March 27, 2007

Special Circumstances My Foot

The "whois" system for domain names is the single greatest violation of privacy rights on the internet.

A reasonable cure has been put forth that would require only that domain name registrants designate a contact, who could be an agent, to receive communications pertaining to the technical operation of the domain.  This is not unlike the way that corporations keep much of their structure private by designating an agent for the receipt of legal notices.  ICANN and Verisign both do this.

The industry that protects intellectual property (not to be confused with the industry that creates intellectual property) does not like this proposal; they would prefer that every person go naked on the internet, with their names and numbers tattooed to their chests, and live in glass houses.

The trademark industry wants domain name registrants to reveal their information, and that of their families and children, to the anonymous predators of the world on a 24x7 basis.

The trademark industry will allow but one exception - if a person claims sanctuary on the basis of "special circumstance".  What this means is that a few shelters for bettered women might be allowed to refrain from publishing their contact information.

This "special circumstances" proposal is contrary to one of the most fundamental tenets of modern society, that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.  The "special circumstances" proposal is nothing short of a systematic conclusion that you and I and every other domain name registrant is to be presumed to be a thief and unworthy of privacy.  The burden is placed not only on us to rebut that presumption but to do so in advance even of an accusation.

We are being told in no uncertain terms that our privacy, and that of our families and children, is worth less than a trademark.

The "special circumstances" shoe should be put on the other foot.  If a trademark owner wants to penetrate the privacy of the Whois data that owner should be obligated to make a specific accusation, saying on a permanent public record, what rights of that owner are being violated by the accused domain name owner and what facts exist to support that accusation.

In other words, the trademark owner should be required to demonstate, with concrete accusations backed by concrete facts, that special circumstances exist that are sufficient to violate a person's right to privacy.

We have seen how the music and movie vigilantes, the RIAA and MPOA, have run amok making groundless accusations against thousands of innocent people.  These are the law-firm office mates of the trademark people who want to violate our privacy in our domain names.  There is much reason to be skeptical of their intentions.

Posted by karl at March 27, 2007 3:38 PM