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Commerce Dept. Orders NSI to Open "Whois" Database 70

Sawmill writes "The US Commerce Department has ordered NSI to open the "whois" database to companies. This is either really good (free the information!) or really bad (SPAM hell). " Either way, it looks like NSI has been stepping on an awful lot of toes lately. Something's got to change over there.
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Commerce Dept. Orders NSI to Open "Whois" Database

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  • It's always a good thing when information is freed? Sounds like an ill-thought junior hacker mantra, but if that's your feeling, let's start with your credit card numbers, mother's maiden name, birth date, and zip code!

    It is not always a good thing when info is freed. Particularly when it's personal info legally required by all suppliers of a given product or service.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26, 1999 @03:10PM (#1782817)
    It's of course possible that this will increase spam. One can probably say as much about a zillion other things, but let's suppose that in this case, it's true. If this did increase spam, however, there's a way to look at it that says that this would be a good thing. Yes, you heard me; more spam is a good thing. Stay with me a second, here. If there's more spam, there's more annoyance, more theft, and more really pissed off people. Eventually they all stand up and storm Congress in righteous anger, and a law is passed making spam so grievously illegal that a vigilante economy arises as the international award of US$10,000 per hand of a spammer drives the world market to never ending heights.


  • by drwiii ( 434 )
    I hope they are ordered to release it. I don't mind being spammed, as long as it means N$I [] will get the shaft. Does this mean we can start rioting [] outside their headquarters now? (:
  • Could this information be used to set up competing root servers?
  • Wow, glad to see that there are still some BBSs up and running. Do you happen to have any listed for the 713 or 281 area codes? My last FidoNet feed went down about 6 months ago =(
  • No, I PAID them, to make my information accesable to the world, I own it, not them.
  • NSI wants things to be very different from a phone book. Court's have decided that once information, like phone numbers are available to the public, there is nothing preventing anyone else from presenting the same information. In the case of a phonebook, the publisher does not even have a copyright on the format since alphabetization is considered to be trivial.
    NSI want's to say that their whois database is non-trivial and cannot be replicated, nor the information in it used for commercial purposes. It's a rather weak argument since the database has been traditionally accesible to the public and was generated and maintained under contract from the government.
  • by copito ( 1846 ) on Monday July 26, 1999 @07:45PM (#1782823)
    I'm as anti-spam as the next Joe Hacker, but let's face it. Spammers have many ways of harvesting email addresses and opening the whois database makes one avenue a little easier. Besides, who better to competently trace, filter, block or otherwise thwart spammers than domain contacts, who are presumably technically competent people.
    If things would be so bad, what's stopping the spammers now. A legal clause at the beginning of a whois result? At very worst, another company will repackage the whois database and sell the info in it. At that point there may be some increased spam, but what exactly prevented somebody from doing that before the whois database was "privatized." Has anyone actually gotten less spam since the privatization?
    In short, we all hate spam, and we all hate NSI, and most of us probably have no great love for the Commerce Department. Let's not let our fears and prejudices cloud the domain issue any more than it is.
  • No, wait, let me guess... Maybe his clients don't want a domain ending in .us? Naw, can't be, sounds too plausible...
  • by Hacksaw ( 3678 ) on Monday July 26, 1999 @02:33PM (#1782825) Homepage Journal

    As far as I am concerned, I own my entries in that database.

    That information is strictly for technical communication ("Computers in your domain are being used to flood ping our site.", "We can't send mail to anyone in your domain.") and administrative communication ("We would like to buy your domain.", "One of your computers is being used to sell guns illegally.")

    NSI's role should be one of record-keeper. I paid for the domain name, not them.

  • allows one to search the whole database for a domain name (full or part). Someone can probably write a script which can recreate the database at his/her end.

    What say u ppl?

  • Daveo, why does daveo always refer to daveo in the third person, and usually by daveo's name rather than by his pronoun? And when he does, why does he still not use the first person like Pascal normally does?

