Afilias Makes Changes To Sunrise Policy

Bowing to worldwide pressure and the need to clean out its registry closet,
the owner of the .info registry Thursday announced the implementation of a revamped
Sunrise registration process.

Afilias, awarded
the .info domain extension
by the Internet Corporation for Assigned
Names and Numbers (ICANN) earlier this year, has had a tough time gaining
legitimacy with the domain name community for some of its startup hiccups.

Hal Lubsen, Afilias chief executive officer, said the lessons learned from
.info’s troubled start is a good lesson learned for the Internet domain
community.

“Afilias is eager to ensure that the Sunrise registration process is an
effective test bed from which to learn how intellectual property can be
adequately protected during the rollout of a new top-level domain,” Lubsen
said. “With some strategic enhancements to our policies we believe we will
be able to clear the .info domain of Sunrise registrations that were
improperly submitted.”

A study released Aug. 27 by Dr. Robert Connor, an associate professor at
the University of Minnesota, found that up to 25 percent of the Sunrise
registrations were bogus, as defined by Afilias’ Sunrise registration rules.

The report found Sunrise domain squatters “a serious problem,” and that
unless steps are taken to correct them, “use of Sunrise periods in future
top level domain names may be in doubt.”

To address those concerns, the domain registry has come up with several
new policies, which went into effect Thursday.

The first policy change is anyone registering a domain name that was
successfully challenged in arbitration can request the domain immediately,
given they show proof it is their trademark. This allows trademark holders
to immediately sign up for the domain after winning the challenge in the
arbitration process, handled by the World Intellectual Property Organization.

This way, trademark owners can immediately grab the domain they likely
spent more than $300 to file through the arbitration process. Afilias
officials said they have taken steps to further reduce any cybersquatter
grabs, now demanding proof of trademark ownership before giving out
the domain name. The policy change, along with its existing policy to hold
domain names for 180 days at the registry, is one many advocates believe
will take the legs out from any cybersquatter shenanigans.

Another policy change gives legitimate .info registrants the chance to
correct erroneous Sunrise information. Since the WHOIS database (which
keeps a record of the domain owners contact information) is locked down
after submittal, this gives them a chance to update their contact info,
trademark proof, etc.

To do this, Afilias set up a second database, one that parallels the
current WHOIS database and allows registrars to make necessary
changes. The second database and the process to update the information
will also have the added benefit of preventing domain squatters from adding
information to the database that could possibly clear them from arbitration
challenges.

The policy changes are a good sign Afilias will have corrected some of its
own Sunrise registration procedures in time for its Dec. 26 house cleaning,
when the domain extension owners perform an in-house “bulk” check of all
Sunrise registrations.

Any bogus domain registrations found by Afilias will be made available to
the public sometime “in early 2002,” officials said. The revised date
will likely produce a mini “land rush” as people make a grab for the “new”
domain names.

It’s to be expected that there will still be bogus claims that fall through
the cracks, but many, including Connor, consider the changes to be a good
first step in correcting the problems that have plagued the company from
day one.

“These changes do not completely correct the negative effects of bogus
Sunrise registrations on Land Rush participants, but they are a step in the
right direction by Afilias and should correct some Sunrise period
problems,” Connor said. “Hopefully Afilias will continue in this direction
as they figure out how to release names which they challenge to the public
in 2002.”

The Sunrise policy process has been met with skepticism from Internet
advocates. Ostensibly a way for trademark holders to protect their
legitimate names, like “Pepsi” or “IBM,” the process has quickly
degenerated into what many see as a domain name landgrab for big business.

According to the registry’s Web site, “.info domain names are your
opportunity to reach a worldwide audience with information about you, your
ideas, or your organization.”

But, for example, when a feline lover goes online to “cat.info”, expecting
to read up on the latest cat trends, they will find an entirely different
site. They will find a different site because Gene Bolmarchich of Peoria,
IL, has already registered Caterpillar, the world’s largest manufacturer of
construction and mining equipment.

The WHOIS information also shows Caterpillar doesn’t plan to build up its
.info presence much. The domain cat.info, when completed, will simply
resolve to www.cat.com, the company’s home page.

News Around the Web