July 2, 2009, 12:00 AM

Internet overseer gets more power to go after shady domain registrars

ICANN, which oversees popular domain names, has added tools to fight unscrupulous domain registrars. E-retailers will benefit if ICANN can put out of business registrars that provide bad service or collaborate with cybersquatters, says one executive.


ICANN, the organization that oversees the most popular web domain names, has been given more tools to go after unscrupulous domain registrars, offering online retailers hope of fewer disputes over web addresses and faster action against cybersquatters that register domains using variants of well-known brand names.

ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, previously could only cut off the accreditation of a registrar, which is a big step, says Jon Nevett, senior vice president of policy at domain registrar Network Solutions. Now ICANN can audit, fine and suspend a registrar, and ultimately de-accredit the company if it fails to comply with registration rules, Nevett says.

“They’ll have more tools to figure out who’s doing the bad acting and take action when they find that out,” Nevett says.

The stronger enforcement tools are included in the revised Registrar Accreditation Agreement that ICANN announced this week during a meeting in Sydney, Australia. It was the first revision of the agreement between ICANN and domain registrars since 2001, and covers companies that registrar domains for the 21 generic top-level domains, such as .com, .net, .org and .biz. ICANN does not govern country code domains, such as .uk, .fr and .cn.

Network Solutions, GoDaddy, eNow and Tuscows were among a dozen registrars that signed the agreement this week. Those dozen companies account for about half of the 110 million registered web address using generic top-level domain names, ICANN says.

Nevett says there have been instances of unscrupulous domain registrars that failed to deliver on promises to register a domain name leading to disputes over ownership, or that tried to bill companies that they weren’t servicing.

Some of these dishonest companies have been in league with cybersquatters or have failed to comply with rulings in favor of legitimate holders of trademarked brand names, Nevett says. He says the new rules will give ICANN more weapons to use against registrars that do not comply when owners of trademarked names win rulings against cybersquatters.

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