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National Geographic Comments motions relating to WHOIS now pending before the GNSO Council

  • To: whois-comments-2007@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: National Geographic Comments motions relating to WHOIS now pending before the GNSO Council
  • From: sborke@xxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 30 Oct 2007 15:15:08 -0400

National Geographic Society ("National Geographic") welcomes this
opportunity to comment on the three motions relating to WHOIS now pending
before the GNSO Council.  National Geographic strongly supports and
endorses Motion 2 -- the objective and comprehensive study to obtain
factual information.  National Geographic strongly opposes both Motion 1 --
the adoption of the OPOC policy recommendation notwithstanding the numerous
outstanding questions and issues pertaining to its implementation -- and
Motion 3 -- the elimination of WHOIS through sunsetting.

Founded nearly 120 years ago to "increase and diffuse geographic
knowledge," National Geographic works to inspire people to care about the
planet.  For more than a century, National Geographic has sought to expand
geographic knowledge worldwide and to promote and protect the conservation
of the world's cultural, historical, and natural resources.  Its famous
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC magazine is published in more than 31 languages and is
read by over 40 million persons worldwide.  National Geographic now reaches
more than 300 million people worldwide each month through its NATIONAL
GEOGRAPHIC magazine, and its four other magazines; the National Geographic
Channel; television documentaries; films; radio programs; books; DVDs;
maps; and interactive media.  The NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC.COM website has around
12 million unique visitors a month, over 25% of which are from outside the
United States.

Real-time access to WHOIS data is critical to National Geographic's ability
to, for example, act promptly against cybersquatters and parties misusing
our content; to conduct due diligence in licensing, acquisitions, and other
transactions; and to perform the clearance necessary for the adoption and
use of new program titles and trademarks.  Accordingly, National Geographic
opposes, and encourages the GNSO Council to reject Motion 3, which calls
for the elimination of WHOIS by "sunsetting" the contractual obligations
that require the collection and display of WHOIS data.

National Geographic submitted on January 15, 2007 Comments on the
Preliminary Task Force Report on WHOIS Services.  As detailed in those
comments, National Geographic had concerns about the absence of any
provisions delineating the roles and responsibilities of the OPOC,
requiring the OPOC to provide prior consent to its designation; and
outlining the parties to whom and the circumstances under which the OPOC
must disclose the registrant contact information that would now be withheld
from public access.  Notwithstanding the tremendous efforts of the recently
concluded WHOIS Working Group, virtually all of those issues remain
outstanding.  It is for this reason that National Geographic opposes and
encourages the GNSO Council to reject Motion 1.  Motion 1 supports the OPOC
policy recommendation and requests that the ICANN staff create a proposed
implementation plan.  Because critical aspects of the OPOC policy are
inextricably intertwined with and embodied by implementation mechanisms and
details, it is imprudent to proceed with recommendation of the OPOC policy
unless and until all such implementation mechanisms and details are
developed and voted upon as part of the policy.

National Geographic supports and encourages the GNSO Council to adopt
Motion 2 -- the objective and comprehensive study of the uses and abuses of
WHOIS data, the characteristics of domain name registrants, and a review
and analysis of the different proxy services being used today.  It is
National Geographic's understanding that no such study has ever been
conducted, notwithstanding not only the ICANN staff recommendation in 2003
that such a study be conducted and the numerous significant factual issues
relating to proposals to change WHOIS data and its public accessibility.
Based on National Geographic's recent experiences with proxy services being
used by registrants of domain names infringing its famous NATIONAL
GEOGRAPHIC mark, it is clear that -- at a minimum -- the standard of
"reasonable evidence of actionable harm" now embodied in Section of
the Registrar Accreditation Agreement requires clarification, explication
and illustration.

Thank you for consideration of these comments.

Susan Borke
National Geographic Society
Law, Business and Government Affairs
Telephone 202-775-6745
Fax 202-857-5874

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