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Telnic.org in limbo

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ICANN San Juan 2007 A novel and convenient service on the board for years at ICANN has hit a snag, apparently.

The UK-based .tel service - which stores personal information on DNS itself rather than a web page - received an unfortunate notice from the UK Information Commissioner (IC).

The concept behind the service is somewhat analogous to a stripped down web page, but it only stores the personal data the registrant chooses to keep up for public view. This differs from the "whois" database, inasmuch as it preserves registrant control over personal data. The basic idea is quite clever: one can maintain, in real time, contact information of one's own choosing for quick access by others with Blackberries or similar smart phones. My potential page, burkehansen.tel, for example, could be either a quick business or personal reference contact page.

Well, the "whois" database dispute will have none of that.

The notice from the IC informed the company that, under the data protection laws of the UK, it could not require customers to reveal information in the "whois" database. That in turn would prevent them from utilizing ICANN-accredited registrars, all of which are contractually obliged to provide and publicize "whois" information. Why would they fight over providing personal information for a service whose sole purpose is to publicize personal information, you ask?

It's all about control. The service will not necessarily require users to provide the same information required by "whois", though it makes the usual allowances for law enforcement. Registrants, therefore, could theoretically publish some personal information on their .tel site and still be out of compliance with their "whois" requirements.

Telnic's representative at the Intellectual Property Constituency (IPC) meeting referred to a somewhat murky, tiered publication service, and the proposal was greeted with considerable derision by the ever-vigilant trademark enforcement crowd. The dispute with the trademark attorneys, as always, concerns money - namely the trademark lobby doesn't want to pay a fee for every records search it conducts.

The trademark lobby gives no quarter on these matters, and although it's a simple contact information service - hard to imagine how serious trademark diminution happens with nothing but email addresses and phone numbers - said lobby is ready to kick the service to the curb, regardless of the seemingly inconsequential damages at stake.

El Reg tried to contact Telnic for technical clarification, but as of time of writing we had not received a response. We'll keep everyone posted. ®

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

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