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Domain Names Users vs Domain Names Registrants

Antony Van Couvering from names@work writes that ICANN‘s constituencies are a “bad idea”. While I am not sure to agree with him on the general principle, he makes some interesting remarks. Among others, he points out that the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) includes groups that seem to be redundant (the Business and Intellectual Property constituencies) and others like domainers which are not represented in the ICANN arena, yet are an integral part of the domain name business.

I would add to that list the domain name resellers. They have no direct contractual relationship with ICANN, as they do their business through registrars. Yet, given they are usually even closer to the customers than the registrars, they are generating their own set of problems, with little control. Typically, resellers can be web hosting providers. They often offer a domain name “for free” when you sign up a hosting contract with them. I set “for free” under quotes, because, as we know, there is no such thing as a free lunch. In some cases, the customer uses the domain name, but the reseller is the one which actually registers it under its own name.

Hence, when you want to move your blog or web site to another web hosting provider, you are being told that you will not be able to take the domain name with you, because after all, it is not yours. You did not pay for it. Your hosting provider did. Maybe they will be willing to transfer it to you, in return for an amount of money much higher than the actual transfer fees. Of course, after one year of happy blogging, your domain name has now acquired some value. If you do not want to restart from scratch, your only way out is to pay what is being asked by your hosting provider.

I pointed this out during the public forum at the Lisbon meeting last year. There is little ICANN can do in this context, because it lacks a direct relationship with the reseller. However, there is a tremendous effort ICANN could make to inform the domain name users (as opposed to domain name registrants) of their rights.

By Patrick Vande Walle, All around Internet governance troublemaker

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