companies.  Our membership consists of some of the largest and oldest technology enterprises in the world as well as many smaller and newer companies.

Our members have depended on reliable and substantially unrestricted access to current and accurate Whois data both to protect their intellectual property (trademarks and copyright) as well to reduce the likelihood of fraud and to promote confidence in doing business on the Internet.   The legitimate uses of Whois data range from carrying out legal audits of property rights to enforcement against bad faith registrants, online pirates and counterfeiters, and others engaged in unfair commercial practices. 

We note that in its decision to extend its MOU with ICANN that the Department of Comerce cited as one of the body's major successess the fact that ICANN has adopted policies to improve and expand important WHOIS services to the global Internet community.  Towards this end, and reflective of this important role played by ICANN, we support many of the recommendations put forth by the task force.  In particular, we endorse the recommendation that ICANN enforce the existing contractual obligations (in the Registrar Accreditation Agreement and in the ICANN agreements with the new gTLD registries) regarding accuracy of Whois data.  The Interim Report includes several recommendations that would improve compliance with these existing obligations.  These include: 

1)      Requiring the use of standard tools to screen out obviously false contact data (Recommendation 1.0A(4)(a));

2)      Cancellation of registrations whose contact data reflect "willful provision of inaccurate or unreliable information" (Recommendation 1.0A(4)(b));

3)      Demanding verification of "corrected" data supplied by a registrant that has already deliberately provided incorrect data (Recommendation 1.0A(4)(c));

4)      Handling registrations based on the same false contact data together (Recommendation 1.0A(4)(d)). 

We also support the recommendation that ICANN consider revising the RAA to require spot-checking of a sample of registrant contact data (using semi-automated methods) and re-validation of contact data at the time of renewal of registration.  (Recommendation 1.0C).   These steps were strongly supported by many respondents to the survey undertaken by the Whois Task Force and could substantially improve the quality of Whois data.  The costs of a reasonable and proactive program in this area should be calmly assessed and weighed against the benefits that would accrue to all Internet users from a more reliable Whois database.  

Given the important role that ICANN has to play in coordinating consistent approches across a variety of Top Level Domains, SIIA also supports the Interim Report's call for greater uniformity and consistency in Whois data across gTLDs and ccTLDs.  Such a policy would certainly help promote the growth of global electronic commerce and would be consistent with ICANN's core objectives.   We agree that "uniformity of data elements and formats across as many TLDs as possible would be in the best interests of Internet users."  Ultimately, we hope that all registries would move toward policies that include explicit requirements that a registrant provide accurate and reliable contact details, that these details be available through Whois services, and that the provision of inaccurate or unreliable data have consequences that include cancellation of the domain name registration.  We commend the WIPO Best Practices, cited in the Interim Report, as a useful instrument for encouraging this development.  In addition, we support the task force's call for continued dialogue on identifying barriers to uniformity. 

Finally, we very much appreciate the task force recommendation that searchability is needed on additional elements beyond domain names.  It should be possible, for example, to search using the name of the registrant. Such a function could help a trademark owner determine whether a particular individual has developed a pattern of cybersquatting, which is an indicator of bad faith under the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy.  We agree with the Interim Report that the current obligations to provide this increased searchability should be enforced. (See Recommendation 3(B).)  

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments.  SIIA looks forward to continuing to work with ICANN staff and other participants ontinued participation in the work of this Task Force through our designated representatives. 

A Message from:
Mark Bohannon
General Counsel and Senior Vice President Public Policy
Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA)
1090 Vermont Avenue, NW       6th Floor
Washington, DC  20005
Direct Dial:    (202) 789-4471
Switchboard:    (202) 289-SIIA (7442) x 1325
Fax:            (202) 289-7097
Internet:          MBohannon@siia.net

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