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New York Passing New Domain Name Law

In a move that flies in the face of established international guidelines, the New York Senate is pushing through a bill that would forbid registering the name of a living person with the purpose of selling the domain to that person.

The New York Senate’s bill is called “domain names cyber piracy protections act” and is championed by State Senator Betty Little (S2306).

Generally speaking, registering a person’s name solely to sell the domain to that person is a losing cause in UDRP arbitrations. But the New York bill is scary for a few reasons:

1. The law can be twisted to violate free speech. I suspect this is the reason the law was written in the first place. A politician was probably mad that someone else owned her domain name. The bill specifically states that, in order to violate the law, the sole purpose of the domain registration must be to sell it. But I can already see how this will work. Someone registers a politician’s name, attacks the politician on the site, and then the politician approaches the domain owner to buy the domain. If the registrant responds to the request then this law will be invoked. Also, the law would prohibit someone from selling a domain to another person. For example, John registers the name of a right wing politician that is pro-life. A leftist organization approaches John wanting to buy the domain to use as an outlet to attack the politician for his political views. The proposed law would forbid this.

2. It flies in the face of established internet governance. If New York can pass its own laws, why can’t other states and countries pass their own regulations as well? New York really can’t control much outside its own state, as they “admit” in the bill:

“In a civil action commenced under this section, a domain name shall be deemed to have its situs within the state if the domain name registrar, registry, or other domain name authority that registered or assigned the domain name is located within the state.”

I wonder if the bill’s writer knows what a registry is. The biggest registrar that needs to pay attention to this law is New York-based Register.com.

3. The bill is being championed as a way to protect identity theft. Seriously. According to a Senator Little press release,

The New York State Senate today approved several proposals to combat the growing problem of identity theft, including legislation sponsored by Senator Betty Little that targets cyber piracy.

Politicians always like to use scare tactics to push through their own agendas. This is a clear case.

The good news is that the senate added a provision that is sure to backfire:

“In addition to injunctive relief, the court may fine the registrar, domain name registry, or other domain name registration authority, one thousand dollars for each day the violation occurs. The court may also order the transfer of the domain name as part of the relief awarded.”

They want to fine ICANN? They want to fine the registrars? These two groups have both political and monetary muscle. New York might have been able to pull this off if the bill only went after the individual domainer. But trying to fine registrars—and worse, trying to exert control over ICANN—is a bold and potentially dangerous move. (See my note above about jurisdication. ICANN isn’t located in New York).

The language of S2306 follows:

Introduced by Sens. LITTLE, ALESI, BRUNO, DeFRANCISCO, FARLEY, FUSCHIL-LO, HANNON, LARKIN, LEIBELL, LIBOUS, MALTESE, MARCELLINO, MARCHI, MAZIARZ, MEIER, MORAHAN, PADAVAN, RATH, SALAND, SKELOS, VOLKER, WINNER—read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Consumer Protection

AN ACT to amend the general business law, in relation to cyber piracy protections and the unlawful registration of domain names

The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows:

1 Section 1. The general business law is amended by adding a new article
2 9-C to read as follows:

5 Section 146. Short title.
6 147. Definitions.
7 148. Unlawful registration of domain name.
8 149. Civil remedies.
9 § 146. Short title. This article shall be known and may be cited as
10 the “domain names cyber piracy protections act”.
11 § 147. Definitions. For the purposes of this article, the following
12 terms shall have the following meanings:
13 1. “Domain name” means any alphanumeric designation that is registered
14 with or assigned by any domain name registrar, domain name registry, or
15 other domain name registration authority as part of an electronic
16 address on the internet.
17 2. “Internet” means the international computer network of both federal
18 and non-federal interoperable packet switched data networks.
19 3. “Traffic in” refers to transactions that include, but are not
20 limited to, sales, purchases, loans, pledges, licenses, exchanges of

(page break)
1 currency, or any other transfer for consideration or receipt in exchange
2 for consideration.
3 § 148. Unlawful registration of domain name. 1. No person shall regis-
4 ter a domain name that consists of the name of another living person, or
5 a name substantially and confusingly similar thereto, without that
6 person’s consent, with the specific intent to profit from such name by
7 selling the domain name for financial gain to that person or any third
8 party.
9 2. A person who in good faith registers a domain name consisting of
10 the name of another living person, or a name substantially and confus-
11 ingly similar thereto, shall not be liable under this section if such
12 name is used in, affiliated with, or related to a work of authorship
13 protected under title 17 USC, including a work made for hire as defined
14 in 17 USC 101, and if the person registering the domain name is the
15 copyright owner or licensee of the work, the person intends to sell the
16 domain name in conjunction with the lawful exploitation of the work, and
17 such registration in not prohibited by a contract between the registrant
18 and the named person.
19 § 149. Civil remedies. 1. Upon the commission of a violation of this
20 article, an application may be made by the public service commission to
21 a court having jurisdiction to issue an injunction against the regist-
22 rar, domain name registry, or other domain name registration authority,
23 and upon notice to the respondent of not less than five days, the court
24 may award injunctive relief, including the forfeiture or cancellation of
25 the domain name. If it shall appear to the satisfaction of the court
26 that the respondent has committed a violation of this article, the court
27 shall enjoin and restrain any further violation without requiring proof
28 that any person has, in fact, been injured or damaged thereby.
29 2. In addition to injunctive relief, the court may fine the registrar,
30 domain name registry, or other domain name registration authority, one
31 thousand dollars for each day the violation occurs. The court may also
32 order the transfer of the domain name as part of the relief awarded.
33 3. In a civil action commenced under this section, a domain name shall
34 be deemed to have its situs within the state if the domain name regist-
35 rar, registry, or other domain name authority that registered or
36 assigned the domain name is located within the state.
37 § 2. This act shall take effect on the one hundred twentieth day after
38 it shall have become a law; provided, however, that any rules and regu-
39 lations necessary for the implementation of this act may be promulgated
40 on or before its effective date.

