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Network Solutions "Owns" Your Domain Name! 198

jvj24601 writes "A columnist at reports that Network Solutions has recently changed its contracts -- it now 'owns' the domain name and can take it back at will. This has been held up in court. I am especially appalled that their agreement states 'NSI may terminate "domain name registration services" if the registrant uses them for "any improper purpose, as determined in our sole discretion."'" Time to check the DomainNameBuyersGuide again ...
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Network Solutions "owns" your domain name!

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  • by option8 ( 16509 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @12:50PM (#1076208) Homepage
    i wonder how this will effect domain squatters who ut up chunks of names with the sole purpose of auctioning them off on ebay, holding them for "ransom", etc.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 12, 2000 @12:50PM (#1076209)
    So instead of using Network Solutions, every one registers with the other domain registrars. Who loses? Well, sure it's a hassle, but there goes Network Solutions' income. Darwinism is fun to watch.
  • by Maul ( 83993 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @12:51PM (#1076210) Journal
    Not only are they sloppy, as many testimonials on Slashdot have shown in previous articles about Domain Name Theft, but now they have the right to just take your domain name back? While I doubt this will be commonly excersized, I think we should tell them that we don't like it by registering elsewhere.

    I recommend currently, as you aren't tied up for two years, and it is really easy to manage your domain via they're web page. doesn't seem to me to have some of the problems Network Solutions has.

  • Looks like I need to transfer my domains to CORE.
  • by Signal 11 ( 7608 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @12:52PM (#1076212)
    Seems to go against another court ruling holding that people's domain names can be considered property. In light of this, I think it would be wise for people to consider a class-action lawsuit against Network Solution's for selling them a bill of goods - what exactly are you paying them for if you are not getting anything in return? I happen to have registered a domain under Network Solutions. I wish it was easier to switch registars, but it is not - there is a window of mis-opportunity where your domain is "available" should you wish to switch.

    Any lawyers care to comment on what my options might be? Can I sue them, and if so, for what? This is a definate consumer-rights issue.

  • by don_carnage ( 145494 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @12:52PM (#1076213) Homepage
    So if, at any time, Network Solutions or it's political constituants disagree with the position that you are taking on your website under their domain name, then they have the right to withdraw that domain name from you?

    So who owns freedom dot com?

  • We should all get together and make our own DNS registration. Just like all the napster spinoffs, lets do a nameserver spinoff.
  • by S810 ( 168676 )
    Then whats the point! This can't be legal. . . I'm the Business Mgr of a local ISP that host Domains(Hundreds) and I'm sure that this will not go over well with them or new Customers. Damnit!
  • Let's see, what could NSI do if they *really* wanted to? NSI Guy: Man... this other registrar has a better deal than us. Time to shut them down. This is exactly the kind of crap that is going to make the internet falter. Notice I said *falter* and not totally fall. While this certianly will be stifling, I think people realize how much the internet has done for the world, and how much it will give in the future. Let's just hope NSI get's their head out of the sand, and starts to think of who they _serve_: the customers.
    Fran Frisina (
  • My domain is about to come up for renewal soon; is it possible to transfer it to a sane registrar? I haven't been able to find an answer to this.
  • by JamesKPolk ( 13313 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @12:54PM (#1076218) Homepage
    There *is* competiton in the .com/.org/.net domain registration business, after all.

    Though, when I think about it, maybe it's not obvious. Some people haven't gotten the idea yet.


    Whois Server Version 1.1

    Domain names in the .com, .net, and .org domains can now be registered
    with many different competing registrars. Go to
    for detailed information.

    Domain Name: SLASHDOT.ORG
    Whois Server:
    Referral URL:
    Name Server: NS1.ANDOVER.NET
    Name Server: NS2.ANDOVER.NET
    Updated Date: 08-feb-2000
  • Let's see them revoke and!

    Isn't that an improper practice?
  • Dotster Rocks! [] 45$ a year for, org and net? The cost difference alone paid for my first 3 months of hosting. NSI is a dinosaur, and should be treated as such. 'course, dotster hasn't been involved in a lawsuit yet, that'll probably change my opinion.
  • as i recall, there was a web-based registrar rating site -- that lists the details of agreements from the various registrars, etc.

    when my NSI expires in several months, i should just be able to transfer it over to one of the more forward-thinking registrars, correct?

    i think there's one in san diego with a good rep.
  • In practice, it will not work.

    For instance, wouldnt it be nice if Network solutions could haul off and revoke all the stupid domain names that point to pr0n? ( springs to mind)

    IF Network Solutions could be trusted to do the right, ethical and moral thing, this would also pretty much eliminate cybersquatting of the worst kind. But, as we have seen from NetSol's past reputation, they cannot be trusted to do anything resembling ethical behavior. (can you say "Sure, everyone can be a registrar, but we still own the master DB, and will enforce this when we please)

    This poicy will be abused, not if, but when, and I truly feel sympathy for this little guy out there on the web who might be trying to make some money for him/herself and gets stepped on by big bad NetSol.

  • So Network Solutions claims to have ownership for the following domains? (

    This is after these domains are renewed with NSI, according to the contract.

  • From the article:

    By contrast, Phil Sbarbaro, NSI's legal counsel, offered a parallel to summarize prevailing law: "You don't own a domain name any more than you own your phone number."

    Reading this really scares me, because it shows how big NSI *thinks* it's roll is on the Internet. NSI is not the provider of the Internet or even the provider of domain names; they are just an administrative body in place to manage the root name servers and take fees to manage the names in them. They didn't CREATE these domain names.

    Argh, why did the government ever hand this over to private industry? =P Or at least, why weren't there more protections put in place BEFORE they handed it over?

    - Isaac =)
  • what happened to the times when we used to say;
    "aw, that's bullshit, that'll never stand up in court!"

