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How Insider Domain Theft Can Bring Down ICANN

Frederick Harris

If a hired philosopher graced ICANN, the work would get down to brass tacks. "What is it?", she would ask, that drives ICANN beyond the mysterious dot that apparently represents the root. One can picture subsequent appeals from senior management to its navels, for clues as to what in the end game the root truly represents.

I surmise that contemplating bred-in-the-bone values does not resonate easily or often at ICANN. Its like that unreachable itch that evades our scratch; we can't get at the source. This is because the sanctum sanctorum which animates ICANN memes the inelegant label "bastard”. It is not ICANN's fault; it was born that way. Policy types may prefer the word "quango”, meaning quasi-non-governmental organization. Either way, slicing and dicing a quango discloses contradictory goals.

Thus, a policy query such as "whom do you actually represent?" is exactly the wrong tactic in ICANN. It elicits weasel worded clichés like constituencies and interests. Such uncover nothing of substance about goals. The reason? ICANN is a Janus-faced apparatus looking in two directions at once: at principles and at policy. Stuck in the middle is something called "scruples" which are absent when it comes to the very thing that in the end game can either sustain or kill ICANN.

To penetrate ICANN is to ask "Where is here?" Show us your mind set; your standard. If the standard is technology, then so be it. If its money, then say so. Perhaps, as with ICANN, it's a reluctance to acknowledge the split between American-style enterprise and the public good. In ICANN's case, the word "here" also discloses the lowermost rung within ICANN. At the bottom of its priorities are domain names and therefore domain name owners who are cannon fodder. This is irony writ large. Here's why that's the case.

Mother's Milk

A reasonable person informed by current gTLD mania will conclude that the one thing ICANN craves above all else is domain names. Layer upon layer of domain name complexity awaits ICANN, such that no one other than troglodytes will accept official ideology that the only and actual purpose is technical governance of the root. Even naïve groupies have to know that mother's milk for ICANN is the lowly domain name whose registrants and their money drive the enterprise. The only currency unit that broadly defines ICANN beyond mammon, is domain names. Why have "open" domain name registries unless the purpose is to oversee names. And, yet, the owners of those names are, and will continue to be, cannon scat. Here's a case in point.

I recently wrote that ICANN is anti-consumer; it favors business over registrants. Why say that? Money doesn't talk; it shouts. The actual standard applied to insider thieves who steal domains is no standard; official ideology is that the phenomenon doesn't exist. It is a policy of no policy beyond language that states if your domain name gets ripped off by insiders, contact the police or a consumer agency.

By "insiders" I mean persons in authority who have the knowledge and motivation to manipulate Postel's "distributed and hierarchical series' of tables" that certify domain ownership. ICANN has to know that asking a complainant to call police or file a federal complaint about an ethereal good which in reality doesn't exist except in tables that update their data, is a fool's errand. This in fact is what ICANN does to complainants whose domain names are ripped off. It screws them.

ICANN countenances domain theft. That is the reality. Reasonable proof, as I mentioned in an earlier post, can be viewed here. ICANN in that particular and recent instance did nothing about the domain theft. 20 pages of incontrovertible evidence and a ten-page complaint show how the theft occurred, and which entities are accountable, which includes EIG (Endurance International Group) and its companies Dotster and Domain.com. However, EIG has sold more than ten million domain names. Why rock the money barge?

Nor will ICANN do anything in future unless there's a calamity. "What's the big deal" one may ask. Its only a domain name. The answer is that real harms to real people obtain because unlike goods that we can see and touch, a domain, in California at any rate, equals tangible property. Aside from brand name issues that are subrogated to WIPO, ICANN indulges with multiple "Notices of Breach, Suspension, Termination, and Non-Renewal its miscreant registrars.

The double standard is the absence of a policy that details a sanction for insider domain theft. ICANN declines to even issue a warning to thieves, meaning its big money clients such as EIG.

Insider Domain Theft Can Bring Down ICANN

ICANN always has a variety of imaginative excuses to evade matters that create compliance problems. The real problem is that theft of a domain name is real theft. Criminal insiders who steal domain names, generally to try and sell them elsewhere, are ICANN's worst nightmare. No amount of equivocation, or policy absence that spells out in plain language the applicable sanction for a registrar or registry when domain theft occurs, avoids ICANN complicity.

Like insider trading, insider domain theft is insidious. It victimizes everyone it touches. It is a hard to prove crime that only ICANN can deal with. In its stead, ICANN has a caveat emptor domain theft policy that tells registrants to protect their domains on their own. Imagine calling the police to complain about a tangible good which has no physical presence? Moreover, ICANN compliance mandarins are apparently clueless as to the danger of allowing this evil to go on. They just don't seem to "get it".

Sometime in the future when millions of gTLD registrants have finally wised up to the fact that they pay good money in the form of a tariff directly to ICANN to purchase something whose only actual existence is a refreshable online document from a routing table, ICANN will suddenly get religion. Technical security efforts can not control human behavior. Those forthcoming dough nuts (Donuts) are about money. The "commercial interests" that motivate the new mouthpiece for registries, named Domain Name Association (theDNA) are also about money.

In the end, the supreme irony might well be that the single common variable which drove the entire ICANN oligopoly was individual domain names; and, yet, ICANN refused to protect their owners. When and if ICANN is held accountable by the courts in one or more class action lawsuits that involve hundreds of millions of registrants, ICANN might well disappear. And with it, its mother's milk.

By Frederick Harris

Related topics: Domain Names, ICANN, Policy & Regulation

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Comments

Registrars are as thick as thieves Andrew Gardner  –  Nov 04, 2013 4:42 PM PDT

Registrars have been taking over ownership of expired domain names, and monetising them, rather than returning them to the pool of available names for years now. Pretty sure Tucows was the first to do so, and now they openly admit they make more money from that than they do from their registrant base?

Despite the anti-competitive nature of this, ICANN and DoC are suspiciously silent on the matter.

It's not like no one knows about it… http://domainnamewire.com/2008/12/03/standard-tactics-llc-how-godaddy-profits-from-expired-domains/

Interesting piece, but... Philip S Corwin  –  Nov 04, 2013 8:03 PM PDT

...who are you? No info in 'about'

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