    (Sorry about that, I've just been curious for a while. If you have a learning disability and I've offended you, I apologize in advance; I've known some people who, due to odd quirks of their minds, simply can't comprehend first person, but generally those who have registered domains don't have this problem. :)
    "'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.

  • NSI may own the system to compile the information (or maybe the government does, this is more likely), and they have the right to charge for maintenance.

    In the most practical sense ownership is an expression of your rights.

    I did not offer NSI the right to use my information for the purpose of monetary gain.

    This information, and how people use it, is as private as any legally required infomation. People can use it on a need-to-know basis, and strictly for the purposes of ensuring the correct functioning of the Internet.

    As to who else can modify the database, I won't go into. In the end, I don't care a whole lot, as long as the root servers are maintained, and (importantly) as long as no one can strip me of my domain name without due process.
  • Ah, we meet again.

    RISCy Business wrote:

    This is a good thing how?

    NSI can now sell domain records to anyone they damn well please.

    This is a good thing because N$I is claiming just that, that they own the whois database, and that they can sell bits of it or restrict access in any manner they please. Never mind that they oversaw the database as a government monopoly.

    The gov't is saying, increasingly forcefully, that NSI does not own whois information.

    "So who's to stop the spammers?" Well, it sure as hell won't be NSI, one way or the other. I see some domain owners here hoping all contact info goes private. I hope it doesn't. In spam-killing, it is extremely useful to know who owns the netblock, who provides DNS, and who is in charge. I can't see how opening up the db will appreciably increase spam. Hey, you're getting spammed now, while NSI is trying to prevent access, aren't you? Handing over whois to any one company, having access at their whim, hinders spam-killing.

  • Of course, you have to *pay* to have an unlisted number....

    TWIAVBP, this is not true everywhere...
  • by Demona ( 7994 ) on Monday July 26, 1999 @02:30PM (#1782831) Homepage
    I really hope you're enjoying yourself, because I doubt anyone else here is.

    My kneejerk reaction with law generally being the same as HTML: "'Force' does not work on the World Wide Web," and my generally contrary nature would lead me, if I were an NSI head honcho, to say, "What will you do to me if I don't?" But more importantly, it seems most of the people involved are forgetting that real people will be affected by these policies:

    "This was built under government contract and the data does not belong to Network Solutions," said Rich Forman, president of New York Based [].

    No, you goober, it belongs to the owner. You remember, the person who registered the domain? Of course, other than the not-for-all-individuals Individual Domain Name Owners [], there isn't much collective effort to protect individual rights. Which of course makes perfect sense; nobody else will have the motivation to protect your interests that you do.

  • I think this is very good. It is always a good ting when information is freed. Spam should be dealt with individually, because it is never a good solution to close off information from everyone simply because of a potential misuse by a few people. The misuse must be dealt with separately. I applaud the Commerce department for making the right decision.
    --------------------------------------- ----------------
    If you need to point-and-click to administer a machine,
  • The phone book is a fitting analogy, as there is an option to not have your name listed in the public listing, but still to have a phone number. Your name's still in the phone company's database so they can contact you if need be, but crazy folk that wanna abuse the public service can't. It's a shame we need these kinda of options, but until "idiot's island" is official... :)

    Mmmm, I/O error...

  • Someone finally paid some attention to what NSI has been doing, claiming the Whois database is their property...even though they own not a bit of the information, only the locations where it's stored and possibly a copyrighted format. Remember when Pacific Bell (IIRC) tried to claim their phone directory was propeietary and only they could make phone books and got slapped down for it. Now maybe the DoC will do that with NSI so we can get the domain registering service back from their greedy corporate claws.
  • by semis ( 14252 )
    I hope that this information is released under the same tight restrictions as what is released under a whois lookup.

    I can't help but feel that I am going to get spammed by some luser who misuses this information.