    . . . and we'd be right?

    I just remembered this old Metallica song. . .
  • It seems like abusing publicly bestowed trust in this way is itself an "improper purpose." Perhaps some clever lawyer could compel network solutions to take back its own domain name.
  • when I bought my domain, I thought I owned rights to it.

    it doesn't sound legal to change the contract terms once the contract has been executed? (IANAL)


  • now tell me what this means:
    "any improper purpose, as determined in our sole discretion."'

    so now can they take back becouse they put up child porn?


    lets say i have and i tell you how to grow weed. and now lets say they dislike that idea. can they take that domain name back too?


    what if Micros~1 gives them a deal on X number of copys of W2K in exchange for revoking

    what then?
  • Be careful. If NS finds out you're thinking of switching, they'll revove your name, and sell it to someone they view as more 'friendly' to them.

  • ICANN should terminate for improper use.
  • Remind me again why I registered a domain name with a country code [.nu] instead of something from NSI?

    I never did trust them...


  • "...improper purposes..." + $, influence, etc. = "Welcome to, the newest member of the MSN family"

    See you there.

  • by Pope ( 17780 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @01:07PM (#1076233)
    For all the domains I own or have bought for friends without credit cards (g) I went through
    Fast, friendly, efficent. Gotta love it!


    Freedom is Slavery! Ignorance is Strength! Monopolies offer Choice!
  • by doctorwes ( 128881 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @01:07PM (#1076234)
    This page [] summarizes the legal rights offered by the different registrars. As you can see, the problem with Network Solutions has been known for some time.
  • It seems as if the Internet is becoming less and less the realm of freedom as I once thought it was. It seems that every day I become more and more disappointed with the court rulings and corporate decisions that take place. This is just another case of how one group can decide for the rest of us what is and isn't "improper". In no way can I see how giving Network Solutions this power is good for anyone.
  • by EraseMe ( 7218 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @01:08PM (#1076236)
    Thanks NSI! I can't tell you how much fun I had dealing with your ongoing garbage for the past 3 years! And to think my company has registered over 1000 domains with you guys for our customers over the past 5 years!

    In using Tucows OpenSRS [] we have had extreme reliability, durability, speed, and low prices. Any ISP who hasn't implemented this service yet doesn't know what they are missing... Only $10/year per domain.

    And for all you end users out there, don't miss out Domain Monger [], who implement OpenSRS, and only charge $17/year.

    NSI... How are you still a company?

  • I urge everyone to use other registrars. If NSI is claiming this on behalf of all domains in the Internic database, then a class action lawsuit is going to be needed.

    Alternatively, perhaps people should start using the location based prefixes... i.e. .us and .(state).us for the United States, and .ca in Canada, for example, instead of the almightly .com. Here in Canada, at least, .ca registration is free to incorporated businesses and non-profit agencies, and also to propieterships if a trademark or name is established.

    (by the way, is someone launching DDoS's against parts of /.? Yesterday and today, the main server, the ad server, and the image server have sporadically been unavailable. Wired reported that there have been some DDoS's in progress.)

  • This is fascinating, it's almost as if NSI was deliberately trying to alienate its customers. What extraordinary steps will they take next to scare us away? Perhaps they'll start knocking down doors in the middle of the night to shake us down for 'domain protection money' or switch domains around once in a while for fun.

    NSI is like a bunch of thugs. As long as they were the only game in town, they did brisk business and just performed their function as licensed. Now that there's competition, they're throwing their weight around like a nervous drug pusher who's worried about someone else moving in on his block.

    I wish there was something we could do to avoid the NSI built infrastructure, but even their competitors need to work with NSI to get domains registered and acknowledged.

    Where's our famed net-anarchy when we need it?
  • Well, if they don't own the name, then they certainly can't be in trouble for having the name....
    The way I see it, this is just another abuse of power from an entity that we never really wanted to trust in the first place...


  • by Anonymous Coward
    Get your facts straight Siggy... the latest court ruling [] in the case in fact found that domain names weren't to be considered property.
  • I'd ask etoy about that.

    I hope the change-in-contract isn't retroactive--in any case, I'll be moving to a new registrar when the time comes.
  • The DNS system currently works on consensus, everyone agrees who the Top Level Nameservers are. We should simply say "No More", designate some new TLNs, and tell Network Solutions to stuff it. I am sure that some company, Maybe IBM would donate some computers to run the Database that would feed this. And we should host it outside the USA, since the Internet is International in it's scope today, and NSI has lots of money for lawyers.

  • Does this mean MicroSoft et. al. can sue Network Solutions for trademark dilution?
  • I don't mean this as flamebait, but we're all aware that there are other, subjectively better registrars out there, so we don't need any more posts telling us this.
  • % whois
    Domain Name: SLASHDOT.ORG

    Not that it means anything, but someone was going to point it out.

    Just like Andover, I have a few domains registered with NSI that I'd like to transfer. Is there a good FAQ/HOWTO out there? I'm particularly interested in actual experiences and pitfalls to avoid.

  • "You don't own a domain name any more than you own your phone number."-- Oh, come on- what a retarded argument! Standard phone numbers (I'm not sure about the 1-800 world) are, by tradition and network design, tied to geography. People understand that if you move, you probably don't take the number with you. The Net does not suffer from this regionalism, at least in the arena of .com, .net, and .org. Phone numbers are assigned, not chosen, and people and groups are more closely tied and invested in the names they've staked out.

    Maybe next they'll argue that as the keeper of the DB they reallyown,,, [...], and you just happen to be renting a random string of alphanumerics?

