Dot-ca overseers clamp down on cybersquatters

Dot-ca bandits look out. Businesses and individuals denied their desired dot-ca Internet domain names because of bad faith registrations – commonly known as cybersquatting – will soon have an alternative to the long and costly process of going to court.

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), the non-profit organization mandated to operate the dot-ca top-level domain for all Canadians, has recently published the final draft of its proposed arbitration process for aggrieved domain name registrants.

“I think that a key thing is that CIRA’s DRP (dispute resolution policy) is focussing on bad faith registrations, and we’re being very specific on what that means. We have a really exhaustive list of what kinds of things would fall under this particular policy for dispute resolutions, said Maureen Cubberley, the Muskoka, Ont.-based chair of CIRA’s board of directors.

The CIRA policy defines bad faith registration as a dot-ca name that is acquired primarily for resale to someone who has the rights to the same or a confusingly similar trademark, to simply block a trademark or trade name holder, or to disrupt the business of a competitor.

In recent weeks the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) implemented 18 months ago by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to manage “dot-com” naming disputes has received considerable media attention. This was partly due to a study by University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist that suggested the UDRP is strongly biased toward trademark holders – who also tend to be wealthy and powerful corporations.

In an earlier interview with IT World Canada, Geist expressed concern that the URDP essentially allows the party who believes its copyright has been violated to shop around for a favourable arbitration company. That is, since the complainant is allowed to pick which of the four ICANN-sanctioned arbitration-provider firms adjudicates the case, and results of past cases are public record, it is possible for complainants to choose a provider whose decision records favour the trademark holder, Geist said.

Additionally, since the main concern of complainants is a win, a visibly large number of favourable decisions attract more cases to the arbitration firm, giving it a financial incentive to decide in favour of trademark-holders, Geist said.

Although CIRA’s process is generally modelled on the UDRP Cubberley said that there are several significant differences which address the types of problems indicated by Geist’s research.

“The ICANN policy has been criticized because it may be too pro-complainant. What we’ve done with ours is provide equal opportunity for both the existing registrant and the complainant to choose the both arbitrating firm and the specific panellists who hear the case,” she said.

With only 267,500 dot-ca names registered there have not yet been many contentious registrations, but Cubberley said that as the number of domains grow they disputes will be inevitable. For this reason CIRA hopes to have its final policy in place before the end of the year, she said.

As well as shortening the time frame for disputes – if dragged out as long as possible the rules allow only 60 to 90 days to elapse form beginning to end – CIRA also tried to keep the process within reach of ordinary Canadian Web surfers, Cubberley said.

“I think [the policies and rules] are very accessible. There’s been a deliberate effort made to write them in language as plain as possible while still making it a very solid legal document, that will be useful for the intricacies of decision-making,” she said.

Finally, Cubberley said that at ICANN’s recent international conference in Uruguay many delegates expressed interest in the aspect of CIRA’s policy designed to reduce the perceived UDRP biases.

“Canada is leading the way in a number of areas including this one, so lot of people were interested in what we are doing and, frankly, would simply like to copy our policy – and we don’t have a problem with that,” she laughed.

The final draft of CIRA’s DRP is at