    All I can hope is that the US Gov't enforces the license of the information as much as they seem to be supporting the release of it.
  • by phred ( 14852 ) on Monday July 26, 1999 @06:31PM (#1782836)
    I just received my new copy of Internet World with my friend Jim Rutt's face on the cover. The headline reads "The Demise of Dot Com: And the political storm ahead for Network Solutions' James Rutt." It's not online at Internet World [] yet so I can't give a specific pointer.

    Anyway, it's about time the Commerce Department started closing on this issue. NSI's position has a certain amount of appeal from a self-dealing point of view, but is completely contrary to the intent and the blackletter of the 1993 agreement. They are supposed to manage the whois database in public trust, not convert it to private intellectual property for their own convenience and profit.

    The analogy with phone numbers is wrong. Like it or not, the phone company does own your number, although there are some gray-area issues there too.

    This issue is fundamental to the autonomy of the global Internet from control by NSI or any other entity. ICANN has problems too, but they are separate.

    Let me state this very clearly: we don't know what NSI's intentions are, so we have to separate speculation from reality. But the possibility exists that a privatized whois database would be the leading edge to privatizing the Domain Name System as a whole. What would we do in 1999 or 2000 to overcome such a development?

    I urged Jim Rutt in private and reiterate in public my plea for NSI to drop this issue and get to the business at hand: improving NSI's service to its customers, which is widely and correctly regarded as being crummy. They have many advantages as a result of being awarded "first mover" position in the market by virtue of their current government contracts. They would do well to defend that advantage through superior service rather than lawsuits, political arm-twisting and worse.


  • >The analogy with phone numbers is wrong. Like it or not, the phone company does own your number, although there are some gray-area issues there too. the 1996 telecommunications reform act (the act that opened up local telephone service to competition...or was supposed to) it was decided that you *do* own your telephone number. If you switch from one telephone company to another, you take your telephone number with you. The telephone companies are required by law to work with you and each other to make sure that you can still use the same telephone number.

  • First the whois database, next the zone files...

    Good or bad? We shall see.

    If it comes from man, it will fail.
    If it comes from god, It will succeed.

  • It's a damn .sig block guys... Ever hear of Neon Genesis Evangelion? :-) That was a tad of a tangent now, wasn't it?

    If it comes from man, it will fail.
    If it comes from god, It will succeed.

  • I personally don't care whether it is open or not.

    I spend day in and day out going after spammers (its part of my job). If this makes it easier for spammers to harvest email addresses, there will be a problem.

    Maybe I should trip over the power cable that supplies power to the router the NSI is on :)
  • Odds are, once the info is made available from NSI, the other registrars, that can sign up domains are going to start spamming saying something like "Wouldn't you rather reregister with us for a significant discount and blah blah blah".

    This is totally unacceptable, and If I ever get one at the tech contact for my domain, I will personally go after whomever did the spamming.
    And I will gladly type "shut" on there interface.

  • The phone company makes money by selling directory info. They count on this income when they determine prices. If you deny them this income, then they will set their prices accordingly. It is no different than if they offered you a $3 discount for the privilege of listing your information.
  • As far as I am concerned, I own my entries in that database.

    Well, that may be fine as far as you are concerned, but this doesn't fly in the real world. Ownership is a legal concept and there is a whole bunch of laws dealing with ownership of information. Hate to disappoint you, but if you compile a database, you own it, not the people who submitted info to you in the first place.

    There is a lot of discussion about whether a collection of information (database) is legally different from the same pieces of information separately, but that's not what we are talking about. You don't own anything at all in the NSI database. If you feel that they did something wrong with your entry, you can sue them, but the suit will be under tort law (injuries/damages) and not under ownership law.

  • Maybe I'm just being silly, but what about all the noncorporate entities on the network? Are they to be denied rights to this public information because they aren't companies?

