ICANN Gives an Update on Whois

Yvette Miller ⬥ 29 March

Fake Whois information has long been a source of frustration to anyone looking to deal with domain names that are infringing on trademarks and misleading customers, so ICANN’s recent update on its efforts to improve Whois are an important read.

Much has happened since ICANN’s Whois Working Group handed in its analysis and recommendations on improving Whois policy. Back in October 2012, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé announced ICANN’s plans to finally tackle the issue, and by November, the Board directed the CEO towards a two-pronged approach to the mission: 1 – “increase efforts to communicate, conduct outreach on, and ensure compliance with existing policy and conditions relating to Whois” and 2 – to “launch a new effort to redefine the purpose of collecting, maintaining and providing access to gTLD registration data,” as the Whois policy is, at this point, 25 years old.

Here are some highlights on what ICANN is looking to address and how the organization is doing it:

The need for a single, comprehensive, and clearly communicated Whois policy. 

ICANN is currently working on a webpage that would compile everything you need to know about Whois policy, which is set for completion in April 2013 and likely launch by June. This webpage would also be a place where Internet users can look up Whois information.

The need for more accurate Whois data 

One way that ICANN is trying to address this is adding more specifics on Whois accuracy, verification, and validation in the 2013 Registry Accreditation Agreement (RAA). The Draft Registry Agreement requires that Registries use Registrars that have signed on to the 2013 RAA, creating an incentive for registrars to sign on to the more spec-heavy 2013 RAA.

A more immediate tool that users can use to police the domain name space themselves is the recently launched is a Compliance Complaint page.

Reimagining the policy

An “Expert Working Group” has been meeting to produce what they are calling the “Next Generation Data Directory Services” and will continue its discussions at ICANN’s next community meeting in Beijing.

As ICANN seems to be streamlining Whois policy and clarifying responsibilities around the Whois database, feedback from the community will be key. While ICANN’s attention is on the issue, it’s an opportunity for the trademark community to weigh in on issues that they may feel strongly about and test out some of the resources coming their way.

Tags: Beijing, Compliance Complaint, domain names, Fadi Chehadé, gTLDs, ICANN, RAA, registrars, registries, Registry Accreditation Agreement, trademark community, Whois policy

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