ICANN ICANN Email List Archives


<<< Chronological Index >>>    <<< Thread Index >>>

Public Comment and Support for Motion 2

  • To: <whois-comments-2007@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: Public Comment and Support for Motion 2
  • From: Stacey King <stacey@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 25 Oct 2007 14:23:20 +0100

To: Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and GNSO
Re: Comment on Access to Whois Data

Richemont, one of the world's leading luxury goods groups, welcomes this
opportunity to provide comments on the GNSO Council Motions, WHOIS Task
Force Report, WHOIS Outcomes Working Group Report, and ICANN Staff Overview
of Recent GNSO Activity Concerning WHOIS (the ³Report²).
It is Richemont¹s understanding that there are three motions released for
public consideration and comment concerning WHOIS.  The motions all provide
for very different results:
1.             support and implement the Operational Point of Contact (OPoC)
proposal as a replacement for the WHOIS;
2.             conduct a comprehensive study on the registration
characteristics, uses and abuses of WHOIS data and take the results of this
study into account before deciding any next steps in WHOIS policy
development; or
3.             phase out current WHOIS contractual obligations for
registries, registrars and registrants over the next year.
Richemont strongly supports the second motion calling for a comprehensive
study on the registration characteristics, uses and abuses of WHOIS data and
take the results of this study into account before deciding any next steps
in WHOIS policy development.  Adoption of motions one and three would cause
significant difficulties in the ability for brand owners and law enforcement
to police illegal activity and/or intellectual property violations on the
The fame of Richemont's brands makes it susceptible to a wide variety of
online fraud schemes:  from traditional cybersquatting to online
counterfeiting rings.  Consequently, Richemont takes an active role in
protecting the value of its brand and its customers on the Internet.  In
order to do so, however, Richemont must be able to identify and contact the
person(s) or entities that perpetrate such fraud.  Whois records are key to
discovering contact information in a timely manner.  As a result, Richemont
cannot support motions one and three as disabling access to WHOIS
information directly affects Richemont¹s ability to timely conduct
investigations and take appropriate actions.
Richemont views the data currently available in Whois records as critical to
its ability to enforce its rights online.  And Richemont is not alone in
this assessment. Unfettered access to Whois records is needed by law
enforcement, businesses, and individuals alike for the purpose of routing
out counterfeiters, scammers and other nefarious online schemes.  Such
access is critical.  In the 2004 Annual Enforcement Report of the U.K.
Patent and Trademark Office the procedure taken to route out piracy of music
discs is outlined.  Law enforcement first visits a site, makes a test
purchase, and then determines the physical location of the seller through
Whois records and through tracing IP numbers.  Indeed, in 2004 alone law
enforcement officials, using this procedure, were able to conduct major
raids in over 19 cities in the U.K. alone.

The U.K. is not the only law enforcement agency that uses Whois records.
Law enforcement agencies from many jurisdictions have repeatedly documented
the use of Whois records for investigation purposes ­ often using such
records as the first point of contact for identifying a web site owner
and/or address.  As with the U.K., law enforcement agencies in the United
States also use Whois records as one of the first steps in conducting
cybercrime investigations.  In his 2003 testimony before the House Judiciary
Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property, James E.
Farnan, Deputy Assistant Director of the Cyber Division at the FBI stated
that Cyber Division investigators use the Whois database almost every day to
identify operators of questionable sites. He noted that investigators use
the Whois database in investigations ranging from online fraud to computer
intrusion cases and that the information from the Whois database is ³often
used to generate investigative leads and is the starting point for utilizing
investigative techniques.²  Mr. Farnan also noted that the ability to use
the publicly available Whois database was critical to investigations as it
is ³quicker to use Whois to obtain instant electronic access to data that
could identify the perpetrator of a crime, as opposed to serving a subpoena
or court order and waiting on a third party to deliver the same
information.²  Speed is often of the essence in tracking down and stopping
online crime.

