Police Takedown Requests Can’t Prevent Transfer of Domains

By Eric Misterovich

The National Arbitration Forum (NAF) recently ruled in favor of the domain name registrar easyDNS, protecting the ability of domain name owners to transfer their names from registrars “locking down” the names. Credit goes to easyDNS for its work summarizing the issue here.

The case involved three domain names locked down by the Public Domain Registry (PDR), which refused to transfer the names to easyDNS. PDR locked down the names due to repeated takedown requests from the City of London’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit. The domain name owners wanted to transfer the names to easyDNS because they agreed not to lock down the names.

The NAF ruled that a registrar could not hold a domain name hostage, essentially, without a court order barring transfer. The NAF held that nothing in the relevant Transfer Policy authorized PDR to refuse to transfer the names. It also warned that such refusals were possibly violations of Due Process under the US Constitution. The NAF wrote:

“To permit a registrar of record to withhold the transfer of a domain based on the suspicion of a law enforcement agency, without the intervention of a judicial body, opens the possibility for abuse by agencies far less reputable than the City of London Police. Presumably, the provision in the Transfer Policy requiring a court order is based on the reasonable assumption that the intervention of a court and judicial decree ensures that the restriction on the transfer of a domain name has some basis of “due process” associated with it.”

The NAF’s strong language goes a long way in protecting domain names. The ruling allows registrars like easyDNS to house domain names when other registrars lock down those names. The ruling also reduces the ability of law enforcement agencies to “bully” domain name owners by threatening the controlling registrar with takedown requests.

For more information about the TDRP process, read our post here.

 

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