A shady company seems to be squatting on a bunch of .name domains. What can I do about it?
August 26, 2007 12:59 AM   Subscribe

.namefilter: A shady company seems to be squatting on a bunch of .name domains. What can I do about it?

While looking into the registration of a .name address, I found that my "lastname.name" domain has already been registered. A company called NameNation.com is "selling the domain on behalf of the owner" for $288. NameNation appears to be both a .name domain registrar and a "broker" for sales of currently reserved .name domains.

I thought I might contact the actual owner of the domain to see if they'd consider letting me use a third-level domain (ie, myfirstname.lastname.name), so I poked around a bit and found that the actual owner is apparently using NameNation's private registration feature to hide their WHOIS information. I tried sending an email to the owner, through the private address at NameNation, but there was no response. There's a place on the NameNation site where the owner of a domain can log in - curious, I entered my lastname.name domain and hit the "I forgot my customer number" button. The site responded with "Validation error! Invalid customer." Hmm.

Here's what I think is happening - NameNation is cybersquatting on this domain. There is no actual owner using NameNation's private registration - the actual owner is NameNation itself (as evidenced by the fact that there doesn't seem to be an actual customer number corresponding to this domain). They're squatting on .name domains that they think might sell. I can't prove that, of course, because the private registration masks the real owner of the domain (if there indeed is one). But it makes sense, and I don't seem to be the only one who thinks so. (That pettigrew domain, by the way, is currently for sale for $288, same as mine. Coincidence?)

While regrettable, this kind of chicanery is legal for most top level domains. But if I understand it right, the .name TLD is supposed to be reserved for use by individuals. in particular individuals with the appropriate personal name. There's apparently a process - the Eligibility Requirements Dispute Resolution Policy, or ERDRP - by which a .name registration can be challenged as ineligible (ie, registered in bad faith, by someone with no personal interest in the name itself). Problem is, there's a $1300 fee to even file a complaint through any of the ICANN-approved arbitrators. I can't afford that.

So (to summarize an already long post, sorry) - I think this company is squatting illegally (or at least unethically and without eligibility) on my .name domain and probably thousands of others, but there doesn't seem to be any way to challenge them short of filing a $1300 complaint, and since the cost to buy the domain name from them is much less, they're betting that most people who want the domain badly enough will pay the lesser fee. I really REALLY hate the idea of doing that though - if I had the money, I'd much rather file a complaint, since paying NameNation anything more than a standard registration fee only encourages them to continue ripping off other .name domain seekers.

Are there any other options for resolving this that I'm missing? Has anyone run into similar situations (particularly with .name TLDs), or with NameNation? Has anyone here gone through an ERDRP complaint process who can give me their thoughts on that process? Any feedback is appreciated. Thanks in advance!
posted by herichon to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The cybersquatting bill appears to only apply to the registration of trademarks as domains, not surnames.

Unfortunately, I don't think you have any real recourse other than emailing NameNation and perhaps offering a lower fee for the site. Or alternatively looking at one of the other TLDs for the site. Perhaps you could use one with last two letters of the name, like www.johnsmi.th?
posted by JonB at 2:10 AM on August 26, 2007

It looks as though NameNation is a registrar... have you looked into filing a complaint with ICANN about that instead of about your own specific .name address? Essentially complain that they're mis-using their status as a registrar to squat on some domains?

I'm not sure if that would be any cheaper.
posted by toomuchpete at 8:27 AM on August 26, 2007

I've never looked into the .name domains before, but from a brief 10-minute whip-round this is what I saw:

My surname is common & anglo-saxon. Searching via the nic for the .name domain, the top-level [mylastname].name was marked as unavailable, but the system wouldn't return details of the registration. The second level domain [myfirstname].[mylastname].name is available, and inexpensive.

A search for an uncommon last-name top-level .name domain name showed it was available and inexpensive.

