An Update on GoDaddy Whois Issue and Other Registrars’ Responses
Friday, March 2nd, 2007
GoDaddy will not return domain; other registrars say what they would do in the same situation.
It’s been just a few days since Domain Name Wire broke the story about GoDaddy deleting a domain registration due to an invalid e-mail address in whois. GoDaddy responded to the article but few people seem satisfied.
Here’s another update. After agreeing to give the previous registrant of FamilyAlbum.com his domain if he indemnified GoDaddy, GoDaddy today decided that it will not give the domain back. In a message to the former owner, GoDaddy said:
Thank you for your message. After further review with our Legal Department, it does not appear that we are able to assist you with this issue. Since the name was cancelled following ICANN standards and the name is now registered to another party, you will need to contact the current registrant regarding the domain name.
I’ve never actually seen ICANN’s complete policy on this but would appreciate anyone experienced with these rules to comment.
In the mean time, I contacted a number of registrars to ask them what they would do in this same situation. Would they cancel a registration after just trying to contact the customer via e-mail? What do they do about inaccurate whois data? Here are the responses so far:
You asked what steps we are willing to take instead of deleting a customer’s domain due to invalid WHOIS data. Well, we are willing to make a Federal case out of it. We literally will go to Federal court to protect our customers, including for WHOIS privacy.
In 2002 we at directNIC.com refused to delete the domain name of a customer who allegedly had invalid WHOIS information. The fact that this client also was being sued for allegedly committing slander was not an issue for us to judge. The attorneys involved demanded that we delete the domain name. However, we considered the rights of our customer too important to be swayed by impending litigation. Some registrars will take the position of “not having a dog in that fight” and so they will roll over on their customers. That is not our position. As a result, we ended up fighting a Federal lawsuit, titled Gregg Lloyd Smith versus Intercosmos Media Group, Inc., which we ultimately won on summary judgment. The end result of the lawsuit was that, under U.S. law, domain name registrars were deemed to be interactive service providers with federal immunity from the postings of the registrant of a domain name. See http://pdfserver.amlaw.com/nlj/docket/011303smith-ruling.pdf.
In another example, several years ago we had a customer who refused to update WHOIS information on a domain name and an attorney threatened to sue us at directNIC.com over it. Ultimately, the customer used a WHOIS protection service and the attorney who was making the threats ended up in jail.
Aside from the anecdotal replies above, when we receive a WHOIS complaint, we specifically state and adhere to our policies published on directNIC.com and http://domaincontender.com. The first action we take is to attempt to verify the WHOIS information ourselves. Sometimes people complain an email is invalid when in fact, the owner was on vacation and their email box was just full. We are not going to consider a client’s WHOIS information incorrect if their email box is full, or if their mail server is temporarily down, or some other trivial issue. Catastrophes, such as Hurricane Katrina, also caused many people to have “invalid WHOIS” information for a long time, and we take such things into consideration before acting on a complaint.
If we conclude that a domain’s WHOIS information is false or outdated, then we try to contact the customer. We generally spend at least 15 days trying to contact the customer. (Exceptions to this rule include when it is clear a domain is being used for serious financial fraud or child porn.)
Sometimes a customer will respond with valid reasons for not wanting their WHOIS information on the domain name. In those cases we propose that they use directNIC’s WHOIS identity protection service.
If the customer fails to respond to our requests to update their information, then we generally place the domain name on hold. However, this is more than two weeks after the process has started. Such rare and drastic action typically gets the attention of the customer, and they usually are very quick to respond to us at that point.
Sigmund Solares, J.D.
Chief Executive Officer
Intercosmos Media Group, Inc.”
“We certainly appreciate your concern in this matter; and would like you to know that I have taken the time to review this article as well – which I found this to be very interesting. While the statement is true; that it is required by ICANN that we keep valid contact information on file for the domain name, many customers will register with bogus information to keep their information private. Register.com makes every possible attempt to contact the customer to give them an opportunity to update and validate thier contact information. We willl contact them via telephone; email; snail mail and also fax if it permits – however have not in my career with Register.com in the last 3 years have experienced an issue to an extreme where an account has actually been deleted. Also as was mentioned, there are services provided by most domain registrars which will keep the whois information both valid private.”
(In addition to the message below from Gandi’s CEO, I received a phone call from the company. In short, they explained that they’d do everything possible to contact the owner before taking action. It would contact the customer based on all information in whois, on the web site, etc. It wouldn’t cancel a registration if unable to reach the customer because the customer might call back later…which is what happened with FamilyAlbum.com.)
“- it’s a case per case basis, which means that we take a look at the domain and website attached to it to. Obviously Familyalbum.com is not the same than a domain name leading to fraudulent activities,
- depending on the case, we try to contact our customer by ANY means to have his data corrected,
- if we do not have ANY answer, we NEVER cancel the domain. We hold it instead, and wait for a reaction,
- Gandi has never and will never purchase domain names for itself in order to put ads on it or whatsoever close to that. We are registrars, not real estate-short-term-view-agents”
“While there are many “you could or you should” advisories for
the Registrar from ICANN, it comes down to your business model. At
Rebel.com, we are a registrar focused on satisfying the needs of the
domain name professional. We understand the value of our customer’s
assets and offer the tools and the personal service they would expect.
Emails are sent, phone calls are made. We look for contact
information on developed sites. We reference our customer records for
contact information for parked sites. Ultimately every problem report is
resolved considering all available registrant information and the
required policies of ICANN.
-David Chiswell, CEO of Rebel.com”
I anticipate further comments from registrars over the coming week and will post them as they become available.