Plaintiff Marius Vizer is a prominent judo personality living in
Hungary. An unknown individual registered the domain name
vizernews.com and launched a website featuring Vizer's name,
photograph, and news and information about Vizer. Unable to
identify the person or entity responsible for registering the
domain name, Vizer filed an in rem action in the District Court in
Washingtion, DC, under the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection
Act ("ACPA"), claiming bad-faith domain name
registration. Vizer selected the jurisdiction based upon
ICANN's maintenance of an office in the District. When no
defendant appeared in court, Vizer moved for default
judgment. The district court denied the default motion and
dismissed the case, holding that ICANN, the organization
responsible for managing the Internet domain name system, which
"links user-friendly names . . . to unique numeric addresses
that identify servers connected to the internet," was not a
"domain name authority" that performed the functions of
registering domain names under the ACPA.
The ACPA prohibits the "bad faith registration of
trademarks as domain names." Where the owner of the
infringing domain name cannot be found, the ACPA allows for the
filing of an in rem action against the domain name itself in the
"judicial district in which the domain name registrar, domain
name registry, or other domain name authority that registered or
assigned the domain name is located." Vizer claimed that
ICANN was a "domain name authority" because it accredited
domain name registrars and allowed them to give access to
individual domain name registrants. The court rejected this
argument, holding that ICANN was not involved in registering or
assigning the disputed domain name to numeric Internet protocol
addresses or to registrants. In reaching its ruling, the
court relied upon the legislative history of the ACPA, which
"explicitly noted that the [in rem] provision does not cover
ICANN or its constituent units." Thus, "ICANN's
role within the domain name system did not give it the
'hands-on' role in 'register[ing]' or
'assign[ing]' the defendant domain name sufficient to
confer in rem jurisdiction in this Court over this
This case highlights the importance of choosing the right
jurisdiction for in rem actions under the ACPA. The Eastern
District of Virginia, located mere miles from the D.D.C., would
have been the proper jurisdiction for this action, as the domain
name registry was headquartered in Virginia. The case also
confirms that ACPA's in rem jurisdiction provision does not
include ICANN or its subsidiaries.
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