  • Maybe now we can get NetSol to shut down spammers that have their domains registered with them.
  • As noted on /. a few weeks ago this site [] compares services based on contract or price.
  • It was so good of someone from /. to pay's registration fee before they could move elsewhere

  • In a system where anyone can be sued for anything, there is no more justice than there is when nobody can sue for anything.

    Why are we Americans so goddamn litigous?


  • There have been a couple of DNS-"replacements" before - I forget (and on really quick looking couldn't come up with a link) where one of the dissenters/troublemakers hacked some sites for publicity - bad idea, got him burned bad.

    Second point - Yeah, this is Slashdot, but does "open source" have to be suggested for EVERYTHING? Don't like McDonalds?! Open Source Burgers are the answer!

    DNS *is* open source *now*. The only thing holding you back is the approval (of others) to set up DNS.

    All you have to do is get enough people to force lookups to your servers, too..... (good luck).

    But nothing stops anybody from setting up their own DNS servers, in their own hierarchy. Whether anybody ever points there for lookups, on the other hand...

  • by msaulters ( 130992 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @01:14PM (#1076252) Homepage
    I am apalled that NSI would make this major a change without notifying the customers. The idea that a domain name is 'just like a phone number' is ludicrous! The court demonstrates a real deficit of knowledge about how the domain system works by finding that the name is a product of contract for services. Just the very OPPOSITE is true. The domain name itself can be registered with any registrar, and the services are contracted to support the use of that name. Under this new policy, you'd better hope you haven't already renewed. Here's a scenario:

    1) Domain owner of extremely popular domain name X decides to switch to a different registrar and informs NSI
    2) NSI pulls the domain name X from the owner, but maintaining it within their database, since it now belongs to NSI
    3) Domain owner must choose a different name when switching registrars, because NSI wants to sell domain name X to the highest bidder.

    I don't doubt they're miffed by a) losing their monopoly, b) the fact that other registrars, like the owner of the .tv domain are auctioning domains for $1000 a pop. I will absolutely move to another registrar BEFORE I renew at NSI, lest I, too, tacitly agree to give away my company's property, which my company owned well BEFORE NSI took over the registry business. It's bad enough we have to change IP's when we change ISP's, but now we have to change domain names along with our registrars? Can they possibly get away with this for long?
  • No, they just autodialed telephone contact numbers listed in WHOIS with a message that was supposed to sound like some sort of regulatory message ("Know your rights", etc.) but was instead an ad for their services.
  • From the article:
    Domain name holders who registered their names under older contracts become bound to
    the new conditions automatically when they renew their names with NSI for another one-year term.

    And from there on out, all NSI changes in policy are automatic and don't even require notice of the contractees.
  • by Astin ( 177479 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @01:15PM (#1076255)
    The court ruling talked about was a reversal of an earlier ruling, which stated that domain names were intellectual property. As for what you're getting, the article does quote NSI's legal counsel as saying "You don't own a domain name any more than you own your phone number." Obviously, just his (and NSI's) opinion, but that's their rationalization for their rules. However, you don't complain that you pay a monthly phone bill, when your phone company does reserve the right to change your number, or even take away your right to use it (area code changes, illegal use, not paying your bill, etc. for example). Not that I'm supporting NSI's position, just clarifying... or not.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    seriously, why not just go with ip addresses? with search functions like web browsers have tried implementing, domain names may well (should) be a thing of the past.

    introduce competition not to sell domain names, but to implement the search functionality they provide.

  • Now that Network Solutions has decided to do this, this is what is going to happen next:

    Business will drop dramatically from those who know what they are doing.

    Eventually this drop in business will effect them so much that they will consider repealing this new clause to their contract.

    Due to their way-too-big egos, they will not repeal it for fear of looking like idiots (too late).

    To make up for lost revenue, they will start taking popular domains away for frivilous reasons. A few hell.coms auctioned off here and there and they make up quite a bit of money.

    If people haven't moved away from Network Solutions yet, they will now.

    Pretty soon Network Solutions won't have any domains left and will go bankrupt unless they decide to fess up and give in (fat chance).

    - What do you think - sounds correct?

  • 'K Obvious beginner here.

    How would I go about changing my domain name which my ISP registered under NS?

  • by ZikZak ( 153813 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @01:18PM (#1076259)

    This implies (to me, at least) that NSI "owns" all unregistered names, too. If they "own" the domain then they must have owned it before, too, right? I certainly wouldn't create a name myself and then promptly give it to someone else for the privledge of being listed in a routing table. If you follow the logic then NSI also "owns" all domains registered through other registrars. At least according to them.

    How exactly does this work? The only way I can see it (possibly) holding up legally is if when you agree to their terms of service you do indeed give them those rights, and I really don't think those sorts of rights are assignable.

    Somebody explain this, as it makes no sense to me.

  • Someone who is a lawyer clear this up for me. I registered my name through does not have this silly "we own your domain name" contract, however they must still go through NSI to actually regiser the domain (NSI I believe still controls the database). Does NSI still have the power to revoke my domain name?

  • by 31switch ( 137963 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @01:20PM (#1076261)
    Right now I'm in a very weird situation. I've registered my Then this small company in US (I'm in Canada) have emailed me saying that it should be theirs. Of course I replied saying no way. I also don't want to ask for $$, because I'm afraid they can use that against me later. The only thing that worries me is that NS and this company are both in the US, so can they go straight to each other and transfer it? Would I then have to pay my own legal fees and go down the border to haggle for it? Shouldn't have picked NS dammit, but if I didn't I'm might have been too late!
  • I keep getting spammed from NSI. I did NOT ask for their marketing email and they claim that [paraphrasing] 'unauthorized use of the WHOIS db is prohibited'.

    yet it appears that they can use their own info on their customers and send out 'the internet newsletter' (or whatever the hell they called it) at will.

    when I asked them to remove me from their spam list, it took almost a month to have my name removed from their marketing distribution.

    so keep it up, NSI; you'll lose subscribers faster than win98 crashes, at this rate.


