The Registrars Who Shut Down Websites After Demands From City Of London Police Likely Violated ICANN Policy

from the not-how-it-works dept

We recently wrote about the City of London Police ordering various registrars to shut down a list of websites based on the City of London Police themselves deciding they must be illegal. That is, without a court order or any judicial oversight, the police just decided the sites were illegal and needed to be taken offline. On top of that, the police force’s new “IP Crime Unit” threatened registrars that if they didn’t obey, then they might lose their accreditation from ICANN. This was based on a total misreading of both copyright law and ICANN’s rules.

In fact, Mark Jeftovic, the head of EasyDNS, the one registrar that appears to have both refused the City of London Police’s demand and also spoken out publicly about this terrible attack on due process, is now noting that all of the other registrars who complied with the orders are almost certainly in violation of ICANN’s policies because they obeyed the police. The main issue is that part of the demand from the police was that the registrar not only redirect the site to a propaganda page, but that it also “freeze the whois record” to block any further changes.

But, as Jeftovic points out, ICANN has very specific rules about these things, and because some random police force demands it is not an approved reason to do such a thing:

Since there were no charges against any of the domains and no court orders, it may be at the registrars’ discretion to play ball with these ridiculous demands. However – what they clearly cannot do now, is prevent any of those domain holders from simply transferring out their names to more clueful, less wimpy registrars.

If any of those registrars denied the ability to do that, then they would be in clear violation of the ICANN Inter-Registrars Transfer Policy.

Section 3, Obligations of The  Registrar of Record clearly spells out the reasons why a registrar may deny a transfer-out request, and they are limited specifically to cases of fraud (the domain was paid for fraudulently), a UDRP proceeding or, hey, get this one “Court order by a court of competent jurisdiction”, as well as some administrative reasons (like the domain was registered less than 60 days ago).

What is conspicuously absent from the list of reasons why a registrar that actually complied with this lunacy can now deny a transfer-out request is “because some guy sent you an email telling you to lock it down”.

Jeftovic further notes that the registrars who folded upon receiving the police threat have now opened themselves up to significant liability problems, because the sites that got taken down can respond via the Transfer Dispute Resolution Policy (TDRP), which could mean that the registrars will have to pay “substantial” fees for blocking the transfer without a valid basis.

It certainly would be interesting to see the full list of sites the City of London Police decided to censor, as well as who the various registrars are, and how they reacted. While such a list doesn’t appear to be out yet, I imagine it’s only a matter of time.

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Companies: easydns, icann

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Comments on “The Registrars Who Shut Down Websites After Demands From City Of London Police Likely Violated ICANN Policy”

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24 Comments
kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

This is hilarious because these registrars can not just have their accreditation suspended but they can also have their accreditation terminated. To make things worse, the police as well as the registrar can also be sued for taking an illegal act by a police force when there was no court order to direct them to comply.

SHEESH! Didn’t these registrars bother to consult their attorneys or any lawyers experienced with these matters?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

[SHEESH! Didn’t these registrars bother to consult their attorneys or any lawyers experienced with these matters?]

I doubt it, the case of “City of London Police” step in it fairly new, in terms of that it’s in fact an official law enforcement unit… just that they don’t have the right to order the registrars blocking transfer of domain, etc. It’s understandable for the registrars to not realizing the police have no right to do so without checking the rulebook.

That said, I agree that before these registrars do something unusual regarding their business, they should have checked what the rulebook says.

Anonymous Coward says:

Funny how the entertainment arms are so hell fire bent to have the law enforced yet have little or no compunction about breaking it or strongly bending it when it is in their favor.

You as well as I know that the London Police did not just up and do this on a snap decision. Someone pushed them hard to do so. I imagine when the list comes out of who not to have a domain registered with it will also come out just who pushed to have it done.

If you ever had a reason not to buy from the majors it’s staring you right in the face on this one.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

What’s sad is that registrars, webhosts and ISPs actually require a court order before they comply with any request or demand.

It’s nice to see that in Europe, the U.K. or whatever they want to call themselves (I wish they would stick to one name for the whole country) that they don’t even bother going to court. They take the mentality, “we’re the police so we can do whatever the hell we want to do”.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“in Europe, the U.K. or whatever they want to call themselves (I wish they would stick to one name for the whole country) “

The country’s name is England, which is part of the United Kingdom (which contains 4 countries and related territories), which is further part of the continent of Europe (which contains around 50 countries).

Try educating yourself, it’s not that hard. You’ve just basically complained that California can’t make up its mind whether it’s called California, the USA or North America. Yes, you do look that stupid.

Bluesman says:

Re: Re:

“It’s nice to see that in Europe, the U.K. or whatever they want to call themselves (I wish they would stick to one name for the whole country)..”(sic)

FYI…

“Europe” is a continent (like Asia).

“UK” is the United Kingdom (consisting of England Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland).

In the same way China and Japan are both in Asia, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are all parts of the UK, and indeed all part of Europe as well.

It looks like you would also therefore assume China and Japan are the same place with an identity crisis, in the same way you have assumed that the UK, Europe, England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are all the same place!

It might be better if you go and revise/study your geography (before negating your valid points by posting rubbish) before embarrassing yourself the same way again 😉

HTH

anonymouse says:

Re: Re:

That link is the first time i have ever felt that there is real hope for the future of the internet. I can see where they are coming from, The Us alone is creating an internet that is fractured and has many hidden parts just to overcome the illegal monitoring of people around the world. Yes the kids need protecting and yes there are criminals and terrorists using the internet, but not in the numbers that Government’s would like you to think.

And driving them deep underground is just making it harder to monitor and investigate those that need to be investigated.

Anonymous Coward says:

what has happened here is pure threatening behavior! the police may well be saying that no one was forced to, but everyone knows what it was meant to do. this is just another example of the USA entertainment industries influencing another country via the person they bankroll. the ‘special relationship’ between Obama and Cameron, was not, as far as i was aware, supposed to mean that an industry in one country had to be protected by the laws of another, and if it didn’t, that threats were put out to achieve the same end, even though in doing so, the companies concerned would be breaking different laws anyway. it shows that there is nothing that wont be done to keep a few fat, old, stuck in the muddy fuckers from changing their ways, regardless of what laws were broken (but completely ignored) on route!!

DP says:

All highly dubious

The whole situation stinks. Who do the police think they are – the courts or something? It’s not for them to try and throw their weight around, making up new “rules” as they go along and unilaterally decide what is and what isn’t a crime. Wonder who pressured them from the entertainment industry? Never mind REAL crimes like murder, burglary, assault and rape. Just forget all those sort of trivial things. Just knuckle under and do the entertainment industry’s bidding. Signed, Disgusted of the UK.

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