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article imageOp-Ed: Fixing a flawed domain name registration system

By David Goehst     Jan 3, 2016 in Business
The process of registering any domain you wish is far too simple, way too easy to manipulate and has potentially left thousands of individuals broke, homeless and out of business. Sounds far-fetched, but it's true.
Perhaps you’ve discovered several domain names you’d love owning, yet administrative contact information shown through WhoIs is actually outdated. Maybe you’re performing corporate due diligence, and wish to discover some background information on particular owners, yet this information isn’t correct, either.
Policing domain name registration information should, perhaps, become the spotlight of registration since wrongdoings like Madoff could spring up anywhere. Let’s explore the mighty world of domain registrations and unveil flaws which need better governance.
ICANN, you can
Registering your domain name has little to no restrictions, or at least none which ICANN, the governing body of domain names, enforces. Anyone in Abu Dhabi can register domain names in America, and vice versa. This means anyone with credit cards, prepaid debit cards or PayPal accounts can purchase their chosen name, and the proverbial blind eye will be turned.
With individuals propagating fraudulence in alarming numbers, it’s perhaps time ICANN tighten the clamps on how they’re allowing registrations. If convicted felons cannot own firearms, wire fraudsters shouldn’t be allowed to purchase domain names.
ICANN has managed to incorporate the uniform rapid suspension system to fast track complaints — but it's still a far cry from where they need to be.
WhoIs this company?
During initial domain registration process, you’ll have several pieces of administration, technical, billing and business contact information to fill in before paying. Note that each space can literally have a Tom, Dick and Harry without anyone calling to verify your information. This provides another avenue for shysters to register their business name in fictitious names, prepaid phone numbers and their neighbor’s addresses. Under constant scrutiny for warehousing false information, consumers are often fooled by businesses yet are fully expected to purchase from their ‘clandestine operation’.
WhoIs, in collaboration with major domain registrars, need some level of verification to protect consumers – perhaps even enacting background cross-referencing by connecting to law enforcement portals. Anything.
Thwart cybersquatting
More unethical than illegal, cybersquatting provides no value whatsoever to domains. Banking on type-in traffic across several dozen domains to make quick money, these cantankerous individuals prefer paying $9.99 for a domain that would actually provide your business some value to, then upsell the domain five years later for $500. Again, not illegal; just slightly 'questionable'.
Would forcing individuals purchasing domains for business development to attach their EIN deter cybersquatting? I’d say, since more specific information must be divulged before being issued the employer ID. Currently, the only way cybersquatting domains crosses legal thresholds is when intellectual property, celebrities or other brands are compromised. Boutique brandable domain sellers Popcentric and Buy Domains are one of few companies in my research that haven't been either threatened or litigated against for the use of intellectual property in the domain names they registered.
Another angle to look at cybersquatting involves brandable domain names.
When you start a company with only a name, it’s essentially all you have until your product or service speaks for itself. Finding the right brandable domain name may cost money if the exact name you want isn’t available to be registered. Wrestling the desired domain name from someone that is more interested in hoarding has proven impossible – or extremely expensive. This is why I believe there should be rules against having empty domain names; everyone who purchases a domain name must use it within an ‘amicable’ predetermined time frame or they lose it.
According to new developments in the Federal Anti-Cybersquatting Law, people won't be able to dry hump someone else's precious name for much longer..
Honesty lost its policy
Privatizing registrations supposedly keeps businesses shielded from information hijacking for telemarketing purposes. Many people question whether private information is really a defense mechanism, or an attempt to cover something illegal.
Speculative at best, reading articles across the internet have mixed feelings about business ethics today, especially within the domain niche. With growing numbers of new extension rolling out weekly, there is every reason for individuals to be cautious of new domain extensions. Registration of domains does need more honesty behind it, at least from a consumer indemnification standpoint. I’m also a firm believer that we’d benefit from more governmental involvement within the domain registration world, and I say this without trepidation. Way too much duplicity for some legislation not to happen.
Domain registration is completely your business, yet keep in mind that slapping your phone number on the Do Not Call registry, keeping your real information exposed and making every attempt to do your part in purporting level domain playing fields is all you can do. Leave the semantics for registrars who’ll eventually have little choice but to make registering domains slightly less systematic, and more "revealing."
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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