Last month one of my DBR clients received a complaint from the Compliance and Analytics Manager from auDA. On speaking with other domain name investors over the past few months, there seems to be a large amount of complaints coming from “anonymous” sources against generic premium domain names.
The complaint was against a very generic domain name, similar to CarCompare.com.au(.) I have used this domain name as an example only, to protect my client’s identity. The domain name in question is very generic, and definitely not cybersquatting or trademark-infringing, in nature.
In the complaint, auDA detailed:
“.au Domain Administration Ltd (auDA) is the Australian Government-endorsed authority for the .au domain space. auDA is responsible for setting and enforcing the policy rules for .au domain names.
It has come to auDA’s attention that the above domain name may have been registered for the purpose of domain monetisation, and as such falls within paragraph 3 Schedule C of the Domain Name Eligibility and Allocation Policy Rules for the Open 2LDs (2012-04) at http://www.auda.org.au/policies/auda-2012-04/.
Paragraph 3(a) Schedule C of the policy states that the “the content on the website to which the domain name resolves must be related specifically and predominantly to subject matter denoted by the domain name.”
We have reviewed the website displayed at www.xxxxxxxx.com.au. Of the ten (10) monetised links that occur on this website, only three (3) relate to xxxxxxxx.com.au. Therefore, we consider that the content is not related “specifically and predominantly” to the domain name.
As you can see, the domain was parked correctly for domain monetisation, but only THREE links out of TEN were showing the exact generic keyword.
The complaint went on to state that the parking links needed to be fixed within 7 days.
Now, this isn’t exactly hard to do, but it is extremely inconvenient and a massive waste of everyone’s time. Not only my time, but the defendant’s time, and also, auDA’s time.
Although “technically” this is something that has to be “dealt with”, so to speak, by auDA, can’t the near-new auDA Complaints team recognise the fact that domain name parking links can change daily? This means, just because there are only three links out of ten that exactly match the keywords today, there could have been six words that matched yesterday and five words may exactly match tomorrow.
I know they’re just following auDA Policy, but until we get the domain monetisation policy changed (more on this in an upcoming article!), perhaps the auDA Complaints team can use common sense?
For as many bad points as the old auDA compliance team had, they at least knew when to not waste time with a vexatious complaint. And this is the whole point of this article today. It seems that auDA has lost the ability to differentiate between what validates a legitimate complaint, compared to one that’s coming from a Reverse Domain Name Hijacker.
The relatively-new compliance team at auDA need to recognise that this type of complaint is merely a cowardly way for a complainant to attempt to steal a domain name away from a legitimate and existing domain name holder.
By the amount of complaints being presented to my clients, and myself, that have been happening over the past few months, I am led to believe there are more complaints so far this year, than during the same period across any other year in Australian domain name history.
It would be very interesting indeed for auDA to release the data from the past ten years that shows “vexatious complaints” as opposed to “legitimate complaints”. Very interesting indeed. I strongly believe we would see that MOST complaints are simply cowardly attempts to steal a domain name held by a legitimate owner.
We must ask the question, WHY has there been a massive amount of anonymous domain name complaints coming through to auDA?
Does it have anything to do with the turmoil auDA is currently going through?
Does it have anything to do with certain interested parties jealously feeling like they are losing the battle to implement direct .AU Registrations, so they’re complaining out of spite?
I’m not suggesting we make a change to the policy to remove the ability of making a complaint against a domain name. If someone registers a domain name and is clearly infringing on trademarks, they should be taken down. What I am suggesting is to stop allowing Reverse Domain Name Hijacking thieves to remain anonymous.
I am sometimes asked to make a complaint against a domain name holder by a client at my domain brokerage firm. I have publicly stated in the past that I will make a complaint for a client, but only after exhausting all options of trying to contact the domain name owner in the first place, to try to buy the name, transparently. This includes by various email addresses they use as well as phone calls and leaving voice messages. If there is no response after a few weeks, and the domain name owner is clearly holding the domain name against auDA policy, then, and only then, will I submit the complaint on behalf of my client.
If nothing else, this often wakes the domain name owner up to the fact that they own a domain name they forgot about and we welcome them defending the complaint so we can make contact and actually receive a reply. HOWEVER…. I WISH that every complaint I made on behalf of my clients was PUBLICLY published.
Allowing auDA domain name complaints to be made anonymous wrongly vilifies domain name owners.
Instead of domain name holders being seen by default as “guilty”, my view is that things should be the other way around. Complainants should be seen as “anonymous digital asset thieves” unless they can provide a reasonable response as to why they are making the complaint and are named and verified in the process. And when giving their reason for making the complaint, it could literally be as simple as, “The current domain name owner is infringing on my trademark” or “I have tried emailing and phoning the current domain name holder three times over two weeks”. These sound like perfectly fine reasons for making a complaint, assuming the domain name is not abiding by auDA Policy, AND, MOST IMPORTANTLY, the Complainant’s verified identity is transparently MADE PUBLIC.
Let’s get back to the example complaint my client received from auDA.
Once I successfully defended the domain name, I made my opinion on the matter clear to the auDA complaints team.
Their response was:
“Complainants can expect to … have valid complaints treated as genuine and properly investigated”
I can’t say I believe auDA are “validating” each complaint.
I have been told by at least one individual in the past that they have filed a complaint to auDA by creating a fake name, fake gmail address, and it has been accepted and the domain name has gone through to Policy Delete and dropped for the general public to purchase. This person then asked for my services to help them acquire the domain name on the drop platforms.
I’m not a fan of this type of approach, but…
This doesn’t speak very highly of auDA’s Policy statement that, “Complainants can expect . . . to have valid complaints treated as genuine and properly investigated,” does it?
In fact, this means that auDA complainants CAN EASILY BE anonymous and vexatious.
So, I know people have said this in the past, but it’s time to say it very loudly.
The auDA COMPLAINT SYSTEM IS BROKEN, in the way that it protects anonymous cowards trying to steal domain names.
At the bottom of his email, the auDA complaints team also stated:
I would encourage you to make a submission to the Policy Review Panel, which is currently reviewing all our published policies, so that you can express your view on improvements or changes you believe are required to be made so that auDA policy is representative of the Australian internet community. Submissions can be made to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org(.)
This is how powerful the PRP have become, they get to suggest new auDA policy and Direct .AU Registration implementation out of thin air.
Yet unfortunately it is very clear the PRP are promoting their own agendas without too much care or consideration from everyday domain name holders. If you have been keeping up with the news, The PRP are clearly not listening to auDA members, Australian domain name registrars, or the general Australian business community.
I personally don’t believe there is any point writing to the PRP, as the auDA complaints team suggest. Brett Fenton appears to be running his own agenda and John Swinson is letting him get away with it.
I welcome your feedback on how you feel about the current status of auDA’s PRP and plan to discuss this in more detail over the coming weeks.
I have personally written to The PRP many times about Brett Fenton’s biased views on the future of Australian domain names, and about implementing change, as have a lot of others, but I’ve simply been ignored.
It’s quite a horrible position to be in, really… to clearly see certain policy rules that need to be changed… to clearly see some ideas being put forward by The PRP that shouldn’t be mentioned or created in the first place… but to have a committee that is choosing to do things their own way, according to their own agenda.
There will be more stories coming about The PRP over the coming weeks.
For now, let’s begin discussing and working towards changing auDA Policy, so that Anonymous Complaints against generic domain names become a thing of the past.
auDA Domain Name Complainants should NOT be allowed to be anonymous.