The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Internet & Intellectual Property has set May 16th as a date for a hearing on the WHOIS database. Chairman Coble (R-N.C.) and Ranking Democrat Berman (Cal) are calling for legislation to tighten up on registration fraud.
Last December they contacted 50 registrars and asked them about their policies for ensuring that information entered in the WHOIS database was accurate.
They are worried that fraudulent registrations harm the public in a variety of ways.
They subsequently criticised the fact that few registrars responded and said that they should not thumb their noses at a Congressional Hearing.
I suggest that any information you want to submit on fraudulent registrations should reach them earliest.
I'm not necessarily sure about their underlying motives for this legislation, but I am happy for any information of registration fraud to be aired in the public domain.
Apparently the legislation is not targetted at registrars themselves, but just those who registered bogus Whois information. If convicted, they would face a fine and up to 5 years in prison.
In the light of concerns about registrars submitting their own fraudulent registration details in the .info Sunrise, however, there is clearly a growing concern among legislators that ICANN's agreements are either too flimsy to prevent this kind of fraud, or are not implemented properly by ICANN.
Registrars who attracted criticism in the .info Sunrise included Spy Productions (who admitted inserting fake Trademark details for their customers), Yesnic (whose registration details were successfully challenged at WIPO), as well as a number of others including some with seats on the Afilias Board.
The fact that ICANN continues to promote and grant accreditation to companies who have cheated the internet public, is an indictment of the "culture of corruption" that ICANN seems willing to accommodate, and a demonstration of the need for Registrars and Registries to be clearly separated from any ICANN executive positions (except advisory ones).
The classic example of WHOIS abuse was the well-documented "Lorenz" case : where the Afilias CEO Hal Lubsen declined to act (or even explain himself) after his company DomainBank had charged $15000 to sponsor 93 Sunrise applications for William Lorenz.
The Afilias rules for registrars stipulated that four trademark data fields had to be valid before the registrations were submitted. Lorenz - who targetted Lubsen as a joke - had entered "NONE" in each of these data fields for Trademark name, Trademark Country, Trademark Number, and Trademark Date.
Nevertheless, Hal Lubsen's company decided to take the money, submit the names, and abuse the Afilias rules (even though Lubsen was at the same time CEO of Afilias).
Then Lo - and - behold ! Afilias accepted these applications, even though they were invalid in every respect and the WHOIS was transparently corrupt.
That was not the end of the story.
Lorenz - in an unexpected move - then requested 23 times to DomainBank and Afilias, that his registrations should be cancelled so that the names could be released in time for the .info Landrush. The joke was over.
Both Afilias and DomainBank declined to take any action, even though the ICANN Agreement gave them the right to delete them.
Ironically, only about half of Lorenz's money actually went through. It is my understanding that DomainBank are now pressing Lorenz for payment of the remainder (with the possibility of legal action lying ahead for the hapless Lorenz).
As to their astonishing claim to take yet more of Lorenz's money so that he can obtain absolutely zilch, their effrontery leaves me speechless.
DomainBank knew the rules.
In my opinion, DomainBank broke the rules.
DomainBank failed to inform Lorenz that they would be breaking the rules when they took his money.
DomainBank and Afilias declined to cancel the registrations when he requested, in which case they would have had ample opportunity to recoup
their losses again in the Landrush or thereafter.
In declining to cancel these registrations, they not only ignored the breach of rules, but denied customers like myself the right to procure the names in the Landrush, for which chance I had paid good money.
One such example was Uganda.info, which I had paid non-refundable money to pre-register. I hold DomainBank and Afilias responsible for the money I lost over this name, as between them they broke the Registry/Registrar rules and declined to put right their wrong actions when requested to do so (over 20 times) even though it was specifically within their powers to do so according to their ICANN agreements.
These at least are my opinions. I would be prepared to amend them or withdraw them if the Afilias CEO Hal Lubsen ever bothered to explain why he thought it was acceptable for DomainBank to take money for a product they could never - according to Lubsen's own Afilias rules - provide!
Without the 4 data fields the registrations would not be valid. Then why charge Lorenz for names he could never have? They have indeed now been challenged by the very people who agreed to register them (Afilias) in contravention of their own rules!
Notwithstanding the fact that Lorenz acted like a joker in this affair, and seemed to target Lubsen for his joke, the facts illustrate the way in which ICANN and Registry agreements can be flouted without any comeback.
It is also deeply disappointing that after seven months of requests, Hal Lubsen has never once broken his silence on this affair. These are serious concerns and yet he refuses to enter into any dialogue.
If the Afilias CEO refuses to discuss matters which go to the heart of registration integrity and valid WHOIS information, what hope is there for the ordinary customer who relies on the integrity of .info and the registration processes.
Afilias Director Robert Connelly resigned over the .info Sunrise fiasco, saying that Landrush customers were being abandoned, and calling the whole affair "an abomination".
No wonder legislators are finally taking an interest.
ICANN and its dependent industries (who largely finance it) have failed to regulate themselves.