The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is considering a change in policy concerning the way in which you can register a domain name. ICANN issued a report in 2013 in which it estimated that some 39% of all domain names is registered by a legal person, 33% by a natural person and some 20 % were registered using a privacy or proxy service. It is these latter 20% of registrations using a privacy service, which shields the personal information of the registrant, that the policy change will impact.
What does a privacy proxy service do?
When registering a domain name, the details provided by the registrar are published online for all to see. Anyone who types in a domain name on any whois service, can find out who registered the domain name, and how you can directly contact them (via telephone or postal address). This was particularly handy in the beginnings of the internet, when it was mainly universities and government agencies that were using this WHOIS database to contact one another, however, it has become a headache for some small and medium businesses and individuals these days who do not wish to have their information be published.
To shield this personal information from the public, privacy services or proxy services (the Service Provider) were created, which show the information of the Privacy Service as opposed to the person behind it (the Customer).
What are the proposed changes?
The changes proposed suggest (see in particular Annex E ) that a Service Provider may be required to disclose the information matters of a possible trademark infringer or copyright infringer, if they provide evidence of such alleged infringements. If a request for disclosure (by the Requester) is brought to the Service Provider, they must then promptly notify the Customer of the complaint and disclosure request. The Customer will then have 15 calendar days to respond. If the Customer considers there to be legitimate reason(s) to object to disclosure, they have to give these reasons to the Service Provider who will communicate these to the Requester. Disclosure cannot be refused any longer ‘solely for a lack of any of the following: (i) a court order; (ii) a subpoena; (iii) a pending civil action; (…) nor can refusal to disclose be solely based on the fact that the request is founded on alleged intellectual property infringement in content on a website associated with the domain name.’ The practice of requiring a court order for disclosing information the Privacy Service is protecting, is thus going to be curtailed by the proposed changes.
Public Comment – Consultation on proposed changes.
Not everyone is pleased with these proposals, and a group called ‘Save Domain Privacy’ set up a website where a petition is opened. The group plans on adding the signatures to their statement, which they’ll send in on 7 July 2015. This date is not chosen out of the blue, rather that is also the closing date for ICANN’s Public Comment on the proposal.