interNIC lost my business!!!
May 12, 2000 9:25 PM   Subscribe

interNIC lost my business!!! To take the heat (and any possible lawsuits) off of them, they have now changed thier policy to revoke anyone's domain name at their discretion.

Phil Sbarbaro, NSI's legal counsel, offered a parallel to summarize prevailing law: "You don't own a domain name any more than you own your phone number."

I don't know about you guys, but I am definitely finding another registrar to transfer my domain names to...ASAP!
posted by EricBrooksDotCom (14 comments total)

what a joke!
posted by Doomsday at 9:52 PM on May 12, 2000

I've been looking at Dotster, but haven't read the fine print that closely, yet.

We should be able to own our domain names... *sigh*
posted by hobbes at 9:54 PM on May 12, 2000

I read somewhere (I can't remember where) that Internic doesn't allow you to transfer your domain name to other places. (fine print?)

Does anyone know if this is true?
posted by zannah at 10:48 PM on May 12, 2000

ominous indeed. Basically, this means that they can arbitrarily shut down any site they wish. We really need a more secure and distributed system - they've obviously gone too far this time...
posted by dinsdale at 11:22 PM on May 12, 2000

zannah, was this what you were talking about?

from the domain net buyer's guide mentioned in the article:

"CONSUMER ALERT 1 - The Network Solutions registration agreement contains the following language, "Your rights under this Agreement are not assignable. Any attempt by you to assign your rights shall render this Agreement voidable at our option." Domain Name Buyer's Guide believes that this explicitly authorizes Network Solutions to revoke your domain name if you try to transfer it to someone else. In our opinion, this restriction is unacceptable. We, therefore, recommend that domain name owners avoid Network Solutions until this restriction has been removed."

If this isn't a horrendously administrated monopoly, what the feck is?

Also in the article, domain names were compared to phone numbers by Internic's lawyer. Hello?
Our domain names are more than just our phone numbers, the words or phrases that people call us and know us by -- they're not just phone numbers, access numbers that can be easily replaced.

Imagine if one day someone told you that you couldn't use your name anymore, the name you'd used your entire life and had built your reputation on, and so sorry, you'll just have to pick another one.

Also, if they can void their agreement with you, anytime, at their discretion, doesn't that mean that someone could then register your name, if you weren't quick enough to reregister it somewhere else? Like if Internic decided for some reason that they wanted to void, instead of Jeffrey Zeldman's site, we might, as soon as the dns changes started spreading, find, a redirect to a porn site?

Ugh. I hate Internic. I hated them when they were the only registrars, and I hate them more even now -- instead of becoming more accomodating and customer-friendly, to retain the customers they already have, they seem to be determined to turn anyone with half a brain (and paying money) off of using their services.

posted by lia at 11:56 PM on May 12, 2000

"more even" in the last paragraph should've been "even more" -- metafilter blue screws with my typing skills. argghhh.
posted by lia at 11:59 PM on May 12, 2000

Let's back up a minute. First of all, there was an interesting ruling in the Supreme Court of Virginia governing NSI, which overturned the pre-existing assumption (dating back to the Clue Computing case, mainly) that domain names were property, and now rules that they are a "product of a contract for services". This was the result of a complicated lawsuit involving a US company suing a Canadian company, who won in 1997 an injunction against the latter and sought to use garnishment proceedings to retake the domain. It is important to realize that in 1997 the laws governing domain names were different, and dispute resolution procedures were also different.

The court acknowledges that other circuit courts have ruled differently. At this moment, this ruling only applies in the State of Virginia.

The 1999 NSI contract is more restrictive than other registrars, but it's important to realize that it changed in November after ICANN adopted a uniform dispute resolution policy across .com, .net, and .org -- in other words, ICANN is explicitly trying to get registrars out of domain lawsuits, like the one they were caught in the middle of up above.

It is interesting to note that ICANN explicitly throughout their website refer to "trademark owners" and "domain name holders" or "registrants". From some of the discussion it's clear that they're staying out of the legal question of whether domain names themselves are actual property.

We also have to recognize S.1948 from last year, which established legal protections for registrars: "The domain name registrar or registry or other domain name authority shall not be liable for injunctive or monetary relief .... except in the case of bad faith or reckless disregard, which includes a willful failure to comply with any such court order."

S.1948 also takes no explicit position on the ownership question. For the time being, I wouldn't give this ruling TOO much weight; it's out of line with other rulings, it's likely to be appealed, and the applicable laws and policies have changed substantially since the original circumstances of the lawsuit.

In terms of the "domain names aren't property" question, definitely feel free to seek out another registrar. Both Totalnic and Joker use "domain owner" language.

The retaking of domains is part and parcel of the overall ICANN dispute-resolution policy, though. NSI's language may still be more broad ("our sole discretion"), but let the market decide.
posted by dhartung at 12:53 AM on May 13, 2000

NSI's previous behavior suggests that they will, indeed, act in bad faith in this area, as they have in so many others.

Does anyone have any new information on whether the SEC has jumped on them yet for going public without putting "but we won't have a monopoly anymore next year" in the prospectus?
posted by baylink at 8:54 AM on May 13, 2000

I've just moved my NSI domains to, who use the OpenSRS system. I was considering this earlier, as I've had the usual troubles with getting changes authorised through NSI's ridiculous forms, but hearing this has just convinced me.
posted by holgate at 9:31 AM on May 13, 2000

If this is correct, then when people decide to sue a company/person that has registered, they should go after the "true owner" rather than a simple "phone number user"? But, wording in the contract says "you will indemnify and hold us harmless". This is covering all bases saying NSI are the AT&T and operator of everything with no accountability. Talk about a monopoly.
posted by brent at 9:40 AM on May 13, 2000

Has anyone had problems when transferring their domain names to other ICANN authorised registrars? I intend to move the one domain name that I have on NSI as soon as possible to, but first I want to know if there will be any problems.
posted by riffola at 10:05 AM on May 13, 2000

brent, yes, ICANN has developed "best practices" for registrars which includes correct contact information. No more ... and what the court case in Virginia was about was whether the registrar had accountability in third-party lawsuits.
posted by dhartung at 11:13 AM on May 13, 2000

This lawyer compares domain names to telephone's not that simple. You get a new phone number, you call a few buddies and give them the new number...problem solved.

Taking lia's example, is Zeldman gonna email three million people and tell them where his new address is? I don't think soooooo.....

I've always looked at a domain name as a *house* address, which last I checked, never changes.

This policy can spell disaster for Matt Lavalleif he registered with interNIC...just another example of these interNIC cowards bending over backwards for the "dot-com" people, once again.

I would love to see a class-action suit get filed, simply based on ther flimsy ever-changing policies. I don't want any money, I just want to see them out of business...
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 11:31 AM on May 13, 2000

Crap. I have in my hand a Network Solutions bill for another year of, but can I move it to another registrar? From previous experience with NetSol, getting them to do anything right is impossible, even when a court order is involved. If I try to move the domain, are they going to screw up my business domain out of spite?
posted by litlnemo at 1:14 PM on May 13, 2000

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