Website owners squatting on domains

There are still many cases of internet domainers effectively "squatting" on known brand and trademark names, says the ZA Domain Name Authority.

March 5, 2010
Website owners squatting on domains

“If you mistype a brand website name, you still end up in some other website either claiming to be a legitimate website for the brand you’re looking for, or providing you with competitor brand adverts,” said Vika Mpisane, general manager of .ZA Domain Name Authority (ZADNA). 

ZADNA is the agency which manages South Africa’s internet space.

“ZADNA is aware of instances of some internet service providers (ISPs) registering brand names that belong to known brand owners,” Mpisane said in a statement.

Although it had an alternate dispute resolution (ADR) process to resolve disputes over co.za website names, ZADNA admitted more awareness was necessary as most businesses seemed unaware of the ADR process.

Mpisane said it had been suggested that the .za registrations be set up in such a way that known brands were protected upfront from registration by squatters.

However, he said this would be an “almost impractical task to carry out”.

“By its nature, domain name registration is usually automated and as such, there is less human involvement. 

“Practically, there’s no person sitting on the other side at co.za checking if the new registrations do not take advantage of brand names.”

Mpisane said that was why ZADNA had the ADR process as a channel  that aggrieved people could use to reclaim their brand website names.

“But the rapid increase in domain name registration is also driven by necessity, as most businesses realise they have to protect their brands across many domains worldwide,” he said.

Squatting and the practice of domaineering were forcing most businesses to register their brand domain names across the world.

“This means, for example, that big South African businesses will  not only register .za but also .com as well as in overseas territories such as the UK and China. 

“If they don’t do it this way, they will find sooner or later that somebody else has already registered that brand in that country.”

Various domain operators were putting measures in place to address the problem, and this was in addition to dispute resolution measures already in existence.

“In .za, licensing regulations are expected to come into operation some time in 2010.

“The .za licensing regulations will allow ZADNA to license the entities operating the .za second level domain databases (i.e. registries), such as gov.za and co.za.”

Mpisane said it would also license the ISPs that wanted to register or sell .za domain names — better known as “registrars”.

“The advantage of the licensing process is that ZADNA will now be able to set accountability measures for its registries and registrars. 

“For example, an ISP that is found to be hosting domain names and websites used by criminals for e-scams will be required to either suspend such websites or face having their licences revoked. 

“And revocation will mean loss of business as such registrars will not be allowed to register .za domain names or to access .za domain name databases anymore.”

Mpisane said licensing regulations were being revised after ZADNA completed the public consultation process in February. 

“Once the regulations pass internal checks and additional comments by stakeholders, they will be submitted to the minister of communications for his approval in terms of ECT Act [Electronic Communications and Transactions Act],” Mpisane added.

The rapid growth in the number of internet domain names registered continued unabated and by the end of 2009 there were 192 million domain names registered in all top level domains worldwide, he said.

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