Last fall, we noted that the City of London Police, who had just set up a special “intellectual property crime unit” which appeared to be taking orders directly from Hollywood, had issued bizarre orders to registrars, based on no court order or ruling, that they hand over domain names to the police, point them to a splash page that advertised Hollywood-approved businesses, and block the transfer of those domains to anyone else. A bunch of registrars actually did this, despite the lack of a court order or ruling of any kind. Just because the City of London Police said so. The only registrar who apparently resisted was EasyDNS, who pointed out that there’s such a thing called due process. Furthermore, EasyDNS pointed out that the registrars who complied with the order almost certainly violated ICANN policies for registrars, which has a very specific set of conditions under which a registrar can freeze a whois record, none of which include “because some Hollywood-controlled police force says so.”
The owners of at least one of the frozen domains sought to then (smartly) move the domain to EasyDNS, who would actually protect them. EasyDNS went to Verisign with a “request for enforcement” against the registrar who froze the whois, the incredibly misnamed “Public Domain Registry.” For reasons that make no sense at all, Verisign responded with a “no decision.”
EasyDNS appealed that ruling, and finally after all of that, the National Arbitration Forum has pointed out exactly what EasyDNS said from the very beginning: Public Domain Registry cannot freeze the domain:
No court order has been issued which would prohibit the transfer of the domain names at issue from the Registrar of Record to the Gaining Registrar. Therefore, there is nothing in the Transfer Policy which authorizes the Registrar of Record to refuse to transfer the domain names.