The need to access these databases is similarly important for private
businesses and individuals not only in the U.K., but around the world.
Where law enforcement may have alternative mechanisms for tracking down the
owners of fraudulent websites, private business and individuals do not.
When a company finds a website selling counterfeit goods or misusing a
trademark in the domain name, the Whois record is most often the primary
means for determining the identity of the website operator. The same holds
true for an individual who purchases an item from that site.  Often the
contact information found on the site itself may include only an e-mail
address.  The Whois records provide additional information that allow a
business and/or consumer to contact the website owner, find out the ISP used
by the website owner, and the name of the registry used to register the
domain name.  As with law enforcement, speed is often of the essence in
these cases. Owners of fraudulent websites often act under numerous monikers
and change ISPs regularly to make it hard to track them down. If a consumer
had to contact a domain name registrar to make a complaint and then wait for
the registrar to process the complaint and respond, the fraudulent site will
often have already been moved making the consumer have to start the process
anew.  We have experienced this on several occasions in connection with
several registrars¹ current privacy controls that are supposedly limited to
non-commercial sites, but are instead often used by suspect commercial

For this reason, unfettered public access to Whois databases is crucial.
Indeed, some countries have even started making public access to reliable
and accurate contact information for each domain name registrant a part of
its free trade agreements with other countries.  For example, both the
U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement, Article 16.4.2, and the U.S.-Morocco
Free Trade Agreement, Article 15.4.2, require such public access to a
reliable and accurate database of contact information. The United States
also passed the Fraudulent Online Identity Sanctions Act which provides for
increased damages in trademark cases where a registrant makes use of
fraudulent, false Whois information.

Whois records are also used by UDRP panelists.  In Thomas Cook Holdings
Limited v. Matthew Dinham, WIPO D2000-0725, the panelist notes the

³The WHOIS records for the domain name club1830.com show the Respondent
personally as the registrant with an email address mattd@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
This immediately implied to the Panelist that Mr. Dinham¹s business was
likely to be connected with the leisure industry.  A check at
www.leisuregroup.co.uk <file://localhost/exchweb/bin/redir.asp>  brought up
the message ³Welcome to Leisure Group ­ Britain¹s number one for Sunbeds,
Tanning Accelerators, Slimming Products, Sauna, Steam Rooms and all related
accessories.²  A check of the WHOIS for leisuregroup.co.uk revealed that
this domain name is also registered personally to Mr. Dinham.  A further
check for registrations in Mr. Dinham¹s name also revealed that, amongst
other domains, the same Mr. Dinham is also the personal registrant of the
domain name qualityflights.com ­ the URL www.qualityflights.com
<file://localhost/exchweb/bin/redir.asp>  also resolves to a multilingual
parking page as for www.club1830.com <http://www.club1830.com/> . It
appears, therefore, that the Respondent, even if he is not presently in
direct competition with the Complainant, has not been entirely candid about
the nature of his business interests.²

Again, if a consumer or a business had to make repeated requests to a
registrar to obtain the information noted above, investigations would become
incredibly lengthy in nature and the registrant would have the chance to
transfer a domain name to another registrar or ISP.

Finally, there are entities that make fraudulent use of the Internet through
registering numerous domain names and who have close relationships to
registrars.  Registrars may have policies that require them to inform their
clients of queries into Whois information.  In either case, owners of
fraudulent sites would be given the opportunity to transfer domain names,
websites, ISPs, etc. before a consumer, business, or law enforcement even
has the registration information.  This is not to say that the majority of
registrars are suspect.  However, it only takes one or two suspect
registrars, known in the counterfeit or cybersquatting world, to create
incredible difficulties to consumers and businesses alike.

We understand the problems and costs associated with registrars or
registries ensuring that the data in Whois records is accurate and/or
ensuring through follow-up investigations that those registrants who claim
privacy rights based on a non-commercial site are indeed operating a
non-commercial site.  We ask the GNSO Council, however, to consider
alternative scenarios that adoption of motions one and three may create
whereby consumers and businesses are forced to sue registrars to obtain
Whois information or claim a registrar is aiding online fraud, must name the
registrar as the defendant in an action for lack of an alternative party or
where registrars/oPOCs take too much time to respond, and/or where law
enforcement is constantly serving subpoenas on registrars ­ or even warrants
to seize databases.  In the meantime, more criminals are able to evade law
enforcement.  The cost to registrars and interested parties alike in this
situation would be incredible. Similarly, in certain situations registrars
and oPOCs could be liable to domain name registrants for improperly
releasing registrants¹ private information.

We believe access to the Whois database should not be limited in terms of
public access. Motions one and three, as currently stated, would result in a
haven for cybersquatters, online fraudsters, spammers, and scammers.
Respectfully submitted,
/Stacey King/

Stacey King
Senior Internet Lawyer, IP
15 Hill Street, London, W1J 5QT, England

<<< Chronological Index >>>    <<< Thread Index >>>

Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Cookies Policy