WHOIS and Registrant Contact Information Policy reviews

Posted by Jo Lim on 23 September 2010

auDA conducts regular policy reviews to make sure that .au policies continue to be relevant and effective, and that they reflect the views of our stakeholders and the broader Australian Internet community.

On Friday we announced that we are reviewing the WHOIS Policy (2006-06) and the Registrant Contact Information Policy (2002-14).

The WHOIS service (see www.ausregistry.com.au) allows people to look up registered domain names and obtain some information about the registrant. The WHOIS Policy explains how registrant information is collected and how much of it is disclosed on the WHOIS service. It also lists a number of prohibitions on the use of WHOIS data.

Our WHOIS policy is much more restrictive than many other TLDs. For privacy reasons, we do not disclose any address or phone/fax numbers, we only disclose the registrant and technical contact email addresses.

We also don’t disclose domain name creation or expiry dates. The reason we decided to do this was to reduce the ability of scammers to send misleading and deceptive renewal notices to registrants when their domain name is due to expire. This was a big problem in the industry when auDA took over regulatory control in 2002, and we were ultimately forced to take legal action against the worst offender (see www.auda.org.au/news-archive/auda-10092004/).

The Registrant Contact Information Policy is related to the WHOIS policy, because it deals with the type of contact information that must be collected when a domain name is registered. The key requirement of this policy is that registrant contact details must belong to the registrant, they must not belong to a registrar or reseller (or, by implication, anyone else).

This approach, like the WHOIS policy, is more restrictive than many other TLDs, where “proxy” or “private” registration services are common. We know that many resellers like to put their own contact details in place of their customer. While these resellers would argue that they do this to provide better service to their customer, unfortunately it can mean that the registrant does not have control of their own domain name.

auDA is often contacted by registrants who did not know that their domain name had been transferred to another registrar; or who did not receive a renewal notice before their domain name expired; or who did not receive notice that their domain name was the subject of a complaint; or whose reseller has failed to provide services or gone out of business altogether.

If you are interested in the issues I’ve mentioned – or anything else to do with WHOIS and registrant contact information – then I encourage you to send us your comments. All non-confidential submissions are posted on our website so that everyone has the opportunity to see what other people have said. After the closing date, we’ll review all the comments and then publish our response and any changes that we propose to make to the policies.

The closing date for submissions is Friday 15 October 2010. It’s been a few years since these two policies were last reviewed, so I am expecting (hoping!) to get lots of good comments for us to consider.

For more information see www.auda.org.au/reviews/whois-2010/ and www.auda.org.au/reviews/regcontact-2010/.