    I guess I'll go read the article now...
  • Well.. there is a bright side for the idiots who decide to use such a database for spamming.
    • Open relays will be shut down/fixed quicker
    • Those who decide to keep open relays can be blocked
    • Idiot spammers expose themselves even quicker.
  • C'mon. Give me a freaking break. This is a good thing how?

    NSI can now sell domain records to anyone they damn well please. Or sets. Or the entire thing.

    I know a lot of spammers that would love a list of just domains so they can spam every user within those domains. There are ways to find 'em, more than likely.

    So, who's to stop the spammers? Nobody. The gov't isn't clued enough to do so correctly. NSI won't; that'll lose them possible customers. And now they have an excuse to charge ICANN and others for the database. The government has basically said 'okay, that's it. You have to open it. But go right ahead and charge whatever you want for it.'

    How much you want to bet NSI will have a licensing fee or something, of some million dollars for ICANN and the competition? NSI will stop at nothing, I tell you.

    And you people thought AT&T was bad. Bah. You ain't seen *NOTHING* yet. The trouble has just begun.

    -RISCy Business | Rabid System Administrator and BOFH
  • I am just starting to wonder what they had intended on this new service that NSI was going to offer? How much of my personal info (sure, I just moved so it's now out of date) is going to be disseminated to whoever is willing to meet their price?

    I can hear spammers drool as I type this.

  • If you have a static IP, you can now have FidoNet access right from the InterNet...
    "I have no respect for a man who can only spell a word one way." - Mark Twain
  • it doesn't matter anyway because they appear to be on hiatus. I asked for a primary dns change last week... they said it needed to be done manually.

    I am not pleased.
  • I know that I've not got a domain/won't be spammed/etc.. because of the "release" of the information, but
    1. As someone earlier mentioned, the article said that NSI was "warned" to release the information.
    2. Isn't the jist of this info that everybody's panicking about already released on whois's on domains?
    3. Is there a point to releasing this information to competitors? How can releasing information about domains that are already sold help competitors to sell domains? Are they going to try to contact the people who bought the domains and ask them to "buy" them from themselves, as opposed to NSI? ("We'll be good, we promise!")

    Otherwise, I'm not quite understanding the dealio with this. Sorry.
  • Ever since I started using my SPAM has dropped dramatically and I'm finally getting a proactive response from postmasters and the like.

    Now, with that said, I believe that the domain registration info should be as public as property title is. Which, if I'm not mistaken, is just such the case now.

    What has the court ordered that will be any different. I get SPAM all the time from my domain registration (especially when I make recent changes).

    Bring 'em on! Like the other guy said "Spin the Pig..."

  • Hmmm. I wonder what they are going to open beyond what has always been available ? The only things that seem to be hidden are related to domain owner authentication and billing. This may make it easier ( or perhaps only different ) for spam generators to get the contact info for large numbers of domains, but to my knowlege the info has always been there. In fact, I remember getting spammed by someone selling a list of domain managers a while back.
  • Who's to say it's not "Open" already? Yyou can't tell me that copies of that database haven't gotten out already. I can register a new domain and use a newly created email address as the billing contact and get spammed within 24 hours every friggin time. Somebody's either hacked it our more likely money bumps into some dried up bubblegum on a daily basis. Does this mean I'm one of those wacked out conspiracy people?
  • The damn "Modify Existing Domain Name Registration" form is missing a TEXT field box for the organization name.

    I can't even modify my entry!
  • Well when you start trying to raid the ".com" DBS to make E-Yellow Pages. Not Good Folks.
  • In a sense, the one who compiles the database is the owner. Do you own the entry in your local phone book that has your name, number and address? Do you want it back?

    When there was a discussion about the CDDB database, I could see somewhat more clearly that the people who entered in all the songs for a CD might have "ownership" of those entries. With NSI, they entered in all the information much like a phone book from the billing and administrative information you provided them.

    OTOH, for the competitors of NSI to function correctly they will need access to that database. I doubt they need a full copy of it though. A copy would be out of date before it was done being copied.

    I feel that it is a tough call to make.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"