  • What if you want to transfer your domain to another registrar before it is time to renew?

    I am wondering if you can do this by regular snail-mail. The reason I am asking this is I would use registered / certified mail to send the request to both NSI and the new registrar. That way you know it was received at both registrars.

    At this point I do not trust NSI.


  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @01:27PM (#1076266) Homepage Journal
    I decided NSI was spam and tried to register a .com domain through one of their competitors. For two months I fought with them over getting my name servers set up as authoritative in the databases. Finally I got pissed off and filled in the NSI form for the .net form of the same domain name. Two days later, the .net was up. So I sent a really-nastygram to their competitor (And CCed the ICANN accreditor E-Mail address) telling them that they'd damn well better give me a refund and remove all my me-related information from their databases (At least they complied with that.)

    As much as NSI sucks, at least they get the job done.

  • This seems a little crazy on Network Solutions part, in effect ehy are saying the own all the unborn and unthought of domain names, that may be in the future registered with them.
    Here is a scenario lets say I am the rightful holder of, and have been operating that business for a number of years. Now I want to register my domain name with NSI, i do that, and now they own it. Lets say I want to switch, or something happens (NSI's fault) were I no longer have that domain. If it is not used by someone else are they not, in some ways, acting as domain squatters???? They own and hold a domain that is under my copyright. This, although farfetched, should not be legal. Domain names are equivalent to online identity, they are not just phone numbers (i would understand if you made that argument with IPs, but domain names are like last names)
  • Have whatever registration co. you are switching to do the dirty work of transferring the domain over for you.

    Most registration companies want your business so they offer the service for free. I recently did it. I switched from NetSol to DomainDiscover for this EXACT reason. I didn't like NetSol's crappy disclaimers and legal baloney. DomainDiscover ranked high on the list of good registrars as far as legal issues. DomainDiscover did all the transfer work for me and all I had to do was extend my domain name out another year with DD. No actuall transfer fee. One year is $30 USD, which may not be as cheap as Dotster, but for the mental peace of mind its worth it.

  • Surely this cannot effect existing contracts, unless there was a clause in the original contract stating that such a thing was possble.
    Something like this would not be binding under Canadian law, but I know nothing of American law.
    In any event, in Canada at least, you cannot make changes to an existing contract unless both parties to the contract agree to the change. The effect is that the old contract is voided and a new contract comes into being. The impression I get is that this has not taken place so how is it possibly enforceable?
  • Be careful. If NS finds out you're thinking of switching, they'll revove your name, and sell it to someone they view as more 'friendly' to them.

    And your proof of this lies where?

    (Hint: "It's just something they would do because they're evil!@#!@" isn't a valid response.)

  • by imp ( 7585 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @01:30PM (#1076272) Homepage
    If you can get NSI to actually transfer your domain name to a third party entity. We've been trying for MONTHS to do this and they have not been too keen to do this (although they are keen on forcing us to pay the renewal fee). Grump.
  • I've been curious about sites like that. It's the same as they claim to charge $15 a year for domain registration. If you go with them do you have to be hosted there as well? Or is it just $15 a year domain registration with no strings attatched?

    I've also seen this site around, which lets you register domains for free, provided you have a frame at the bottom displaying their ads: []


  • by Adam Heath ( 8109 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @01:34PM (#1076278) Homepage
    This comparison should have been between an ip address and a phone number. You don't look up entries in a phone book by number, but by name, and you DO own your name.
  • I got tired of my ISP expiring the "legacy UNIX shell accounts" and having to change my email address and get everyone to update. My address is my identity. So I got my own domain name and host it on my own hardware. Now even if I move or switch ISPs. I just update my domain's DNS server addresses and keep my address. If NSI thinks they can yank domains for "any reason, at *their* sole discretion" then I want to transfer to another registrar. But there's no FAQ or info on how to do this. The registrars don't seem to like each other and without cooperation, domain transfers are impossible.
  • []

    Other registrars have similar forms.

  • ..which contradicts this [] ruling. Now, you probably aren't aware of how the courts are structured, so I'll give you a quick breakdown. The current US court system is setup in a hierarchal(sp?) structure starting at the county, or local level. There may also be an administrative court below this - traffic violations typically use administrative courts for the initial appearance. Above the local level you have the state level. Then you have a state supreme court. The state supreme court is in charge of affirming/overturning/interpreting the laws of that state - it has no authority to contravene or interpret federal laws. Still with me?

    If an issue being contested is for a state law, then the state courts have initial jurisdiction - it goes through the hierarchy I just described. If, however, you are being charged with a *federal* offense, or a civil matter involving federal legislation or the constitution, then it is put into the federal court system. These are arranged in "districts", of which I believe there are 9. Districts are pretty much geographically cut up sections of the US. Above the district courts you have appellate courts, which are designed to handle the appeals from lower courts. Finally, at the very top, you have the US Supreme Court, and as I'm sure you already know, they deal with constitutional issues and federal law. They are the "last stop" in our legal system.

    I may have made some minor factual errors in the above, as IANAL. I did, however, take state & local politics and get a "B", so I think I got the important details down. Now, there is one remaining detail...

    Federal courts, like state courts, are on the same level relative to each other. A Minnesota court may rule that, say, the UCITA legislation passed by it's legislative arm is in violation of Minnesota's consitution. A Oregon court may take the same legislation, and allow it. Hence, depending on where you live, the legislation may or may not impact you. Federal courts are the same way - District 5 decisions do not directly impact District 6 decisions, so both decisions will stand (and yes, in conflict) until a higher court resolves the issue by setting a precident. At this point, all courts below it should adhere to that precident where it applies.

