Home > Domain Name News > Should Donuts or any other domain registry be the internet (copyright) police?

Should Donuts or any other domain registry be the internet (copyright) police?

I think there has been a disproportionate reaction to 2 very similar policies: the Healthy Domains Initiative by The Domain Name Association and PIR and the agreements that Donuts and Radix have signed with MPAA.

In February of last year, Donuts announced entry into a “trusted notifier” program with the Motion Picture Association of America (“MPAA”). The program introduced a new way to work towards mitigation of “clear and pervasive cases of copyright infringement”. Donuts handled 6 domains until June 2016 and now a year after the program was introduced it has processed 12 domains (referrals from the MPAA) averaging 1 per month.

Of that dozen:

  • Seven were suspended or deleted by the sponsoring registrar.
  • Three were suspended by Donuts.
  • One was addressed by the hosting provider.
  • One was not acted upon by Donuts; following our normal outreach, questions arose about the nexus between the site’s operators and the content that warranted further investigation. In the end, after consultation with the registrar and the registrant, we elected against further action.

Donuts said that “Of the eleven on which action was taken, each represented a clear violation of law—the key tenet of a referral. In some cases, sites simply were mirrors of other sites that were subject to US legal action. All were clearly and solely dedicated to pervasive illegal streaming of television and movie content. In a reflection of the further damage these types of sites can impart on Internet users, malware was detected on one of the sites.”

This program is very similar (*if not part of) to the one that was just suspended by The Domain Name Association and PIR, the .org registry. It is a way to circumvent the UDRP and courts with proper jurisdiction and provide for an easy way to control content and freedom of speech. Radix, another new gtld registry, has a similar agreement with MPAA.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) objected to the Donuts policy last year: “MPAA May Like Donuts, but They Shouldn’t Be the (Copyright) Police”.

(*I believe that the Donuts and the Radix policy is/was part or closely connected with the Healthy Domains Initiative.)

Donuts said: “There has been concern on the part of some in the industry about this type of arrangement—namely, that it represented a “slippery slope” toward inappropriate content control, or that hundreds of domain names would be snatched away from rightful registrants. To the contrary, however, and in line with the previously published characteristics of a trusted notifier program, a mere handful of names have been impacted, and only those that clearly were devoted to illegal activity. And to Donuts’ knowledge, in no case did the registrant contest the suspension or seek reinstatement of the domain. This partnership with the MPAA is carefully focused on pervasive illegal online piracy. As we’ve said, Donuts is extremely careful in taking action against illegal behavior. The trusted notifier program to date has been a success for rights owners, registrants and the public at large.”

The agreement between Donuts and MPAA (that has not be made public) specifies that Donuts will work with registrar partners to contact the website operator and seek additional evidence. If Donuts or its registrar partner determines that the website is engaged in illegal activity and thereby violates Donuts’ Acceptable Use and Anti-Abuse Policy, then they, in their discretion, may act within their already established authority to put the infringing domain on hold or suspend it.

I am sorry but I just don’t trust Donuts, or any other company or registry for this matter, to be the judge of the internet. I can accept that certain cases of unlawful behavior and content could lead to a domain name suspension. There are cases when there is undeniable evidence but other are not so clear cut. But who is going to be the judge of that? A private company? Certainly not.

It seems that registries, registrars, hosting providers, ISPs and search engines are all being pressured by various associations and copyright holders to act as judge. They mostly claim to be trying to protect against child abuse, illegal pharmacies, etc. that is certainly a good cause but I have this feeling that this is just an excuse to push their other agenda and the MPAA only has one. I would prefer to hear what has Donuts done about other crimes and not controversial movie sharing websites.

BTW, yes the owner of one of the 12 domains complained and contested the imminent suspension. One domain is enough to push you onto the slippery slope that this is.

So should Donuts and Radix or any other regsitry be the internet copyright police? I am not a lawyer so I would love to hear what attorneys have to say about this, especially after the reaction about the Healthy Domains Initiative or “UDRP for copyright”.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) published an article with the title “Healthy Domains Initiative Isn’t Healthy for the Internet” going against the new initiative by the Domain Name Association. The (EFF) made it pretty clear by saying that “This ill-conceived proposal is the very epitome of Shadow Regulation.”

The Internet Commerce Association (ICA) expressed its deep concerns about the proposal to enable domain transfers based upon copyright claims.

After the .org policy was suspended both the EFF and ICA posted articles celebrating the suspension: “Shadow Regulation Withers In The Sunlight” and “ICA Concerns Heard — Copyright UDRP on Indefinite Hold“.

So while the policy was not applied to the .org extension, it is pretty much active on 200+ New gTLD extensions.

Sold.Domains

About Konstantinos Zournas

Konstantinos studied Computer Engineering and Computer Science in London and lives in Athens, Greece. He works on domain names, websites and software development. Has been online since 1995 & domaining since 2002.

Check Also

.CLUB at Domaining Europe 2017 – Jeff Sass and Tanya Loh (video)

At the 2017 Domaining Europe conference in Berlin, Germany .CLUB’s CMO Jeff Sass presented an …

6 comments

  1. Hello Konstantinos,
    The real source of donuts Agenda is set by Google/Alphabet , to be very clear DNAs Agenda is also sourced from Google/Alphabet money support and political influence. For Google/Alphabet to force play in these matters is conflicting with .COM Equimoddity Interests. Hell No JAS

    Gratefully, Jeff Schneider (Contact Group) (Metal Tiger) Former ( Rockefeller I.B.E.C. Marketing Analyst/Strategist) (Licensed C.B.O.E. Commodity Hedge Strategist) (UseBiz.com)

  2. Konstantinos —

    You’re correct that there’s been disproportionate reaction, in cases, to industry efforts to have positive impacts.

