Domain name suspensions in ‘.uk’ TLD double as PIPCU takedown requests surge

  • 16,632 ‘.uk’ domains taken offline following law enforcement complaints
  • PIPCU requests jump by 78%, accounting for 82% of all takedowns
  • Report reveals that 15 suspensions were reversed over 12 month period

New figures released today by Nominet reveal that the number of ‘.uk’ domain name suspensions doubled over the past 12 months, with enforcement takedowns topping 16,000. The UK’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) has been a major contributor to this rise, accounting for more than 13,500 requests for action.

Nominet suspends domains following official notification from law enforcement authorities. On being alerted to criminal activity, after “administrative checks”, it works with registrars to suspend domains, which can then no longer be used as part of a website or for email addresses. In total, between November 1 2016 and October 31 2017, a total of 16,632 ‘.uk’ domains were taken offline (equivalent to 0.14% of the over 12 million domains registered in the TLD) due to criminal activity. This contrasts sharply with the 8,049 domains suspended in the year to October 2016.

PIPCU took the lead with respect to the number of takedown requests, lodging 13,616. This was a significant increase on the previous 12 months, when it made 7,617 requests – this year’s level representing a 78% year on year increase.

The other agencies making requests over the past year were:

  • National Fraud Intelligence Bureau: 2,781 requests (up from 25 requests the previous year)
  • Trading Standards 131 (up from 119)
  • Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency: 99 (up from 45)
  • National Crime Agency: 3 (down from 7)
  • Metropolitan Police – Fraud and Linked Crime Online: 1 (no requests in the year to October 2016)
  • DEFRA – Veterinary Medicines Directorate: 1 (no requests)

That PIPCU was the most active requester comes as little surprise. As we reported in September, the unit has shut down more than 28,000 websites selling counterfeits since 2014, including over 4,000 that were set up using stolen identities. It has engaged in high profile public drives to highlight the danger of counterfeit goods and its focus on taking down sites that infringe IP rights shows no sign of abating (it recently secured additional government funding which will keep it in action until 2019, meaning that it will likely retain the top spot on Nominet’s law enforcement list for the next two years),

Earlier this year, PIPCU came under fire from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) for its “shadowy” collaboration with the IACC’s RogueBlock programme. The programme focuses on the termination of counterfeiters’ merchant accounts with payment processors, with rights holders able to report online sellers of counterfeit or pirated goods directly to credit card and financial services companies. One of the EFF’s concerns was that RogueBlock does not accommodate differences in national trademark law, meaning that a website which offers goods that are infringing in one country could be made inaccessible across the entire internet (both the IACC and PIPCU spoke to World Trademark Review to allay the EFF’s fears). In this instance, that worry will be avoided as PIPCU – as UK enforcement unit – is targeting sites that are aimed at UK consumers and sit within the ‘.uk’ top-level domain.

Nominet’s report also reveals that the number of requests that didn’t result in a suspension (for instance, because the domain name had already been suspended by the registrar or transferred to the IP rights holder as a result of a court order after the complaint had been made with Nominet) was 32 – down from 77. The number of suspensions reversed (where the offending behaviour has stopped and the enforcing agency has confirmed that the suspension can be lifted) was 15. Finally, while 500 domains were flagged for potential breach of Nominet’s offensive names policy for the period, only two suspensions were made.

Unlock unlimited access to all WTR content