call +44 20 7096 1079
November 08, 2013

Response to Nominet domain registration policy review

In September Nominet announced a review into whether they should prevent some words or terms being registered. Currently they do not. Background to the review, including their correspondence with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, is available from the Nominet website.


Contact: Peter Bradwell, peter@openrightsgroup.org

1. Do you believe that some terms and expressions should be blocked completely, and if so how do you propose such a list could be drawn up and maintained?

No. Nominet should not block terms or expressions. There is an existing process for dealing with illegal content.

2. If you do not believe that any restrictions should be introduced at the point of registration, should a post-registration complaints procedure be introduced, and if so, what should the criteria be for a complaint to be upheld, and what remedies should be available?

If Nominet receives a complaint that a domain is hosting unlawful content then it should pass that complaint on to the relevant police bodies.

If Nominet receives a complaint that a domain name is obscene, harassing, or threatening then it should pass the complaint on to the relevant police bodies.

3. Any further comments on this topic?

No case has been made that registration of offensive terms is creating a significant problem. Existing provisions exist to deal with illegal sites. If there are issues with the process for dealing with illegality then this should be made clear with a good analysis of the problem. We do not support outsourcing the policing of illegal content to private bodies such as Nominet.

In addition to the practical issues such as the costs of monitoring registrations, there are serious principled concerns about a private business – in a position of effective monopoly over the UK name space – making decisions about acceptability of certain words or phrases.

Further, taking away the domain registration will in all likelihood have no meaningful impact upon the operation of a hate site, porn site or other 'offensive' site. The website operators would likely just use non UK domains instead. Nominet acting may have the unintended consequence of tipping website operators off that they've been noticed and make it harder for the police to do their job.

There is also a risk that attempts to remove some words from the system will simply create new 'offensive' words as people look for creative ways around the problem.

In the very unwise decision is taken to try to restrict some words, Nominet should ensure any banned list is co-ordinated with Ofcom and also with the new newspaper regulator and applied to all, as well as to telephone directories, to avoid market distortion between new and old media. Additional funding should be set aside for disputes and judicial reviews.

We note other pressing and valid concerns, including the 'Scunthorpe' problem, which have been well aired elsewhere.