I can't prove this, but my gut feeling at this point is that the .name domain registry has been set up to accomodate real-people names, and that they don't allow holders of top-level .name domains to squat on all the subdomains. For example, of course smith.name is claimed. But a second-level name, like mike.smith.name IS available. This says to me that either through policy, or habit, the expectation is that most people are after the firstname.lastname.name domain, and that unlike other domain names, holders of the top level domains cannot (or choose not to) lock up all the subdomains.

Anyway, just go here and enter your first and last name. Chances are the second-level domain (or one close to it ) is available and inexpensive. Good luck!
posted by Artful Codger at 8:46 AM on August 26, 2007

The wikipedia entry for .name states that some 2nd level domain registrations are available and that:
"When a domain is registered on the second level (doe.name), third level domains or e-mail addresses under this second level (john.doe.name and jane@doe.name) are associated with the second level domain, and may not be registered with the .name registry"
posted by JonB at 9:40 AM on August 26, 2007

JonB: I wish I could, but unfortunately my last name doesn't end in anything that I can match up with any other TLD.

toomuchpete: Everything I can find about filing disputes regarding domain registration seems to agree on two things: the dispute has to go through an ICANN-approved arbitrator, and the arbitration will cost a minimum of $1000. There doesn't seem to be any other recourse for a registrar that seems to acting unethically. I wish there was.

Artful Codger: My surname is not *very* common, but I've never actually met anyone else with it. Yet my surname.name is unavailable, and neither is my third-level first.surname.name domain. That's what's so irritating about this - NameNation not only has the domain tied up, they are refusing to grant rights to any of the third-level domains. If I visit my first.surname.name, I get the NameNation spamlink page, and a notice that the domain may be available; when I follow that link, it indicates that the surname.name domain is "on sale, and all subdomains are included". I hesitate to link to my name for privacy's sake, but look at this example for Peter Pettigrew - I get exactly the same thing for my own name. As JonB says above, when someone's got the second-level domain locked up already, third-level domains go with it.

What NameNation is doing is contrary to the whole idea of .name domains - I'm willing to bet there's no one with my last name who has actually registered it, and not only are they preventing me from getting it, they're preventing me and everyone else with my last name from using the third-level subdomain that we could otherwise share freely if they weren't squatting on the domain.

I get angry thinking about this. I wish there were some way to hold them accountable or work around them in some way; that was the reason for my post. It seems there's nothing to be done about it, though.
posted by herichon at 11:20 AM on August 26, 2007

E-mail this to a journalist or to Cory Doctorow... putting some institutional pressure on NameNation might get you some answers. Cory is the first one I thought of because he really gets rabid about anything involving corporate hypocrisy and greed, and he's got a decent track record of investigating stuff like this. Of course, he's not a real journalist, just a really effective hippy.
posted by chudmonkey at 11:37 AM on August 26, 2007

I put http://erfurt.pettigrew.name in a browser and got namenation's

Pettigrew.name is on sale
www.pettigrew.name and all subdomains such as personal names
e.g. joe.pettigrew.name are included.
(For $288 or make an offer.)

This does seem contrary to the .name domain philosophy.

My own name (surname fairly popular, 200-something most common surname in the USA) was available at the usual $10/year, but I have no use for it.
posted by hexatron at 7:00 PM on August 26, 2007

herichon, thanks for the follow-up. I didn't realize til you posted the "pettigrew" sample that the whole 2nd level of .name could be locked .

(And apologies all for getting my domain terminology screwed up. The right terminology is of course: '.name' is top-level, 'surname.name' is 2nd-level, 'firstname.surname.name' is 3rd level.)

In other popular top level domains (eg com, net, org, ca), the holder of the second-level has control over all the subdomains, and it's acknowledged as legal (and some people and companies make a nice living at it), so I guess this squatting on the names may not be technically illegal either.

Maybe if you contact namenation, point them to this thread, and ask them how much more bad publicity they're willing to receive, they might crack and give you the 3rd level domain you want, for cheap.

Good luck, whatever you do.
posted by Artful Codger at 8:36 PM on August 26, 2007

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