Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Reporting inaccurate or false Whois data

Usually webmasters engaged in fraud use fake names, fake addresses, fake phone numbers, and so on, to associate with their website. The only real ID associated with their Whois record is their e-mail, so they can be contacted by their registrar--though sometimes that isn't even real.

This raises problems for people who are offered payment to produce content for a website, such as what happens when Internet forum owners offer paid posting programs, and are never paid for their work. How can one ensure that their work isn't used by a fraudster who has not paid them? The solution is simple: An ICANN Whois complaint.

ICANN is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, and is responsible for administering various top level domain names such as .com, .net, etc. It requires that owners of domain names maintain accurate registration data regarding themselves in the system, or they can have their domain name revoked.

An ICANN Whois complaint can be lodged through InterNIC, which is ICANN's website for the public. To do this is simple. Simply visit the ICANN Whois Data Problem Report web page, enter the domain of the site you believe to have inaccurate contact information without any "www," (eg., ""), your own name and e-mail address so that you can track the complaint, a security code to verify that you are not a robot, and click "Submit," and provide the information that the next page requests regarding which Whois entries are true and which are fake. (Before reporting the inaccurate information, you should ensure that it appears to be inaccurate by doing a Whois lookup on the domain name).

So what will this accomplish? If the domain name owner wishes to preserve their site, they will be forced to provide accurate contact information. With this, you can serve them with a law suit, report them to the police for fraud, or use any other legal strategy you can think of which required their previously unknown contact information. If they don't want to respond because they fear the reprisal, ICANN will probably disable their domain name and your content will no longer be making any revenue for a scammer.

Keep in mind that they could transfer your content to another website, but this will cost them the price of a new domain name, and you can always follow the same process with the new web address that you find your content on. You should save your content and search for it on Google every couple weeks after the original site is blocked so that you can determine whether it has been reposted elsewhere in violation of your rights as the copyright holder.

You might also consider filing a DMCA takedown notice with the host of the website if it is located in the United States and you want to claim copyright infringement.

RELATED LINKS (Open in new window)

ICANN Whois Data Problem Report page
What is a DMCA takedown notice? (Cyber Law Facts)
Whois Lookup Service

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