A fundamental change in Canada, effective June 10, will
restrict the accessibility of publicly available information
about registrants of .ca domain names.
After several years of consultation and debate, the Canadian
Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), administrator of the
.ca domain, will enforce a new policy to protect the privacy of
individual registrants of .ca domain names in its WHOIS
database. With limited exceptions, this policy will not extend
to corporate registrants.
WHOIS databases provide detailed personal information of the
registrant and technical contacts for each domain name. These
databases have long been valuable resources for those checking
on the authenticity of website owners or seeking to contact
owners for commercial or technical purposes; for trademark
holders to enforce their rights against potential infringement
by "cybersquatters"; and for police investigating
potential criminal activity. Many have argued that being
required to disclose personal information in a publicly
available database provides a ripe source of personal
information that could be used for identity theft and spam, and
could discourage free expression of political ideas and public
opinion on the Internet.
Since the inception of CIRA in 1998, the .ca WHOIS allowed
the public to view the name, address, phone and fax numbers and
email address of the owner and the technical contact of each
.ca domain name.
Under the new CIRA policy, a WHOIS search will no longer
produce an individual registrant's personal information
unless the registrant waives this protection. On the other
hand, corporate registrants' information will remain
publicly available unless the registrant can show that special
circumstances justify protection.
If someone wishes to contact a .ca domain name holder whose
information is protected, CIRA will provide a method (not yet
publicized) to pass on an electronic message to the registrant,
indicating that a party is interested in corresponding with the
domain name holder.
This new policy will likely have a severe impact on the
ability of trademark owners to successfully challenge
individuals who have in bad faith registered domain names
containing trademarks belonging to trademark owners. For
example, under the CIRA Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy,
one indicator of bad faith is a person (alone or in concert
with others) who has engaged in a pattern of registering domain
names to prevent trademark owners from registering their
trademarks as domain names. The new policy provides a very
limited way to obtain a list of domain names with the exact
name of the owner of a specific domain. Without the ability to
fully analyze the WHOIS database, trademark owners will find it
more difficult to investigate such patterns.
As a result of this change in policy, trademark owners and
others interested in carving out a niche on the Internet and
protecting their names and brands may wish to be even more
proactive in registering their primary marks and brands, and
similar variants, as domains as early as possible. The benefits
of the nominal registration expense will likely far outweigh
the time and expense in pursuing cybersquatters or potential
Your legal advisers can assist in formulating the most
effective strategy in responding to this new policy.
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.
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