By Andrew Allemann, Domain Name Blogger

Filed Under


Eric Goldman  –  May 24, 2006 6:01 PM

California has had a similar law on its books for a number of years.  See California Business & Professions Code 17525-17528.5.  Eric.

Dave Zan  –  May 24, 2006 11:17 PM

Spot on re: the implications. It’s also likely due to who-knows-how-many complained of their personal name-domains being taken after being looked up for but not regged on the spot.

David A. Ulevitch  –  May 25, 2006 6:16 PM

One of the guys here just observed that maybe the reason Ms. Little is sponsoring this is because of the fact that:


James Wensley
2324 Divot Drive
Saint Louis, Missouri 63131

You think?  Wouldn’t surprise me…


DomainNameWire  –  May 25, 2006 6:44 PM

I can almost guarantee you that’s why she’s pushing this law through :)

At least she has senatorlittle.com

Chris McElroy  –  May 25, 2006 7:23 PM

If you want to put up a website about someone you can always get bettylittlewritesbadlaws.com or bettylittlesucks.com etc. If you like the person you can register bettylittleiswarmhearted.com or Ilikebettylittle.com

But in my opinion when you register just their name it’s no different than registering a trademarked product like xerox.com.

If your name is also betty little and you get it first then you deserve the name.

That law doesn’t even say you cannot register bettylittle.com, it says you can’t register it with the intent to extort money from them to have their own name. There are quite a few betty littles out there besides the famous one who cannot afford to pay a lot for a domain name.

They won’t get to have their name because of a person that wants to profit from their name.

The same remedy applies here that I post about often. If ICANN would introduce a lot more tlds, there would be plenty of bettylittle dot somethings for people to register and it wouldn’t be an issue.

DomainNameWire  –  May 25, 2006 9:39 PM

I rarely think about the big companies that are inefficient at maintaining their domain portfolios, but can you imagine what it would be like for trademark holders if there were thousands of domain extensions?  To protect their brand they’d have to register thousands of versions of each domain.

I know you’ve thought a lot about this so I suspect you have an answer to this…and I’m eager to hear it :)

Chris McElroy  –  May 26, 2006 6:13 AM

There are other articles here explaining my take on that. There are several solutions offered by various people.

1. Creat TLDs that match the classes that trademarks are registered under. This way a company with a trademark would be entitled to their mark in the TLD that matches the class they were granted a trademark for and not be especially entitled to it in any other TLD. This would correctly address the domain name trademark issue. A TM does not mena you own a string of letters in all commerce. A TM grants you the use of a string of letters to do commerce in a specific class.

2. More than one company has the same string of letters trademarked, but under different classes such as Apple Computers and Apple Records. Lets say Macintosh owns apple.com, what even gives them the right to use their TM to give them sunrise rights to early registration in every new TLD in the first place. This is effectively trying to block others who also hold a same or similar mark from having a domain name that matches their mark.

So, yeah, I do have an answer. It’s ICANN that is clueless.

Chris McElroy  –  May 26, 2006 6:15 AM

Should have edited that but it’s a little late to care about misspelled words. Besides, I believe there are typo domainers that follow every post I make so they can figure out what domain names to register.

John Berryhill  –  Jun 5, 2006 2:20 AM

Much ado about nothing here.

This piece of legislation is brain-damaged in a couple of ways.  First of all, you will notice that it does not provide the aggrieved person with a right to sue anyone.  What it says is that such person may request the Public Service Commission to bring an action against the registrar.

The real hoot is that damages can be awarded against the registrar, not the domain registrant.

Paging Brett Lewis, red courtesy phone from Albany…

David A. Ulevitch  –  Jun 5, 2006 2:35 AM

While I like the idea of registrars being held accountable this isn’t that way it should (or even can) be done.

Let’s see ICANN do something to punish or incentivize registrars instead.


Dimitar Avramov  –  Jun 5, 2006 10:42 PM

Even if The State of NY can not control domains registered outside its jurisdiction I can say that keeping control over internet piracy would be considered as a good move. The main point however is how to deal with this matter! I think it is too late to make first steps to ban domain registration jobbery! The are too many domains which stay unused, lead to junk or doorway pages.

Alan Owen  –  Jul 17, 2006 1:21 AM


I don’t have a problem with NY passing a law to make it unlawful to register the domain name consisting of a personal name of another person for the bad fait intent to profit.

I’ve actually filed a lawsuit in Cali. under their statute against a cybersquatter that is proffiting off the name of a 12-year old girl I run a site for. The cybersquatter is also trying to auction the domain for several grand online.

I don’t agree that the registrar or registry should be liable though unless they violated a court order to turn over the domain name, and there are laws already in place that can punish them for this.

I will admit however, there is a federal law already in place (15 USC 1129 and 1125 C) that is virtually the same.

Take care.

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