Following a consultation with the Irish internet community, the IEDR (Irish Domains Registry) may bring about a formal appeals process that will have negative consequences for ISPs by effectively allowing anyone to query the registry of a .ie domain including one already registered, and setting the resources of ISPs towards sorting through a new redtape nightmare.
The worst case scenario for domain owners, said Michele Neylon, CEO of Carlow-based internet hosting firm Blacknight Solutions, is that a .ie domain registered to a trading company for legitimate purposes could in effect be queried, leading to the suspension of the domain while the dispute is ongoing or even to its deletion.
“This suspension is the equivalent of having your assets frozen – nobody can do anything with the domain.”
A spokesperson for the IEDR said that the analogy of having assets frozen is incorrect as there is “no question” of suspending a domain which is appealed: ““To put this in context, it is normal practice to avoid any attempt to thwart the outcome of an appeal. In the event of appeal, the domain is temporarily locked but will remain live.”
Meanwhile, the paperwork involved for the ISPs could knock the industry back a few steps: “If you go back five or six years ago, it was upwards of €70 or €80 to register a .ie but now in 2008 we have seen the average price running from the mid-twenties through to mid-fifties.
“There is choice and competition in the market but if you end up in a situation where the potential amount of paperwork is increased, people who have issues with domain registration will not be banging on ComReg’s door, they’re not going to be banging on departmental doors, they’ll be banging on mine,” said Neylon.
Ultimately, this will involve employing more staff to deal with the deluge of queries and will lead to less competitive pricing, he concluded: “I can’t possibly sell domain names for a low margin if this happens because I’ll end up going bankrupt.”
For businesses operating online the query of any domain would be insane, said Neylon, as it could lead to bigger companies stopping the use of any .ie domain that could be possibly linked in any way to their branding or registered trademark, however tenuous.
On the other hand, Neylon cited cybersquatters Gabor Varga and Jozsef Petho who between them bought up domains including ipod.ie, adidas.ie, nike.ie and bebo.ie as a clear example of how such stringent controls put in place by the IEDR to protect the .ie domain can in actuality be used against them.
Neylon gave the example of a requirement to register a .ie domain where an arbitrary firm could use, for example, Nike – if you say your firm has the acronym of NIKE, it can easily qualify.
So why further tie up .ie registration in more red tape? “It’s a knee-jerk reaction from civil servants who don’t really understand how domains and the internet space work.
“They take a look and see the need for an appeals process. This is all well and good but you are appealing against the policy, and in the case of the IEDR the policies are ambiguous in a lot of places and subjective in others.
“There is no policy development process available and because the existing policies are so vague there is very little guarantee that when you go to register your domain it will even be processed,” says Neylon.
The spokesperson for the IEDR said that it was important to realise that the appeals process is not in place presently, and that consultation will involve the input of all in the industry.
“At the moment, the consultation is at a very early stage – all accounts will be taken on board. The IEDR, which is an important part of the internet ecosystem, envisages an independent third party that will be present on all appeals. We have provisions to protect against spurious appeals.”
By Marie Boran