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Registrars which suspended file-sharing domains may have violated global rules

By | Published on Monday 14 October 2013

City Of London Police

Domain registrars which responded to recent letters from the City Of London Police’s new IP Crime Unit by suspending the domains of file-sharing websites that the policing body reckons are liable for copyright infringement may have violated the rules of the global domain name overseer ICANN, according to one of the registrars which received said correspondence.

As previously reported, the IP Crime Unit recently wrote stern letters to the companies that administrate the domains of file-sharing sites like ExtraTorrent, SumoTorrent and The letter says that said sites are believed to be violating copyright and other UK laws, and that in doing so are likely breaching the domain registrar’s own terms and conditions and, possibly, ICANN rules.

With that in mind, said domain registrars are encouraged to suspend the domains of the offending sites, even though no actual civil or criminal action has been taken through the UK courts. And some domain firms have complied with that request, though one – easyDNS – has not, instead publishing the police letter and insisting it wouldn’t suspend a domain without a court order.

And now the boss of easyDNS has told Torrentfreak that those firms that have suspended the domains of file-sharing sites following the police letter, while possibly allowed to do so under their own terms and conditions, must allow the operators of said services to transfer their domains to another registrar, otherwise it will be they who are violating ICANN rules.

But if compliant domain companies do now allow that transfer, then the IP Crime Unit’s letter will have achieved little, except to put the operators of file-sharing services on alert that they may have legal problems holding onto their dotcom domains down the line.

easyDNS’s Mark Jeftovic told Torrentfreak on Friday: “Any of those registrars that actually complied with the UK requests to bring down the torrent domains must allow those domains to simply transfer out, or they themselves will be in violation of the ICANN transfers policy”. ICANN policy says that domain owners can only refuse to allow a domain transfer if there is a fraudulent payment or court order.

Jeftovic continued: “Since there were no charges against any of the domains and no court orders, it may be at the registrars’ discretion to play ball with these ridiculous demands. However – what they clearly cannot do now, is prevent any of those domain holders from simply transferring out their names to more clueful, less wimpy registrars. If any of those registrars denied the ability to do that, then they would be in clear violation of the ICANN Inter-Registrars Transfer Policy”.

It remains to be seen what happens next regarding the suspended domains, though most of the sites affected have already set up shop with a new alternative web address.