    So, the issue is hardly resolved.. my original post stands.

  • by imp ( 7585 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @01:40PM (#1076286) Homepage
    Many court rulings have shown that people with 1-800 numbers *DO* own their telephone numbers.

    Also, one should note that the lawyer has his metaphores mixed up. The real phone numbers of the internet are the IP addresses.
  • by philg ( 8939 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @01:41PM (#1076287)

    Bad analogy. I'm paying a phone bill for the same reason I pay my ISP, not NSI. The analogy holds up if you want a particular phone number; you pay more and get it, but you have to renew it, like vanity plates on a car. That is to say, it's not yours. Of course, the DMV is less draconian than NSI, because they can't just take your plates away "at their sole discretion."

    Note that many fewer people have bought custom phone numbers, relative to the number of people with any phone numbers. This would indicate that, whatever NSI thinks, the public had the idea that what they were getting was more valuable than a custom phone number.

    Whether one can consider NSI to be preying on this ignorance (since they waited for their service to get ubiquitous before seeking clarification) is an open question....


  • by twjordan ( 88132 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @01:43PM (#1076289)
    I screwed up ont he last one, oh well! It would appear that this text (From the service agreement itself):
    19. REVOCATION. You agree that we may terminate your contractual right to use our service(s) if the information that you are obligated to provide to register your domain name or register for other Network Solutions service(s), or that you subsequently modify, contains false or misleading information, or conceals or omits any information we would likely consider material to our decision to register your domain name or to continue to provide you domain name registration services. You agree that we may terminate our service(s), including our domain name registration services, in the event that you use such service(s) for any improper purpose, as determined in our sole discretion. Furthermore, you agree that we may suspend, cancel or transfer your domain name registration services in order to: (i) correct mistakes made by us or the registry in registering your chosen domain name, or (ii) to resolve a dispute under our dispute policy. We will not refund any fees paid by you if we terminate your services.

    States that anyone who didn't use their real name, address, phone number, or email is subject to NSI revocking their "services." I seriously doubt that they could get away with say revoking, say, without due process of some sort (they may try, but /. would probably win if they sued).

    Furthermore, contrary to the article, i see nothing about this affecting you once you renew...

    So when will we get an Ask Slashdot about how to switch registrars safely?

    I hope that text isn't a copyrighted "trade secret."

  • So? It's called a free market.

    So instead of using Network Solutions, every one registers with the other domain registrars. Who loses? Well, sure it's a hassle, but there goes Network Solutions' income. Darwinism is fun to watch.

    But it's not Darwinism and natural selection. It's a very carefully and tightly controlled process of genetic manipulation. The unworthy need not attempt to join the game.

    Not anyone can be a registrar unless they sign the WIPO agreement.

    Wheather or not one agrees with WIPO, you must be able to smell the politics and power trips of ICANN. There's no competition or free market. ICANN is absolute dictator behind the scenes.

    A GLOBAL internet ought to have GLOBAL registrars.

    Differ with ICANN on idealogy and they won't let you play. Is this not wrong?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    This seems very pro-big business and anti-little guy to me. NS isn't going to drop a big business because of the legal battles they could get into, but they can drop a little guy because he is "infringing" or "squatting" on a supposed big business name. Could a big business say, "I'll give you X more dollars than that guy so I can have that domain." and NS obey because their "sole discression" is to make money? Also sounds like NS is "squatting" on all the domain names if they own them. Can you sue NS for owning your trademarked domain name?
  • by /dev/trash ( 182850 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @01:52PM (#1076299) Homepage Journal
    This part scares me:

    Furthermore, you agree that we may suspend, cancel or transfer your domain name registration services in order to: (i) correct mistakes made by us or he registry in registering your chosen domain name,

    Does that mean if they "mistakenly" allow me to rgister and M$ wants it back I lose it?

  • I work for one of the major registrars - NSOL simply runs the SRS (Shared Registry System). Your domain contract is with your registrar. All the registrars sign a contract with ICANN regarding domain disputes, etc.

    Matthew J Zito, CCNA
  • Hell, why doesn't the Virginia court just give NSI a license to print money?

    In the recent discussion of "... for Complete Morons" trademark claims, it was pointed out that phantom marks [] are not granted, e.g., someone cannot possibly tie up in advance all trademarks of two words where the second word is "Services".

    So exactly how much hubris does it take for NSI to claim that they own all possible domain names, present and future? I can't say that I'm surprised, but I can say that I continue to be disgusted by NSI's megalomania.

  • If NSI owns a domain name that *I* have a trademark for, they're in BIG trouble. Based on prior court cases it's established that it's trademark infringement to own a domain name which is the same/similar to a trademark. Oh, this is going to be fun.... ;-)
  • by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @02:35PM (#1076317)
    Okay, I've registered a couple domains a couple years ago... With NSI.

    They claim they own the names now, right?

    So if I try to transfer registration to a more legitimate registration service, they just say "nope, you can't do that -- we own it!".

    What still confuses me is how they can say they own that domain? What if another domain name service had registered the domain for you instead of NSI? There is a serious logic-gap that I'm finding difficult to even explain here. Something akin to saying a phone company saying "every time someone makes a phone call, we own the rights to the conversation that took place on it" or a copy-shop saying "if you use our photocopiers to make copies of any material, we assume ownership to that material automatically!", regardless of the real author or originator of the material you're photocopying.

    I don't think that I made very much sense there. Apologies. But it's difficult to explain something that is so absurd.

  • I have a domain that predates NSI's spinout as a for-profit registry. I wonder if my status is different from that of those who registered afterward?
  • I use NameZero. Works quite well. I pop out of their ad frames using a simple "If me!=top, then top==me" Javascript trick.

