Agency hopes to defuse domain-name disputes

It is doubtful a dot-ca domain name will ever be the subject of a struggle as fierce as those fought over or

But ever since the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) opened up the dot-ca domain to the wider public, the number of registrations has exploded, prompting CIRA to write a name dispute resolution policy in an effort to avoid future domain-name disputes. The policy was published last week, opening a three-week window for businesses and individuals to submit comments on the framework.

“It’s limited to ‘bad faith’ registrations,” said Maureen Cubberley chair of the CIRA board of directors, explaining that the policy is designed mainly to deter cybersquatting, the resale of domain names for profit, and registrations meant to disrupt the business of a competitor.

Cubberley said the CIRA policy was purposely made more exhaustive than that of the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in order to avoid seeing dot-ca domains get caught up in the tangled legal battles that have plagued some high-profile dot-com domains.

“What we’ve done is make an exhaustive list of where the policy would apply in these situations,” Cubberley said, referring to cybersquatting, domain resale and obstruction of competitors.

CIRA’s policy proposes signing on a number of dispute resolution firms, to be known as service providers, from which the complainant in a case would choose to adjudicate a domain-name case. The service provider chosen would provide three arbitrators, chosen by both the complainant and the registrant, to preside over the case.

Cases decided by three-member panels have a significantly more balanced decision rate than those decided by single arbitrators, according to a study released in August by Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and director of e-commerce law at the firm Goodmans LLP.

Geist’s study found single-member panels, where the arbitrator is chosen by the service provider, side with the complainant in 83 per cent of cases. In contrast, when complainants and registrants have control over the arbitrator(s), as in three-member panels, the complainant wins only 60 per cent of the time.

Under the CIRA policy, a period of 60 days is allowed before CIRA takes action on the ruling

“If one of the parties doesn’t like the decision, the have time to appeal,” Cubberley said, explaining that unsatisfied parties would then take the matter before the courts.

Cubberley said CIRA is currently looking for firms to become service providers. One prospective resolution firm is Montreal-based eResolution, which has been engaged in Web-based domain-name mediation since early 2000.

Fabien Gelinas, vice-president of strategic development for eResolution agreed a CIRA dispute resolution policy is becoming more and more necessary as dot-ca domain names become more common.

“I would say it’s important for large Canadian companies,” Gelinas said. “We’re very happy they’re (CIRA) moving forward.”

According to Cubberley, CIRA has received 270,000 registrations for dot-ca domain names since the public was given greater access to the domain in Dec. 2000. She said 70,000 registrations were received the year before.

CIRA is accepting public comment until Oct. 12 and hopes to implement the policy by the end of the year.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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