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Comments of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. - Preliminary task force report on the purpose of Whois and of the Whois contacts - 18 January, 2006

  • To: <whois-comments@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: Comments of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. - Preliminary task force report on the purpose of Whois and of the Whois contacts - 18 January, 2006
  • From: "Brandon, Marc" <Marc.Brandon@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 8 Feb 2006 08:56:29 -0800

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. ("Warner Bros.") stands at the forefront
of every aspect of the entertainment industry, from feature films to
television, home video/DVD, animation, comic books, interactive
entertainment and games, product and brand licensing, international
cinemas and broadcasting.
In addition to the wonderful worldwide recognition and enthusiasm of
Warner Bros.' properties by fans, there is an attraction to many of the
world-famous brands managed by Warner Bros. that creates a great deal of
online brand abuse, including copyright and trademark infringement as
well as fraud.  Warner Bros. has unfortunately had many occasions to
rely on the WHOIS databases in the course of responding to this abuse.
We therefore welcome this opportunity to comment on ICANN's "Preliminary
task force report on the purpose of Whois and of the Whois contacts."


Domain names are basically a form of virtual real estate.  Some people
use this type of real estate for personal reasons and others for
commercial.  In most cases, this real estate is accessible to the
general public regardless of age or geographical location.  Therefore,
there must be a certain level of accountability for persons or companies
operating in such a public space.  Without an accurate WHOIS system,
domain name ownership would become a safe haven for cyber criminals.


As mentioned, unfortunately many Warner Bros. properties have been the
subject of various forms of online abuse.  Therefore, Warner Bros. has
in fact had a legitimate need to use the WHOIS databases often.  This
type of online brand abuse ranges from websites offering counterfeit
products to online fraud.  For example, domain names including the
"warnerbros" name have recently been registered and used by criminals to
send out spam to individuals reporting to be casting for an upcoming
popular Warner Bros. motion picture.  These email messages have included
some seemingly legitimate Warner Bros. contact information and logos
within the body of the message.  However, they are unauthorized email
messages and have clearly been used to misguide the public into
divulging personal information and/or authorizing payments to thieves.
Without access to an accurate WHOIS record for the domain names at issue
in such a case, there would be no mechanism for Warner Bros. to start an
appropriate investigation in order to help put a stop to the criminal


In summary, out of the alternative formulations of the purpose of WHOIS,
Warner Bros. supports "Formulation 2" (i.e. "The purpose of the gTLD
Whois service is to provide information sufficient to contact a
responsible party or parties for a particular gTLD domain name who can
resolve, or reliably pass on data to a party who can resolve, technical,
legal or other issues related to the registration or use of a domain
name.").  Warner Bros. supports "Formulation 2" because we believe that
not only is it most consistent with the well established history of
WHOIS, but most importantly because the WHOIS databases proposed in
"Formulation 2" maintain a level of accountability on the Internet that
is vital for its stability.


The proposed "Formulation 1," because of its limited focus on technical
issues, is too narrow in scope to provide WHOIS databases that would act
as meaningful tools to the Internet community as a whole.  It also
focuses solely on defects in the configuration of data supplied at the
time a domain name is registered.  But often it is the use of a domain
name - not the fact of its registration - that determines whether or not
the website located at a particular domain name will be valuable to the
owner.  Domain names can also be used for activity that harms others and
that violates the law.  Formulation 1 does not take this fully into
account.  The stability of the internet requires that the use of domain
names be accountable in some form in order to allow people and companies
that are negatively affected by unauthorized uses of domain names a
means to take steps to put an end to the harm being inflicted by these
uses.  The WHOIS databases are currently the foundation for
accountability on the internet, and eliminating this function would be a
disservice to stability and security on the internet.


We urge the task force to recognize the essential nature of the WHOIS
databases as a functional tool that ensures stability and accountability
on the internet, and to refrain from characterizing it in a manner that
would impede the establishment and growth of legitimate online services.
We recognize that there are other WHOIS policy issues demanding
attention - including the need to improve the accuracy of WHOIS data,
and to evaluate current and proposed mechanisms for protecting personal
privacy.  We look forward to participating in these discussions, but
they would become moot if ICANN were to adopt the narrow purpose
statement in Formulation 1 and thus eliminated the function of WHOIS as
a tool to promote accountability online.


We thank the task force for their time and effort in developing this


Respectfully submitted,


Marc Brandon

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

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