The Digital Britain report and the legislation which is now before the UK parliament (Digital Economy Bill) makes for very scary reading.
The implications of the legislation are far reaching – and not just within the UK
What about the sections of the legislation that refer to domain registries? Note the plural
There is an entire section of the legislation dedicated to “internet domain registries”, which is “nicely” divided into sub-sections:
- Powers in relation to internet domain registries
- Appointment of manager of internet domain registry
- Application to court to alter constitution of internet domain registry
What is worrying is how they “plan” to enact their powers in the case of “registry failure”:
“3) There is a relevant failure in relation to an internet domain registry if —
(a) the registry, or any of its registrars or end-users, engages in prescribed practices that are unfair or involve the misuse of internet domain names,
(b) the arrangements made by the registry for dealing with complaints in connection with internet domain names do not comply with prescribed requirements.”
Note the choice of language. Not only is failure deemed to have happened if the registry messes up, but it also gets triggered if a registrar OR a registrant does something that they don’t like.
Now if you examine some of the supporting documents that they used while preparing the legislation you are going to be in for a shock.
In common with other pieces of legislation, this one was not drafted overnight. It comes after a long period of supposed planning and research. I say “supposed”, as the document covering the “impact assessment” is horrendously misinformed.
Taking just one or two choice paragraphs from that document as examples:
Cyber-squatting – members apply to register domain names which are of economic value to other people and then charge then high prices to buy them.
Drop-catching – members wait until the expiry date for an existing registered domain name has just passed and the exploit the few seconds between the expiry of the registration and the effecting of the original owner’s automatic registration in order to snatch the name and then charge for them to buy it back
Phishing – a member uses the domain name that is confusingly similar to another one (usually of a well known brand) in order to dupe members of the public to enter the site.
Why are they referring to “members”? Only Nominet and its members would ever refer to themselves using such terminology.
Does this mean that the British government views all Nominet members as being phishers?
I’d certainly hope not, but their choice of that term is interesting to say the least. I won’t even bother addressing their definitions. Suffice to say, the definitions are flawed to the extreme.
If they are basing the concept of failure around those sorts of concepts then it may be time for Nominet registrars to look more closely at .eu!
So let’s return to the “registries” once more.
As things stand at present there is more than one “registry” in the UK.
While the biggest and best known of them is obviously Nominet, there is also both Telnic and Centralnic.
While Centralnic’s may be best known for domain extensions such as gb.com, it also handles the registry services for .la – Laos or Los Angeles (depending on who you ask!)
Telnic has already expressed its concern at the permutations of such legislation
And what of those organisations that were planning on getting new TLDs? What of the likes of .scot or .cym? Or any other company that was interested in applying for a new TLD with ICANN.
Has the UK government overlooked the fact that ICANN already exists?
Did they consult with ICANN prior to this?
Other parts of the bill, which deal with copyright protection (they’re hailing it as progress – any normal person would view it as a denial of their right to fair process.. ) and plenty of other things that will render the UK the most internet unfriendly country in Europe.
Is this the swan song for the failing Labour government in Britain?
Do they want to be remembered for introducing draconian legislation that will effectively force internet companies in the UK to move?
I for one am scared