In November, we wrote that the Security and Stability
Advisory Committee (SSAC) of the Internet Corporation for
Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) which administers domain
names, had launched a probe into the practice "front
running". Front running involves monitoring checks of a
domain name's availability and then registering that domain
name address yourself so you can sell it to another party
(usually the party checking for availability) at a profit.
Despite concerns in October last year, ICANN's new
report now says it has insufficient information to conclude
that any party has engaged in front running. To this end, the
SSAC says that of the 1.4 billion attempts to register
domains, only 3.3 million were satisfied, suggesting that, on
average, 333 attempts are made to register a domain name for
every fulfilled domain registration.
New recommendations from ICANN include that Registrars
should provide clear notice to Internet users regarding how
they treat information submitted during an availability check.
However, it remains to be seen whether the Registrars
themselves are engaging in, and perhaps the cause of, the front
Take, for example, Network Solutions. Domain Name News
reports that a random domain name searched by Domain Name News
was unavailable for registration through the whois Registrar,
but available to register through the Network Solutions
Registrar. Network Solutions has recently changed its policies,
to "lock up" any domains that are the subject of an
When some of the domain name searching tools on Network
Solutions' web site are used, the domain name the subject
of the search is registered to Network Solutions immediately.
It says that this is to ensure that a "front runner"
can register the address, and the address is then available for
any Network Solutions customer to register it. The organisation
claims the new policy protects consumers against front running.
Critics have complained that the policies themselves amount to
ICANN's October report says this is legitimate.
"ICANN's Registrar Accreditation Agreement and
Registry Agreements do not expressly prohibit registrars and
registries from monitoring and collecting WHOIS query or domain
name availability query data and either selling this
information or using it directly."
However, a US law firm has begun a class action suit against
the company alleging that it earns revenue by locking in
customers who made a query, forcing them to buy domain names
from Network Solutions rather than another source. As the
matter progresses, it may lead to further changes in doamin
name registration and renewal practices.
It seems this process is generally deplored, and companies
such as Singapore Network Information Centre are trying to
regain consumer confidence by incorporating clauses into their
Registrar contracts to assure consumers they are not
warehousing domain names for the purpose of removing them from
Now may be time to conduct a confidence check to see what
your domain name Registrar is doing.
As a licensor or a licensee, here are some tips you should consider when negotiating your next licence agreement.
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