Internet Governance 02/27/2007

Is anyone keeping an eye on the sharks?

Domain name sharking is nothing new, of course, but exploiting the five-day grace period for domain name registration payment has now become a booming business.  This so-called industry is now so big, these domain name speculators have created their own trade association.


It’s bad enough that speculators are buying up millions of domain names every week in order to test them out as platforms for cybersquatting and parking ads.
But now we learn from an AP report that security experts are worried that spammers and cyber criminals are using the grace period as a source of free temporary domain names. Thanks to the five-day grace period, cyber crooks don’t even have to pay for the domains they use to rip off unsuspecting Web surfers.


Meanwhile, registrars look the other way, even though uncontrolled domain name sharking threatens the system on which their business depends. Taking advantage of the five-day grace period in order to facilitate cybersquatting and online crime is anything but a legitimate business. What domain name speculators and their new trade association are promoting is a danger to the integrity of the Internet, and it should be stopped.


According to the AP story, ICANN is allowing the operators of one top level domain (.org) to charge anyone who turns back a domain name during the grace period a "re-stocking fee" intended to discourage domain name sharking by making it more expensive. That’s a good idea as far as it goes, but doing away with the grace period entirely might be better. Allowing crooks and speculators to tie-up millions of domain names is unfair to individuals and businesses who want to register honestly and use the Internet for legitimate purposes.

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