[bc-gnso] FW: On Another DC Subject...

Phil Corwin psc at vlaw-dc.com
Thu Dec 8 01:01:52 UTC 2011

For those of you following the PIPA and SOPA anti-piracy bills pending in Congress, I have posted a letter sent today  to the Chairman and other senior members of the House Judiciary Committee regarding the potential impact of SOPA on registrars and other domain name intermediaries -


SOPA Could Shutter Registrars and other Domain Name Industry Intermediaries - And Terminate Their Vital Registrant Services

The Internet Commerce Association has just sent a letter to senior members of the House Judiciary Committee  regarding the likely unintended but potentially devastating impact of H.R. 3261 ("SOPA") as introduced upon ICANN-accredited registrars and other participants in the broad domain name industry, as well as upon the domain registrants who use those services. Registrants, for example, might find it impossible to renew domains due to the extrajudicial termination of payments services sanctioned by the proposal, or to complete domain sales or transfers. Further, many of the domain name industry companies subject to potential payment and advertising service termination under the bill might lack the income to pursue their legal rights, and could well be forced into bankruptcy.

This potential impact arises because, while domain names are subject to trademark law, the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA)  as well as ICANN's Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) place the responsibility for domain name infringement upon the domain registrant and look at a variety of factors, particularly the actual use of the associated domain, before reaching a determination as to whether infringement exists.

ICA believes that SOPA, as introduced, creates the strong possibility that trademark rights holders will seek to have payment and ad services terminated to registrars and other domain name intermediaries based upon the allegation that they are facilitating the use of domains that constitute "counterfeit marks" in and of themselves, without reference to actual use or available defenses. This potential shifting of "cybersquatting" responsibility from registrants to registrars and other domain name intermediaries, as well as the failure to incorporate the more comprehensive and nuanced analysis of the ACPA and UDRP, appears unjustified and unwise - and could lead to the shutdown of these domain name intermediaries and the associated termination of critical domain-related services to millions of registrants engaged in non-infringing uses of their websites.

The letter also expresses concerns that the introduced legislation needs substantial narrowing and is not required to effectively address infringement on websites subject to U.S. court jurisdiction, and will also have negative effects on cybersecurity and on the availability of venture capital for innovative Internet startups.

At this time the full House Judiciary Committee is tentatively scheduled to "markup" - amend and vote on reporting the bill to the full House of Representatives - on Thursday, December 15th. U.S.-based domain industry participants who have concerns about any aspect of the legislation should contact their representatives at once, especially if they serve on the Committee.  A complete list of Committee members is available at http://judiciary.house.gov/about/members.html .

The full text of ICA's letter follows --- (continue to the website if you wish to read the full letter -- http://internetcommerce.org/SOPA%20Concerns )

Philip S. Corwin, Founding Principal
Virtualaw LLC
1155 F Street, NW
Suite 1050
Washington, DC 20004

"Luck is the residue of design" -- Branch Rickey

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