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  • Writer's pictureRosie Burbidge

WHOIS better at finding out domain name information?



ICANN, the organisation that manages domain names on the internet, has launched the Registration Data Request Service (RDRS) to handle requests for access to non-public registration data on generic top-level domains (gTLDs).


Parties who were affected by cybersquatting, counterfeiting and other forms of IP infringement and domain name abuse used to be able to quickly and easily access data on domain name users from registrars using the WHOIS system. However, in 2018 ICANN stated that names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses should be redacted from WHOIS searches. Ostensibly this change was to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) but whether such a drastic change was necessary is open for debate.


The sudden absence of this key data has made many aspects of IP enforcement more challenging.


More than five years later, ICANN has now launched a new service designed to resolve the perceived data protection issue. The RDRS connects “requestors” with participating registrars and enables requests to be submitted via a single platform. All communication and data disclosure between registrars and requestors takes place outside of the RDRS. The aim is to streamline the process and provide prompt and accurate data on domain name registrants.


ICANN has also published data on the first two months of operation of the RDRS. This shows that the new service may not be as helpful as hoped. So far, 72 registrars are participating; 219 requests were filed for participating registrars and a further 886 for non-participating registrars.


Of the 128 disclosure requests closed during the period, 103 were denied, 15 approved, 2 partially approved and in 8 cases the data was publicly available. ICANN also provides the reasons for denial of requests: the most common were that corrective action or more information were required.


What does this mean?

The RDRS will undoubtedly help parties such as brand owners who need to identify contact details for the operators of abusive websites. It offers a simple, consistent form and should make it easier to keep track of requests.


However, its effectiveness will depend on how many registrars sign up. Hopefully more will do so soon. The early indications are that many requests were filed for non-participating registrars and that many other requests were denied. This demonstrates the importance of ensuring that requests are drafted carefully and diligently and automation should be limited until clear and standardised processes are established.


If you would like to know more about enforcing IP rights online and tackling abusive domain names, please get in touch.


To find out more about the issues raised in this blog contact Rosie Burbidge, Intellectual Property Partner at Gunnercooke LLP in London - rosie.burbidge@gunnercooke.com


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