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ICANN gets restraining order against RegisterFly

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In a welcome victory for RegisterFly customers, ICANN announced yesterday that it had been granted a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against RegisterFly, the ICANN-accredited domain registrar accused of allowing tens of thousands of domains to lapse unlawfully. The TRO orders RegisterFly to provide copies of all current registrant data within 48 hours, and provide weekly data updates to ICANN.

The RegisterFly saga has been a major headache for ICANN, and this rare piece of good news has to be encouraging for the oft criticized company charged with maintaining the integrity of the internet. The RegisterFly mess, in which a personal dispute between two of the founders disintegrated into litigation and resulted in the loss of over 75,000 domains in the month of January alone, provoked considerable soul-searching at the ICANN meeting in Lisbon last month over just how ICANN should be policing its registrars.

Whether or not ICANN can use this victory to head off the lawsuits brewing in the wake of RegisterFly’s collapse is another question entirely. Ideally for ICANN, the TRO will render enough of the issues in those cases moot to make them not worth the hassle of litigation.

However, cases in which large numbers of plaintiffs have suffered damages too small to be worth filing individually are exactly the kinds of cases the class action system is designed to handle, and it seems doubtful that it will make much of a difference with the class action that is already underway.

The best thing for ICANN would be a revision of the registrar agreement and some kind of transparent and public auditing system. Providing statistics on complaints against registrars would allow the public to weed out problem registrars from the majority that are honest, without burdening the registrar system. ICANN, which operates as a kind of public trust, already conducts registrar audits – it just needs to let the public know what’s in them. ®

Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office

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