Friday, 6 May 2016
The Risk of Domain Privacy Services
The need to remain private in the domain industry has its disadvantages, which businesses and trademark owners need to consider carefully.
What is a domain privacy service?
In order to understand the implications of a domain privacy it is necessary to be familiar with the term WHOIS. A WHOIS service is a publicly available directory containing the contact and technical information of the registered holder of a domain. It allows anyone to find out who is behind a domain.
A sample WHOIS record for the domain lexsynergy.com is inserted below. Each section of the record is highlighted in a different colour for the purposes of this article. The red section displays the domain holder’s or “owner’s” information.
Registrar URL: http://www.lexsynergy.com/
Updated Date: 2015-06-03T10:51:29Z
Creation Date: 2005-05-03T13:59:31Z
Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2025-05-03T13:59:31Z
Registrar: Lexsynergy Limited
Registrar Abuse Contact Email: email@example.com
Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +44.2081331319
Domain Status: clientTransferProhibited http://www.icann.org/epp#clientTransferProhibited
Domain Status: clientDeleteProhibited http://www.icann.org/epp#clientDeleteProhibited
Domain Status: clientUpdateProhibited http://www.icann.org/epp#clientUpdateProhibited
Registrant Name: Domain Name Department
Registrant Organization: Lexsynergy Limited
Registrant Street: 130 Hampstead House
Registrant Street: 176 Finchley Road
Registrant City: London
Registrant State/Province: London
Registrant Postal Code: NW3 6BT
Registrant Country: GB
Registrant Phone: +44.2081331319
Registrant Fax: +43.15120587
Registrant Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Admin Name: Domain Name Department
Admin Organization: Lexsynergy Limited
Admin Street: 130 Hampstead House
Admin Street: 176 Finchley Road
Admin City: London
Admin State/Province: London
Admin Postal Code: NW3 6BT
Admin Country: GB
Admin Phone: +44.2081331319
Admin Fax: +43.15120587
Admin Email: email@example.com
Tech Name: Domain Name Department
Tech Organization: Lexsynergy Limited
Tech Street: 130 Hampstead House
Tech Street: 176 Finchley Road
Tech City: London
Tech State/Province: London
Tech Postal Code: NW3 6BT
Tech Country: GB
Tech Phone: +44.2081331319
Tech Fax: +43.15120587
Tech Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Name Server: ns1.lexsynergy.net
Name Server: ns2.lexsynergy.us
Name Server: ns3.lexsynergy.info
The formatting of the record can vary depending on the domain name extension such as co.uk (UK) and .es (Spain).
A WHOIS privacy service replaces the domain holder’s information with that of a privacy service provider. An extract of the privacy service WHOIS is inserted below.
Registrant Name: Registration Private
Registrant Organization: Domains By Proxy, LLC
Registrant Street: DomainsByProxy.com
Registrant Street: 14747 N Northsight Blvd Suite 111, PMB 309
Registrant City: Scottsdale
Registrant State/Province: Arizona
Registrant Postal Code: 85260
Registrant Country: US
Registrant Phone: +1.4806242599
Registrant Fax: +1.4806242598
Registrant Email: email@example.com
The true domain holder’s information is concealed by the privacy service.
Why use a domain privacy service?
A privacy service is usually used if a domain holder does not want its contact information made public and/or if they want to launch a new service under that domain without attracting attention to themselves before the launch.
A trademark owner should manage their domain portfolio with the same diligence they afford to their trademarks. This means making sure that the WHOIS for each domain name matches the trademark owner’s information using a generic email address such as firstname.lastname@example.org to channel emails received in relation their domains to an appropriate person or designated department.
A privacy service makes the domain holder dependent on a third party controlling the flow of communications received from the email address on the WHOIS. This could result in important communications being missed or misappropriated.
A domain is the signage of an online business. It is the mark users use to interact with a business. The domain is therefore an integral part of any business and trademark portfolio, it should accordingly reflect the correct information.
The privacy service conceals the entity or person behind a registration so if you instruct a third party such as an advertising agency or web designer to register your domain and they use a privacy service it will not be possible to determine who owns the domain. We have seen cases where after a number of years a third party claims a right to a domain they have managed through a privacy service. The “true” holder then faces the issue of having no documentary proof of holding the domain. If the “true” holder has a trademark matching the domain they may have recourse via the UDRP but if the mark is descriptive it could be more challenging especially if relying on common law or unregistered trademark rights.
The WHOIS should act as the "legal archive" as part of an audit trail of who held a domain and when changes occurred.
The above highlights the importance of managing your domains centrally and keeping the WHOIS information updated.
Make sure your Domain is in Your Domain.