UK: Brand Owners Beware: How GDPR Will Make Online Enforcement A Lot Tougher

Last Updated: 22 March 2018
Article by George Sevier

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect on 25 May 2018, and it will see the implementation of tighter controls on the collection, processing, storage and making available of personal data. This will impact the ability of intellectual property rights holders to identify the individuals behind websites undertaking infringing activities.

Currently, information regarding domain names, such as the name and contact information of the registrant - so-called 'whois' information - is freely available. The whois details for a domain name set out who is responsible for a domain name, and who to contact in the event of concerns about the domain name itself, or the content of websites associated with the domain name.

Since whois information is public, it includes personal data about individuals - their name, address and often an email address and telephone number. To comply with GDPR, in order to publish personal data such as this, registrars would need to have obtained specific opt-in consent from the individual concerned. This has not routinely been obtained. For some time, individuals have been able to opt-out of publication of whois details by opting for a private registration, but typically this has been at additional cost.

Proposed changes

As we draw nearer to the 25 May effective date, domain industry bodies have already begun making changes so that they do not fall foul of the new regulations. In one form or another, registrant details will be masked, so it will be much more difficult to obtain the identity and contact details of registrants of domain names. Whilst primarily directed at the details of registrants who are individuals, some registries look likely to apply changes uniformly, to include registrants which are organisations.

An example of the type and extent of the proposed changes being made by domain registries can be seen in the recent announcement made by Nominet, which is responsible for .uk domain names. Nominet has proposed that from 25 May, it will no longer display the registrant's name, contact details or address, unless explicit consent has been given by the registrant through a new consent mechanism. Nominet has committed to continue to provide such personal data to UK law enforcement agencies and to any third party seeking disclosure for what Nominet considers to be 'legitimate interests' in accordance with its data release policy, however it is far from clear that, for example, alleged IP infringement will be sufficient to trigger data release. Nominet has opened up a comment period for the proposed changes until 4 April 2018, which can be accessed here.

The Austrian Country Code Top-Level Domain ccTLD) operator '' has a more developed proposal. It will cease to publish any personal data of natural person registrants, but will not allow companies to have their email addresses and phone numbers hidden. Contact details may be made available to parties with 'legitimate reasons', including lawyers, but proof of infringement may be required.

Latvian ccTLD operator '' already does not publish the names, personal identity numbers and postal addresses of natural person registrants. For natural persons, public whois data is currently limited to email addresses and telephone numbers only. Even this limited information will cease to be made available. Instead, will provide an electronic form allowing third parties to contact the relevant registrant whilst retaining registrant anonymity.

ICANN, which has a higher level of responsibility (particularly concerning top level domains such as .com), has proposed an interim solution which will apply from 25 May, in which registrant names and contact information will be masked unless the registrant opted-in to publication. The whois record will provide a method of contacting the registrant, but this will be anonymised. Further details of ICANN's interim model are available here. ICANN has been consulting on a more permanent solution, including making data (at least registrant email addresses) available to accredited users such as IP lawyers, but a solution such as that is unlikely to be implemented in the near future.

Effect of the changes

These proposed changes will be of concern to rights holders as they look likely to prevent or significantly slow down the process of identifying registrants which own potentially infringing or malicious domains. It will make it more difficult to contact registrants to encourage compliance, and more likely that formal legal action such as domain name complaints will be necessary. Also, it will become difficult to obtain information regarding other domain names owned by a rogue registrant (by so-called 'reverse whois' lookups), which is often a useful tool when bringing complaints. Registrants may now succeed in keeping other similar domain names up their sleeves, whereas currently a single action is enough to curtail use of several domain names.

The changes also mean that it will be much harder to conduct due diligence in business transactions. Whois details are used to check that a seller owns the domain names that it is purporting to sell. Frequently, pre-deal due diligence checking of the whois registers reveals that domain names are actually recorded in the name of a group company, an employee, or an IT company. This due diligence allows the position to be remedied before the transaction completes. A lack of public whois data will make effective due diligence much harder.

Given the effect of the changes, we encourage anyone concerned by the proposed changes to participate in the consultations. Whilst it seems very likely that whois will be largely locked-down in the near term, raising concerns at this point will hopefully result in information being made more available in the longer term.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Events from this Firm
19 Sep 2019, Seminar, Birmingham, UK

Providing GCs, Heads of Legal and senior in-house lawyers with timely, topical and practical legal advice on a variety of topics.

26 Sep 2019, Seminar, London, UK

Providing GCs, Heads of Legal and senior in-house lawyers with timely, topical and practical legal advice on a variety of topics.

8 Oct 2019, Seminar, Birmingham, UK

Supporting the development of paralegals, trainees and lawyers of up to five years' PQE by providing valuable knowledge and guidance together with practical tips.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions