The WHOIS databse is a publically available search service that provides information on the holders of domain names listed in the .nz register.  The Domain Name Commissioner recently announced that a review of the WHOIS Service is underway and sought submissions from the public on a range of questions covering the collection and display of information held in the WHOIS database.

Currently, anyone can access the WHOIS service to check the registration details of a .nz domain name at any time.  The information available includes the registrant’s name and contact details along with the name and contact details of the administrative and technical contacts for the domain name.  The aim of the WHOIS service is to allow others to contact an appropriate person regarding the domain name and its management.  

The holders of intellectual property rights have a valid right granted to them under common law or statute.  They are, therefore, as entitled as users of the domain name system to have their concerns regarding infringement in an online context addressed.  Currently, the WHOIS service is the only means for rights holders to effectively achieve those ends.  Baldwins considered, therefore, that it was important that the voice of intellectual property rights holders be heard in relation to this review. 

The principal points that we highlighted for the Commissioner are:

  • Domain names are economically important as a valuable intellectual property right, and as a means for New Zealand enterprises to conduct business.
  • Misuse of domain names or websites associated with domain names is a serious legal and commercial issue.
  • The WHOIS system must allow the owners of trade marks and other intellectual property rights to identify those misusing domain names to enable those owners to properly enforce their legal rights.
  • This important function of the WHOIS system is undermined by a toleration of inaccurate WHOIS data and permitting some domain name registrants to remain anonymous for alleged privacy reasons.
  • Collectors of WHOIS data are best placed to ensure that it is accurate and that any alleged need for privacy is substantiated before anonymity is granted.  Enforceable accountability mechanisms would incentivise data collectors to meet these standards.

Our submissions, along with those of other interested parties can be seen on the Domain Name Commission’s website.