Registration authority seeks to regulate domain resellers

Canada

Background
Solution options


The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) is experiencing difficulties with its '.ca' registration system. Many registrars use resellers to sell '.ca' domain names to the public, but it is difficult to hold resellers accountable for their actions. In November last year CIRA asked for comment from interested parties on deciding which, if any, of several suggested solutions should be adopted. The deadline for submissions was January 8.

Background

In order to register a country-code top-level domain in the registry operated by CIRA, persons must apply through one of CIRA's certified registrars. Problems have arisen because many registrars use third-party 'resellers'. A reseller is an entity or person that provides registration services for '.ca' domains to the public without being certified as a registrar. Resellers use registrars to have their registration transactions processed by CIRA.

Although this model has facilitated '.ca' registrations (resellers are responsible for at least half of the registry's volume), its use has caused problems for CIRA, registrants and registrars. The problems stem from the fact that CIRA has no direct contractual relationship with resellers and therefore no mechanism for addressing disputes that arise between resellers and CIRA or individual registrants. Furthermore, CIRA has no information about who the resellers are and which registrars they deal with, making it difficult for CIRA to assist registrants.

As a result, CIRA has had to insist that registrars are responsible for the actions or inactions of problem resellers. To resolve issues, registrars usually terminate problem resellers' registration privileges. However, it is relatively easy for resellers that have been terminated to recommence operations under other names with other registrars.

The only practical enforcement tool CIRA has is to suspend or terminate the certification of registrars, both of which are blunt instruments that CIRA wishes to reserve for only the most serious problems.

Solution options

CIRA has determined that there are three possible options for dealing with this issue. First, resellers would be prohibited from operating, but registrars would be allowed to make arrangements to use other registrars' resources. CIRA's agreement with the registrars would be revised to include a range of enforcement mechanisms that would be more flexible and less severe than suspension or decertification, and which would not involve suspension of service to existing registrants.

Second, resellers would be allowed to operate, but the means by which registrars could hold them accountable would be improved. Resellers would not be required to become registrars. The registrar agreement would be revised and resellers would be required to clearly identify, to CIRA's satisfaction, which registrar they use.

Third, a combination of these two options might be implemented.

Further information about these options is available by visiting CIRA's website.

Robert Percival, Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP, Toronto

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