Business Constituency Investigates DNS Abuse – Domain Name Wire

The group responds to the recent request from the EU.

I’ve written a lot about DNS abuse lately. Everyone other than criminals is opposed to DNS abuse, but there is significant debate over what constitutes abuse and what role various groups should play in reducing its prevalence. Today, let’s look at what the ICANN Business Constituency has to say.

The Commercial Business Users (BC) Constituency is one of ICANN’s Constituent Groups. It has a diverse group of members, including companies like Facebook, AT&T, and Ebay, and domain investors like Digimedia and groups like the Internet Commerce Association (ICA).

Just by looking at this list, you can imagine that there are different opinions in the group. You have companies like Facebook (Meta) spending millions defending their brands, Ebay defending their brands and being accused of facilitating the sale of counterfeit products, and groups promoting legitimate investment in non-infringing domain names .

In response to EU request toolkit against counterfeitingBritish Columbia released a statement (pdf) that echoed ongoing debates about the distinctions between content and technical abuse. And the current president of British Columbia, Mason Cole, recently written about “the ever-evolving problem of DNS abuse”, casting a wide net around the definition of DNS abuse. (Cole currently works for brand protection company Appdetex.)

These responses were based on EU document on DNS abuse for ammunition. However, this study is a great example of something I said in a previous article: depending on what you define as “DNS abuse” and how you count it, you can describe it as a disaster, a struggle that s gradually improves against bad actors, and anything in between.

The EU study provides strong images for the ‘disaster’ camp. But, in all fairness, the report points out that much of the abuse happens at the hosting level. Many domains used for abuse are registered by legitimate actors, but the content hosted there has been compromised.

BCs believe we should:

  • require TLD registries, registrars, privacy or proxy providers, and resellers to verify the accuracy of domain registration data (WHOIS);
  • encourage these same entities to develop and deploy new tools to identify domain names likely to infringe their rights; and
  • encourage these same entities to offer services allowing holders of intellectual property rights (IPRs) to prevent counterfeit domain name registrations.

I reached out to Internet Commerce Association General Counsel Zak Muscovitch to get his perspective on BC’s written opinion. He wrote:

While the ICA is in British Columbia, the BC does not always represent the interests of domain name investors and some issues in which the BC is involved are not our own priorities.

The CIA, however, shares British Columbia’s general concern about illegal activities using domain names and generally supports efforts to remedy these harms. In fact, the ICA Code of Conduct specifically recognizes the protection of intellectual property rights, strict adherence to Internet fraud laws, accuracy of Whois data, and compliance with lawful content laws. The domain name investors we represent are not engaged in such activities and are not particularly harmed by them, unlike major brands.

With respect to the specific recommendations in the BC response, we are concerned with the recommended approaches and also tend to take a narrower view of what constitutes DNS abuse.

To define “DNS Abuse” and determine appropriate areas to develop responses to abuse remain the most difficult parts of the conversation. Expanding the definition to include “all bad things on the Internet” means that ICANN cannot be a central place to act because its role is limited to the technical operation of the DNS. However, reducing the definition to technical DNS abuse may make it more difficult for many members of BC and the IP Constituency to address them. Many members exist to protect the business interests most abused by bad actors on the Internet.

Whether you land in the camp of broad definitions or prefer precision, the prevalence of Internet abuse is an ongoing problem that will require a coordinated effort to mitigate.

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