    I tended to think that NameZero owns my domain, and they would probably have agreed. It would be interesting to ask them who they believe "owns" my domain [] now.

  • I recommend currently, as you aren't tied up for two years, and it is really easy to manage your domain via they're web page. doesn't seem to me to have some of the problems Network Solutions has.

    Absolutely. I used NSI to register a domain three years ago, and they still don't have a way for me to transfer ownership of the domain without using snail mail. Ugh. I've used [] for my last three domains. The best part about Register is ease of registering other domains after you've already registered one.

  • NSI applies the new contract to you only after you register for another year. Until then, you are bound by the contract in effect when you first signed up.

    However, we all know how much trouble NSI can cause someone who just wants to transfer a domain name.

  • Well, there's Alternic [].

    There's nothing stopping anyone setting up root servers for an independent DNS system - except persuading people to use it.

  • by DrDre ( 121015 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @03:15PM (#1076331)

    In using Tucows OpenSRS we have had extreme reliability, durability, speed, and low prices.

    Are you joking? Do you really think their terms are better than NetSol? I'd re-read your Registration Agreement. If you would look at the OpenSRS agreement, you would see that it's pretty much exactly like the NetSol's Registration Agreement. From the OpenSRS Registration Agreement [] (in its Appendix A):

    15. REVOCATION. You agree that we may delete your domain name or terminate your right to use other Services if the information that you provided to register or reserver your domain name or register for other Services, or subsequently to modifiy it, contains false or misleading information, or conceals or omits any information we would likely consider material to our decision to register or reserve your domain name.
    You agree that we may, in our sole discretion, delete or transfer your domain name at any time.

    To add further insult, read Section 4:

    4. MODIFICATIONS TO AGREEMENT. You agree, during the period of this Agreement,that we may: (1) revise the terms and conditions of this Agreement; and (2) change the services provided under this Agreement.
    Any such change or revision will be binding and effective immediately on posting of the revised Agremeent or change to the service(s) on our web site . . . . You agree to review our web site, including the Agreement, periodically to be aware of any such revisions.

    This is enough to make me wretch. You still think OpenSRS is cool? I feel nothing but disgust.

    Similarly, Secura GmBH, which is given a 5-star rating by the DomainNameBuyersGuide [] for its legal agreement, has the following provision [] in its Registration Agreement:

    An SLD holder's willful provision of inaccurate or unreliable information, its willful failure promptly to update information provided to Registrar, or its failure to respond for over fifteen calendar days to inquiries by Registrar concerning the accuracy of contact details associated with the SLD holder's registration can constitute a material breach of the SLD holder-registrar contract and be a basis for cancellation of the SLD registration.
  • by matthewp ( 19841 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @03:15PM (#1076332)
    Network Solutions and all other registrars follow a uniform Dispute Policy []. This is incorporated by reference into the NSI service agreement. Under that policy, you can only lose your domain if
    • your domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights; and
    • you have no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
    • your domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.
    (emphasis added). That's a lot of ands. The company could, of course, take a more traditional route and seek a court order against either you or NSI. The fact that they and NSI are based in the same country might make this easier, but they'd still have to have a case against your use of the name.

    Bringing this all back on topic, it seems that NSI are claiming a much broader right to terminate registration services. Whilst they have a clearly defined dispute policy, it's not at all clear what they'd consider an 'improper use'. Have any domains been terminated yet under this clause? The case referred to in the story addresses the issue of whether a domain is property or a service, but from the dates seems to have arisen from an earlier registration agreement without this clause.

  • by sigwinch ( 115375 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @03:19PM (#1076333) Homepage

    Thus speaketh the parent comment:

    i wonder how this will effect domain squatters who ut up chunks of names with the sole purpose of auctioning them off on ebay, holding them for "ransom", etc

    Thus speaketh the article:

    In a decision that went largely unnoticed in the press, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled 7-2 last month that a domain name "is the product of a contract for services," and not a type of property that a Web site owns. [...] The majority opinion reversed a March 1999 circuit court ruling. The Supreme Court said the lower court erred when it concluded that "Internet domain names are a new form of intellectual property."

    This leasing perspective, and the court decision supporting it, are actually good, because it reflects what domain names really are: a contract where the registrar promises to maintain the name-to-IP address mapping in exchange for payment. Domain names are no more "property" than are phone numbers, or license plate numbers on cars.

    This is good for trademark reasons. This is a little complicated, so switch your brain lawyerese mode. Trademarks violations involve the public exhibition of the mark, or the sale of a physical object bearing the mark, in such a way that it harms the holder's business or damages their reputation (AFIK). But registration of a domain name is just a promise to return particular DNS server addresses when queried with the name.

    (This doesn't mean that public use of a domain name cannot be infringing. If you deliberately use the name to pretend to be the holder thus causing public confusion, or use it to libel the holder, you have infringed the trademark. The important point is that sticking IP addresses in a database row is not infringement.)

    The domain name system has another relevant characteristic: domain names are utterly arbitrary. They are not required to match or resemble anything in the real world. As far as I know, the Internet's governing rules (the IETF RFCs) make no mention of how you should name hosts in DNS. For example, could point to a webserver owned by Daimler-Chrysler containing advice on crossing rivers. Or could be an ftp server with J. Random Netizen's pr0n and MP3 collection. There are plenty of examples of this sort of thing, such as the notorious

    Combine registration-as-contract with name-as-meaningless, and what do you get? Noninfringement unless the domain name is later used for traditional trademark infringement. Of course this is contrary to the hopes of the megacorporations, who have been lobbying to make the DNS root servers a branch office of the Ministry of Trademarks. It's funny how unrelated cases can sometimes establish precedents. I for one am grateful to NetSol for so nobly protecting me from corporate greed. ;-)

    So my take is that squatting and auctioning are legal. And I think the benefits (megacorps can't touch your domain name) far outweigh the dangers (squatters, who can be bought off cheaper than megacorps, and who rarely litigate you into the grave).

