Network Solutions Under DOJ Fire

Domain registrar Network Solutions Inc. is the target of a Justice Department probe, which is investigating whether the firm has broken antitrust laws.

Network Solutions has collected a database of customer names and addresses during its tenure as exclusive domain registrar and is claiming sole ownership rights, reportedly refusing to offer the list to competitors, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The database will be used to build NSI’s recently announced Dot Com Directory, which will allow people to search for companies by name, place and type of business. It is part of a suite of offerings NSI is providing now that its domain registration monopoly is about to end.

The Commerce Department argues that the list should be made available to competitors because it was created while Network Solutions was operating under a government-approved monopoly, the newspaper reports.

A Justice spokeswoman told the Journal only that the department is “looking at the possibility of anti-competitive practices in the Internet address registration industry.”

Rivals say the database is the only place where such information is available in bulk form, and is needed to contact and pitch products and services to individuals and companies with domain names. There are an estimated 4 million domain names registered with NSI.

NSI believes it has a right to the database because it is considered “intellectual property,” which is protected under the company’s original agreement with the National Science Foundation.

“It’s very clear that we have the rights to this data,” NSI spokesman Christopher Clough told the Journal.

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