Happy Friday, domainers! And Happy Friday as well to those of you who aren’t sure what a domainer is or whether you’d want to be one.

This week didn’t see a ton of game-changing new news, but its absence left room for discussion of some interesting, disquieting and even infuriating information.  We don’t normally like to highlight too many articles from the same few sites, but it is the niche-based sites that keep discussing the topic even when there isn’t breaking news to dissect, and so this week, that is where our must-reads are.

In the past few roundups there’s been a trend around questions of freedom and privacy on the internet, a world that transcends traditional government, versus the necessity and challenges of preventing, policing and punishing malicious behavior.  This has been particularly brought to light as ICANN has been conducting a study on the utility of WHOIS:

ICANN Opens GNSO Whois Study on Privacy/Proxy Abuse for Comment
CircleID.com
By Kiran Malancharuvil, September 25, 2013

The study “aims to measure the hypothesis that ‘a significant percentage of the domain names used to conduct illegal or harmful Internet activities are registered via privacy and proxy services to obscure the perpetrator’s identity.’ “

…Some of the initial NPL findings are:
– More than half of sampled unlicensed pharmacies used privacy/proxy services to register their domain name, in contrast to less than 10% of licensed pharmacies.
– Almost half of sampled advanced fee fraud cases used privacy/proxy services to register their domain name.
– 83% – 93% of domains engaged in harmful or illegal activities could be reached by the Whois provided contact information when privacy and proxy services were not used.

Obviously, it’s disquieting how easy it is to publicly commit fraud and hide your identity, but at the same time, many of us are aware of the existence of phishing schemes and have virus protection on our computers and so on, and it’s annoying but we’re mostly going to be okay.  If somebody was doing something truly terrible, the police could partner with ICANN or whoever and get to the bottom of it, right?  Especially since, as David Maher points out: “ICANN is beginning to look more and more like a government. It assesses taxes, it has amassed an enormous treasury, it passes laws with international effect, and it has developed an ad hoc judiciary system to enforce its laws.” The UDRP process is an excellent example.

ICANN – Dispenser of Internet Justice

CircleID.com
By David Maher, September 22, 2013 

But what if, you know, there are budget cuts or whatever, the things that can go wrong inside of any company (or “nonprofit”), and people have to be let go, and the team gets a little behind on their work, or perhaps just completely slacks off? Is there anyone to pick up that slack? Is there any guarantee of some consistency of rules or law being followed, any system of accountability and checks and balances.

Evidently not:

ICANN and Your Internet Abuse
CircleID.com

By Garth Bruen, September 24, 2013 

In spite of the material we were presented with in Durban something has gone very wrong inside of ICANN Compliance. KnujOn has published a report which demonstrates that ICANN Compliance appears to completely collapse between September 2012 and December 2012. Following December 2012, ICANN seems to stop responding to or processing any complaints.

While the registrar BizCn has been a cited as a comfortable home to drug-dealing sites as well as trademark infringement, one of the most outrageous domains existing in perpetual violation, but with the silent approval of ICANN, is The Rape Tube. A play on Youtube, rapetube[DOT]org offers the most heinous and sick material, which is beyond any other Internet trash (I can’t even re-print the site’s own description here). But this is not just about the garbage content, it is about ineffective ICANN policy and process. You see the Rape Tube is hiding behind a completely invalid WHOIS record which had been documented and reported to ICANN Compliance multiple times since 2011. The Rape Tube has the same WHOIS record as approvedonlinepharmacy[DOT]net and at least 1000 other illicit sites sponsored by BizCn and is accused of being part of a network run by a criminal organization.

None of this is a problem apparently. Not only did the registrar fail to correct the issue or suspend the domains in question but ICANN did not issue a breach notice when alerted. When asked why, ICANN insisted that answering such questions would jeopardize ICANN’s relationship with BizCn. Placing the importance of a relationship with a contracted party in clear violation of the RAA over that of the ICANN commitment to the public seems a serious transgression of public trust. But, according to our research the relationship with BizCn trumps everything, calling the sincerity of ICANN pledges into question.
[emphasis added]

Jaw-dropping. I have no words.

 

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If only to avoid ending on the most depressing note ever, a bit of good news: .africa.com is on the rise. The headline is slightly misleading; it’s still a dot-com. But it can’t be a bad sign for the continuing emergence of emerging markets on the safari continent.

Companies flocking to .africa domain
IT News Africa
September 25, 2013

“In the first few weeks since we started offering domains, trademark and brand owners have quickly picked up their domains including twitter.africa.com, starbucks.africa.com, ibm.africa.com, evian.africa.com, standardbank.africa.com, lego.africa.com, marksandspencer.africa.com, emirates.africa.com, philips.africa.com, miele.africa.com, and the list goes on and on,” says Ope Odusan, Managing Director, Africa.com Domains.

And Donuts is going to be offering a relatively cheap way to protect your trademark on their TLDs without registering all of those domains yourself:

Block your trademark on 200+ top level domains for $600 a year
DomainNameWire.com
By Andrew Allemann, September 25, 2013

And finally, head-tilting pair of UDRPs of the week: Even if you’re the CEO of a huge corporation, if somebody else cybersquats your name as a domain, that is not trademark infringement. Unless your name is your business, it’s just a name.  But! If you get to your own name first, nobody can take it away from you. Finders, keepers!

Viacom CEO loses domain dispute against cybersquatter
AIDA Cruises loses domain name dispute to 2 year old girl
DomainNameWire.com
By Andrew Allemann, September 23 & 20, 2013

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