    (Of course, IANAL. Especially not in land of trademarks, strewn as it is with mines and traps for the unwary.)

    <blush> The first time I posted this, I somehow managed to post this to the old "Ranking the Registrars" article. Don't know why I bother getting out of bed some days...

  • There are two problems here. The first is that there is a need for translation between 'human memorable' names and IP addresses. This means that something like DNS is needed. It doesn't have to be DNS.

    The second problem is managing distribution of IP addresses. v4 IP addresses are meant to be in short supply. They're not. There are 2^32 (less a few) possible addresses. The number of Internet-connected hosts is 1-2 orders of magnitude less than that. The problem isn't a lack of available v4 IP addresses; it's piss-poor management of the available ones. One solution is hard - getting people (and, more importantly, routers) to manage v4 addresses intelligently. The other solution is easy. Move to IP v6. This will happen (probably very suddenly - all the infrastructure is in place).

    However, mapping 'human-readable' names to IP addresses is the issue here. DNS is inherently a hierarchical structure. It doesn't need to be. I think that a truly distributed lookup system is more desirable. The obvious example (although I disapprove of both) is Gnutella versus Napster.

    My suggestion is simple: The free software community should develop a distributed name -> address resolution protocol in conjunction with IETF. Conflict resolution should be handled with existing copyright law.

    These are ideas. Please respond intelligently (I have enough hot grits already)
  • by Genom ( 3868 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @03:40PM (#1076336)
    That was back when the courts had a silly little thing called "sanity".

    Nowadays, the judges are more concerned with who's lining their pockets. The laywers are concerned about how long they can draw out the case (to get more legal fees to line their pockets), and the corporations (who have enough money to line many pockets) are stepping up to the plate and *buying* the laws they want.

    It's enough to make people want to move to another country where *people* matter more than *business* -- but since most countries follow the lead of the "free" US ("free" for business -- nothing's free for the average citizen) when it comes to business-related laws, I doubt there's any place sane to move to.

    Haven't they terraformed Mars yet? AARGH! I want off this rock.
  • by sinnergy ( 4787 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @04:28PM (#1076344) Homepage
    Not the cheapest, but certainly one of the best registrars out there.
  • You certainly would have an argument that you've established the common law requirements for trademark if you have used the address in interstate commerce... so register the URL as your Mark and you may be able to prevent another's use while this all gets worked out in court - hopefully to the logical conclusion that the domain is property as described in our original contracts. I need to go back and look at the language again to really feel safe, though.

    Unfortunately I think anyone who purchases under the revisions is screwed, so go to a competitor.

    Interesting that this applies only to for-profit sites... the requirements for trademark anticipate money changing hands by virtue of the accumulated good-will in the Mark. The arguments for personal sites and such might be better made under personality rights - identity control. Hmmmm.
  • by Effugas ( 2378 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @05:03PM (#1076350) Homepage
    Excuse me?

    I seem to remember Network Solutions receiving the rights to *distribute* names, not *wholesale ownership of those names*.

    What's $80 a year today may become 10% of Gross Profit tommorow. "Sorry, we found somebody willing to pay more for your business's identity. Too bad you don't particularly own that identity..."

    This is a land grab; a damn subtle one, but a land grab nonetheless. NSI received the right to distribute names. By claiming ownership, they're assuming a far more valuable, centralized, and corruptable position--one which they have no right to assume.

    Yours Truly,

    Dan Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research
  • by kindbud ( 90044 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @05:09PM (#1076351) Homepage
    With, all it took was to open a service request ticket on their website to start the process. It takes day or so after they verify your identity (the usual notarized letter and photocopy of identification) to complete the change. If you already have a domain at, it's even easier, because they already know who you are. Your domain will continue to operate while the transfer takes place. The NS listed by the roots do not get changed - in fact, this is part of the process. Until your new Registrar becomes the new registrar, they can't change anything else about your domain. Each registrar has access to the SRS using software supplied by NSOL. Each registrar has rights to make changes to the registrar fields in the SRS database. Their accreditation with ICANN is their pledge not to change anything without authorization, though technically, they have the capability to transfer any domain at any time.

    All a Registrar transfer is, is changing a couple fields in the SRS. That's it. Your NS are not changed during the process. The roots continue to hand out the referrals. There are in fact, only a few pieces of information in SRS: the domain name, the registrar's name, the registrar's whois server domain name, the registrar's web site URL, and the nameservers. Only the fields having to do with the registrar are changed during a transfer. The roots continue to delegate to the NS listed in the SRS, because those fields are not changed.


    (though some registrars charge a new registration fee to do the transfer - small price to pay, especially if your domain is nearing renewal time anyway)

  • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Friday May 12, 2000 @05:58PM (#1076358)
    its true that I don't own my telephone number. but I do own my own name.

    in IP, personal names equate to dns host/domain names; and phone numbers are like the IP addresses. my telco or isp can change my phone/IP all they want, but I still have full control over my own name. and I control which name gets mapped to the phone/IP they assign me.

    and NSI will learn this, I'm sure. this proposal of theirs just won't stand.


  • that would've been a lot better with an editor (and a lawyer :-)

    it's precedent []

    and the issue is hardly resolved, for sure.

  • I was pretty sure (back when i started using the internet) that at some point in time something was going to happen to fuck it all up. A good thing, unfortunately, is almost always a fleeting thing.

