2018 Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets: domain names
The role of registrars
Each year, the USTR collects complaints from intellectual property rights holders. For the year 2018, the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, ASOP Global, shared its experience in a letter to the USTR on October 5, 2018. In this contribution, ASOP Global intended to address the problem of illegal drugs at the domain name level. The issue of domain names and public order through the prism of the health industry is not new. It was raised at the time new gTLDs proposals were being discussed (.doctor, .health, .hospital, .med, .medical, .pharmacy). ASOP Global pointed to so-called “rogue” domain name registrars, which knowingly grant and maintain domain names to illegal pharmacies. It claimed that nothing in the Registrar Accreditation Agreement prohibits the registrars to suspend or lock a domain name which is used for illegal activities. ASOP Global regretted that some registrars do not take its grievances seriously. Such a lack of cooperation can be explained by the figures (iptwins.com, 2018-11-20). Finally, ASOP Global specifically designated (but among others, ibid.) The Hosting Concepts B.V. and Regional Network Information Center JSC registrars (ibid.).
The USTR office has taken over most of ASOP Global’s grievances (ustr.gov, p. 19). The office emphasizes on the following: “Counterfeit pharmaceuticals sold through illegal online pharmacies are particularly pernicious because not only do they cause damage to the reputation of brands and to legitimate pharmacies, but they also may put consumers’ health at risk“. The USTR regrets that some registrars provide domain names to counterfeit drug providers. Hosting Concepts B.V. and JSC Regional Network Information Center are specifically targeted. Finally, the USTR encourages all registrars and web hosts to employ and enforce policies that limit the online sale of counterfeit pharmaceuticals. Indeed, no legal reason prevents them to do so.
The role of ccTLDs registries
The registers in charge of the management of the country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) have a role to play in the fight against counterfeiting. The USTR provides examples of effective collaboration with the EURid and DK Hostmaster registries in cybercrime operations respectively against .eu/.eю, and .dk domain names (ustr.gov, pp. 4 and 5).