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Only Bad Actors Should Worry About the URS

Co-authored by David McAuley, Policy Manager at Verisign and Griffin Barnett, Associate at Winterfeldt IP Group.

With DNS abuse a topic of increased concern throughout the community, any controversy over adopting the Uniform Rapid Suspension System (URS) for all generic top-level domains (gTLDs) seems misplaced.

The URS was designed as a narrow supplement to the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), applicable only in certain tightly defined circumstances of clear-cut and incontrovertible trademark infringement involving the registration and use of a domain name. The ICANN Rights Protection Mechanism (RPM) Review Working Group has closely examined the URS over the past four years, and so far has consistently concluded it to be fit for purpose in quickly disabling the most egregious instances of bad faith registration and use of a domain name that takes unfair advantage of an established trademark.

A comprehensive January 2018 RPM Review Working Group analysis of all URS cases filed to that point demonstrated that it had been an effective tool against blatant cybersquatting and associated DNS abuse (e.g. phishing schemes leveraging a trademark-infringing domain name), with 827 cases brought against 1,861 domains and an average case duration of just 17 days. Nothing in the data, and nothing in the Working Group deliberations, has pointed toward any significant abuse of the URS (for instance, by overly aggressive or overreaching brand owners). In fact, the data suggest just the opposite, namely that brand owners have turned to the URS in only the very limited subset of instances where it is specifically intended to be used—i.e. to quickly suspend a domain name that, by clear and convincing evidence, is being used to infringe the complainant’s trademark to perpetrate consumer harm. Indeed, although the URS includes specific penalties for abusive complainants, no such abuses of the URS have been found to date.

The 2018 analysis also showed that the URS is providing meaningful due process for registrants, even in default cases, as well as a demonstrably effective appeals process. Nonetheless, to further improve the efficacy of the URS, the Working Group appears on track to recommend certain process improvements. These include enhanced notice requirements to ensure registrants receive proper notice of URS proceedings instituted against them, more clear language requirements to ensure proceedings are conducted in the registrant’s language, and making available additional information about the URS through ICANN and URS providers’ websites to help participants in the URS better understand the meaning of the proceedings and how to participate fairly.

In short, the case for adopting the URS in all gTLDs is clear—so clear that only those with something to gain from cybersquatting and other DNS abuses that leverage trademarks should worry about it being applied in those gTLDs where it has not yet been implemented. Otherwise, it seems obvious that those who hope for a cleaner DNS would support the adoption of the URS as an ICANN Consensus Policy applicable to all gTLDs.

By David McAuley, Senior International Policy Manager, Naming and Registry Services at Verisign

As a Senior International Policy Manager at Verisign, David McAuley focuses primarily on global domain name policy matters. McAuley is also an active participant in a number of ICANN-related working groups to include the Independent Review Process (IRP) Implementation Oversight Team, the All Rights Protection Mechanisms (RPMs) in All gTLDs Policy Development Process, the Registry Stakeholder Group, the ccNSO Guidelines Review Committee, and the Cross-Community Working Party on ICANN and Human Rights.

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Smear Job, Unbecoming of CircleID to publish George Kirikos  –  Sep 8, 2020 8:30 PM

This article attempts to smear opponents of the URS, stating that “only those with something to gain from cybersquatting and other DNS abuses that leverage trademarks should worry about it”. That is clearly false, given any reasonable analysis of how the URS has actually been applied.

I (and others) submitted quite detailed comments to ICANN and the working group on this topic. My company’s comments can be read in their entirety here.

While the authors above claim that the URS has been working fine, with nothing to worry about, I cited very specific examples, linking directly to another blog post which analyzed decisions for:

- KBS.LLC - inactive website is suspended (losing the URS case)
- CFA.CLUB - again, another inactive website loses the URS dispute
- CFA.COMMUNITY - again, another inactive website loses the URS dispute, AND the panelist provides no reasons for the decision
- BLOOMBERG.BEST - non-infringing links on a parked page loses, despite the term being a common surname

The authors of the CircleID article above completely ignore the fact that these cases were brought to the attention of the working group, giving ample reason why stakeholders should be concerned about the URS. It’s unbecoming of CircleID to publish such a smear job when good faith participants in ICANN processes have legitimate reasons to oppose the URS. I abhor cybersquatting and other DNS abuses, but can simultaneously abhor the URS, due to its lack of due process protections and repeated misapplication, such as the examples above. When specific improvements were proposed (e.g. a limitation period, to prevent the URS from being applied to domains that had been long-registered for many years), those improvements were rejected. Any “improvements” that the authors above mention are merely superficial, and will not have any meaningful impact on a deeply flawed procedure that was never designed for legacy gTLDs.

When dot-com domain names can be worth tens of thousands of dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions of dollars, they deserve greater due process than that of a “small claims court” such as the URS.

There are many other reasons for good actors to oppose the URS, some of which were discussed in Zak Muscovitch’s article on this topic.

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