    In this particular moment in time, i just realized what it is:


    Perhaps the reason the internet became so cool, and so big, was because, in the beginning, a bunch of people got together and created this really cool network of computers. - No one really OWNED this network. It was just a colaboration of people, trying to do something they thought was good (for whatever reasons). (i know 500 of you want to correct me on the specifics of DARPANET...but you get the gist of it)

    Now that every asshole has a computer, and every asshole at the head of every company realizes they can make money off these other assholes - Everyone wants ownership of something.

    Blah blah, my domain, my ip, my this, my that! The downfall of the internet is that we're one by one, through various means, assigning specific ownership of all the various miscellany that is occurring on the internet. Something's got to give.

    Perhaps either huge "megacorps" are going to spam the fuck out of everyone with banner ad us up the wazoo - and they can do it because they "own" something on the net that now allows them to do it. (case in point: how many stories of law suits or legal notifications have you been reading about just on /. in the past couple of months?) Or perhaps the internet is just going to become so large that the signal to noise ratio becomes too much for everyone to handle. - But i'm starting to believe that "ownership" is going to play a HUGE role in this. - Anyone know why communism failed? Because it assumes that the populous is actually intelligent and knows the true meaning of the word "share". I think it's pretty obvious that most adults are about the same as a 2 year old in this area. They're just less eager to share different things. Instead of a Toy, it's now a Car. I'm becoming more and more afraid that the internet is going to fall in the same manner. Guys like Torvalds, Cox, and Gore (lmfao) - seem to be able to handle the whole "group" ownership thing. And for quite some time...i believe the general internet savvy public has too. But there's a paradigm shift coming - it happens when the same people that cut us off in trafic, the ones who take 40 items in the "express" checkout lane, the "general public" we talk about...becomes the average person on the internet. They can't keep the real world pristine...the internet's no different.

    This "rant" has no direct link to the particular news article it is attached too. But, for the record, I believe that a domain name should be the leased property of the person it is registered to. No trademarks, no copyrights, just a leased name. when you stop paying your goes back to the domain name bargain bin. - If I have an epiphany and think of some really snazzy domain name that's the next , I'll be fucking DAMNED if i shell out ~$70 and magically give it away to a registrar! NSI is never getting my business!

    After 16 years, MTV has finally completed its deevolution into the shiny things network
  • Maybe we can put the DNS servers on the open-sourced Iridium satellites...
  • Apparently NSI's agreement allows them to revoke your domain if you make any attempt to transfer it to another registrar. Not sure if they've ever done this, though.
  • in which case, you can't transfer any more than you can change landlords on a rented apartment, as the domain belongs to NSI.

    If you've renewed, you're screwed.
  • Does anyone know of a registrar that allows you to complete the transfer process online, or even partially online? All of the registrars listed on the Domain name Buyers Guide seem to require a tedious paperwork-based transfer., for example, even requires that you send them a NOTARIZED copy of your driver's license.

    It shouldn't be so hard to transfer away from NSI. With policies like that, no wonder they still think they can do anything they want.

  • First of all, the ownership issue and the policy issue are not directly connected.

    The Virginia Supreme Court ruling overturned the earlier ruling by a lesser court that considered domain names property, but only under certain legal circumstances (in this case the plaintiff was attempting to use the garnishment laws to force NSI to transfer a domain), and deriving from a 1997 dispute. Be aware that this ruling will almost certainly be appealed to Federal court.

    The US laws have changed since 1997 (in particular, S.1948 was passed Nov. 19, 1999 []) and in 1999 ICANN promulgated a Uniform Dispute Resolution Process [] for all registrars. This UDRP change is why NSI changed its contract, NOT the court case, even if they appear to be in concert. ICANN's goal is to get registrars out of the middle of lawsuits like this, unless they act in "bad faith", for instance by ignoring a court order.

    It's an open question whether the courts will continue along the path of perceiving domain names as property, or follow the lead of the Virginians and define them narrowly as the "product of a service contract". ICANN and Congress have stayed out of this question, preferring to call domain-name "owners" by the terms holder or registrant -- while unquestionably acknowledging "owner" as the term for a trademark holder. Certainly the Virginia case is not only limited to a single state supreme court's interpretation (albeit the state where NSI is based, and whose authority is acceded to in the NSI contract), but it's based on a narrow case where the registrar was being forced to take action contrary to its policies then in effect. The new legislation and the new UDRP policy may nullify any need for placing registrars in such an awkward position. Even the VA decision notes that this question is unresolved and declines to rule on it, while stating that

    "Initially, we must point out that NSI acknowledged during oral argument before this Court that the right to use a domain name is a form of intangible personal property. That position is consistent with the one NSI took in Network Solutions, Inc. v. Clue Computing, Inc. .... However ... we do not believe that it is essential to the outcome of this case to decide whether the circuit court correctly characterized a domain name as a "form of intellectual property."

    Bottom line? The ownership of domain names, while acknowledge implicitly by the VA supreme court and even NSI, is not fully recognized under US law at this time ... although that had been the clear trend until this particular ruling.

    Choose your registrar carefully.
  • seumas writes:
    What still confuses me is how they can say they own that domain? What if another domain name service had registered the domain for you instead of NSI?

    Obviously, they're not saying they own names registered elsewhere.

    This is a very limited ruling concerning the question of using the property garnishment laws to force a registrar to transfer ownership. For whatever reason back in 1997, NSI didn't want to set a precedent where they were subject to this kind of third-party lawsuit action. The Va. Supreme Court noted in their ruling that one the one hand the question of domain ownership had yet to be legally established (Congress and ICANN are apparently taking hands-off approaches to the question), BUT even so NSI themselves had acknowledged in both this case and the Clue Computing ( case that there was a degree of ownership involved.

    I don't think this ruling goes far beyond this specific case, and it may not stand.

The best book on programming for the layman is "Alice in Wonderland"; but that's because it's the best book on anything for the layman.