    Just like all other Internet companies, registries and registrars have latitude to enforce their acceptable use policies and/or terms and conditions to deal with illegal behavior, including property theft.

    It also includes areas that no one seems to object to. For example, if a registry or registrar deals with child imagery abuse, would you and others prefer we make the victim of clear abuse get a court order? We recently received a complaint about an actual “how-to rape guide” on a site. We had the name taken down – we didn’t wait until someone was attacked and then for the victim to get a court order.

    Registries and registrars have been dealing with these issues for over a decade, including content theft. At Donuts, we don’t want to see blatant illegal behavior on our domain names. If one wants to abuse children, encourage rape, purvey counterfeit medications, or engage in other clearly illegal activities, such as theft, we are willing to take action in undeniably clear cases.

    We don’t take action without caution and adequate protection, but we would rather have a reported child abuser or infringer bear the burden of seeking a court order to reinstate a site, than a victim to take it down. Our trusted notifier arrangements with child protection authorities, MPAA and others have resulted in fewer than 20 take downs out of 2 million domain names. That’s .001%. Unless you or your readers are involved in blatant illegal conduct, there is no cause for alarm.

    Our arrangement with the MPAA does in fact call out only clear and pervasive cases of illegal infringement. As we pointed out in our recent blog post, each of the handful of cases represented a clear violation of law. Additionally, your statement that the Donuts agreement with the MPAA is part of or closely connected with the Healthy Domains Initiative isn’t accurate. Our agreement with the MPAA was arrived at solely between Donuts and the MPAA and is unrelated to the DNA.

    We are not interested in controlling content or free expression, but we are interested in doing our part to control blatant harmful criminal conduct. We hope that makes things clearer to you and your readers.

    • The thing is that copyright infringement is not an urgent matter like child abuse. You can actually wait for a court order for that like .com, .org and several other registries do.
      Yet for some reason all you seem to report are the MPAA cases.

      “Additionally, your statement that the Donuts agreement with the MPAA is part of or closely connected with the Healthy Domains Initiative isn’t accurate. Our agreement with the MPAA was arrived at solely between Donuts and the MPAA and is unrelated to the DNA.”
      I don’t say the DNA is involved in the agreement but the agreement must resemble the Healthy Domains Initiative.
      You implicated the two: “The announcement immediately precedes the first Healthy Domains Initiative summit, an event organized by The Domain Name Association, which will convene domain name industry leaders who are focused on issues such as this, including the safe and healthy evolution of the namespace.”
      So either you discussed the Healthy Domains Initiative before the MPAA agreement or a part of MPAA agreement was incorporated into the Healthy Domains Initiative.

      In effect the 2 policies seem to be pretty much the same thing. In fact the MPAA agreement is far worse as it is only about copyright (and not child abuse etc.) and it has Donuts as the judge.

      • Konstantinos —

        Some have argued that registries and registrars should not take action regardless of the criminal offense or harm. We think that argument has little merit based on the reasons mentioned earlier.

        You are absolutely correct that the harms for copyright abuse are much less severe than the harms for some other criminal conduct, for sure. Also, it is harder to prove copyright infringement due to available defenses, such as fair use, licensure, and third party content on a site. For those reasons, we use a much higher standard for copyright issues than we would with child imagery abuse, for example. As the registry of .MOVIE, however, we still think it appropriate to take action in clear cases of copyright theft. For example, when a site was subject to a court order and the same exact site switches to a name on one of our TLDs, the complainant shouldn’t have to go to expense of going back to the court to reopen a matter. Or in the case of a movie studio complaining that its full length movie still out in theaters is available for illegal downloaded on a .MOVIE site that advertises that it is a pirated copy, it shouldn’t be forced to go get a court order in such a clear cut case. Those are the kinds of slam dunk matters we are reviewing and the registrant always is given the opportunity to respond before any action is taken. These are not close calls.

        Other registries may choose not to deal with any clearly unlawful behavior without a court order. We have made a different choice in these very limited cases.

      • “Some have argued that registries and registrars should not take action regardless of the criminal offense or harm.”
        People think that because of this kind of deals (the one with MPAA) that try to police the internet. You (not personally you) take the “child abuse” issue as an excuse and then turn it to something completely different.
        I am talking about the MPAA deal and your defense is child abuse that is not covered in this agreement.

        Again, I have only heard of your agreement with MPAA. Where are is your “child abuse” agreement?

        I didn’t want to brought it up but you did. You are probably promoting this deal because of .movie. I get it but I don’t like it because of the above.

        “Other registries may choose not to deal with any clearly unlawful behavior without a court order. We have made a different choice in these very limited cases.”
        This is not about a choice. Either you follow ICANN rules or you don’t. Why do we have the UDRP? Couldn’t Donuts decide the “clear cut” TM cases?

        Finally if we don’t know the specific agreement that some reason is secret, we can’t be sure of what is going on and how you treat each case. I think you should start publishing your decisions and reasoning if you are going to keep doing this.

  3. Child abuse agreement:
    https://www.iwf.org.uk/news/donuts-inc-iwf’s-newest-member

    Appreciate the feedback, Konstantinos.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *