WHOIS Task Force 2 -- Proxy Registration (and related) Services

Thomas Roessler <roessler@does-not-exist.org>, 2004-04-07


The present document discusses several services that permit registrants to avoid listing their personal contact information in WHOIS. In the "proxy setting," a third party enters into the registration agreement (and is, from the registrar's point of view) the "registrant"; the site is then licensed to the "actual registrant." This setting is regulated by section of the RAA: Any Registered Name Holder that intends to license use of a domain name to a third party is nonetheless the Registered Name Holder of record and is responsible for providing its own full contact information and for providing and updating accurate technical and administrative contact information adequate to facilitate timely resolution of any problems that arise in connection with the Registered Name. A Registered Name Holder licensing use of a Registered Name according to this provision shall accept liability for harm caused by wrongful use of the Registered Name, unless it promptly discloses the identity of the licensee to a party providing the Registered Name Holder reasonable evidence of actionable harm.

Frequently, these "proxies" are associated with registrars. In a different setting, the registrar directly provides replacement contact information to the registrant, without using an intermediary.

Constituency Input

The Intellectual Property Constituency points to section of the RAA (see above). "It is the IPC’s understanding that the proxy registration services seek to fall within this provision. It appears that the proxy registration services with which IPC members are familiar operate under terms and conditions that permit the disclosure of registrant contact data in the circumstances contemplated by RAA However, we have gathered only very limited anecdotal data about how these services work in practice."

The Non-Commercial Users' Constituencypoints out in its submission that the standard proxy situation means that an additional, and possibly unscrupulous, intermediary is introduced into the contractual relationship between registrar and registrant. That party then has the ability to do whatever it wants with the registered domain name. The NCUC also points out that proxy services are not providing anonymity suitable to protect free speech. Domains By Proxy is discussed in detail; the NCUC concludes: "Therefore we submit that the proxy services offered at present are necessarily insufficient, since they cannot really protect registrants against mere legal threats, because of the liabilities incurred by those offering these services."

ALAC's response to the survey points out that proxy services technically do not provide anonymity, but pseudonymity, in that the intermediate entity knows the end-user's identity, but publishes its own information in the WHOIS registry instead. According to ALAC, "the chief problem with these "masking" services is that they may unmask their users on slight provocation; an allegation of wrongdoing is not the same as proof that unlawful activity has occurred, and there are many ways to stop even ongoing wrongdoing short of revealing the name of someone who may later turn out to be innocent of all charges." ALAC also points to the risks caused by the proxy situation.

The ISPCP's input contained some pointers to proxy and similar services that were quite helpful in assembling the following table.

Overview of Various Providers' Terms and Conditions

Aplus Acceptable Use Policy
Domain Name Service Agreement
Accredited registrar.
Acceptable use policy mentions spam, intellectual property infringement as unacceptable. It remains unclear what procedure is followed when complaints about an "anonymous" domain name are received. "The benefit of anonymity will only be revoked if you violate our usage policy, break the law or use it to send out spam." Registrant is required to provide correct contact information to registrar.
Domains By Proxy Terms and conditions

Affiliated with registrar GoDaddy.
See "terms and conditions" for descriptions of conditions under which personal information is made accessible to third parties, or made public. Essentially: Legal proceedings; protect DBP from liability; violation or infringement of trademark, trade name, or legal rights. Also, other "illegal or morally objectionable activities." Registrant is required to provide correct contact information to registrar.
IDdp Terms and conditions
(See, in particular, Appendix for the ID Domain Privacy Service - IDdp.Net.)
Affiliated with Key Systems GmbH
Proxy-related terms are close to Domains by Proxy's.
Encirca WHOIS data accuracy / anonymization page
Service Terms
Accredited registrar.
Encirca can put in place its own contact details; "contact registrant" feature is provided. Not an actual proxy service, in the sense that there is no intermediate contracting party? No information on conditions under which anonymity is lifted. Registrant is required to provide correct contact information to registrar.
Network Solutions Terms and Conditions
(See, in particular, section 3.)
Accredited registrar.
Not an actual proxy service; service includes an NSI provided, spam-filtered email address that forwards to any email of the registrant's choosing; a NSI answered phone. Private registration service can be terminated upon claims of trademark infringement or violation of other legal rights, for compliance reasons, or upon threat of litigation. Correct contact information required.
FAQ ID Protect
Privacy policy
Accredited registrar.
"Dynamic eMail system"; "information held by affiliate." No clear information whether this is a proxy and under what conditions registrant's actual contact information is made available. Correct contact information required.
Katz Global Terms of Service
Acceptable Use Policy

Advertise cash-paid services; accept e-gold. "Domains will be registered and owned by Katz Global Media." Terminate hosting account for apparent or implied violation of law. Seem to target adult, gambling (where legal), anonymous speech; reserve right to stop or cancel anything that might be harmful to them. Also offer offshore hosting.
Silent Register Terms and Conditions. enom reseller?
Proxy service; requires correct contact information. Reserve right to disclose contact information when required by law; proxy service terminated when named as defendant in litigation; proxy service terminated when verified spam complaint received.


Terms of Service
enom reseller?
Proxy service. Self-description: "Don't spam. No objectionable or questionable activity. No adult entertainment. If you do any of the above we reserve the right to sell your domain." Formal terms are close to Domains by Proxy's.
1001 discrete resources Limitations
registration agreement
Tucows reseller.
Proxy service. "We offer 100% discretion to our clients so long as they abide by our limitations." Offer various offshore services. Reserve right to cancel registration at any point of time.
alpina1.net Terms and Conditions Tucows reseller.
Recommend e-gold as a payment method. Suggest domain registration via informal e-mail. Suggest that  "Tucows do not support 'privacy registrations' in case someone claims the WHOIS is incorrect." Lots of broken links.
anonix Acceptable Usage Policy
Domain Registration

General approach: "We accept payment by money order, and require no contact information whatsoever." Act as proxy for domain name registrations; require one piece of contact information then. "Will not act as a go-between or arbitrator, nor accept any legal responsibility." Revoke & refund as last resort.
affiliated with Tucows reseller Wholesalenics "Contact information provider": Offer postal and e-mail addresses that can be used for WHOIS purposes. Customer continues to deal with registrar directly.

Anecdotal Evidence

There is little anecdotal evidence available on actual experiences made with proxy and similar services. One incident that has received some attention is the  re-code.com case. The domain name had been registered using Domains By Proxy; pseudonymity of the registrant was lifted upon receipt of a cease and desist letter from Wal-Mart. Discussion in Wendy Seltzer's web log; discussion on nettime-l; response from Domains by Proxy.

Anonymity Terms: Domains By Proxy.

Since the terms under which Domains By Proxy lifts anonymity appear to have been a model for other players in the industry, we reproduce them here for reference purposes:

a.  You understand and agree that DBP has the absolute right and power, in its sole discretion and without any liability to You whatsoever, to either:  (i) close Your account (which means You then become the Registrant of the domain name registration); (ii) reveal Your name and personal information that You provided to DBP when required by law, in the good faith belief that such action is necessary in order to conform to the edicts of the law, or to comply with a legal process served upon DBP; (iii) resolve any and all third party claims, whether threatened or made, arising out of Your use of a domain name registered by DBP on Your behalf; or (iv) take any other action DBP deems necessary:

·        In the event you breach any provision of this Agreement or the DBP Anti-Spam Policy;

·        To protect the integrity and stability of the applicable domain name Registry;

·        To comply with any applicable laws, government rules or requirements, subpoenas,  court orders or requests of law enforcement;

·        To comply with ICANN’s Dispute Resolution Policy;

·        To avoid any financial loss or legal liability (civil or criminal) on the part of DBP, its parent companies, subsidiaries, affiliates, shareholders, agents, officers, directors and employees;

·        If the domain name DBP registers on Your behalf violates or infringes a third party's trademark, trade name or other legal rights;

·        If it comes to DBP’s attention that You are using DBP’s services for purposes of engaging in, participating in, sponsoring or hiding Your involvement in, illegal or morally objectionable activities, including but not limited to, activities which are designed, intended to or otherwise:  (i) appeal purely to the prurient interests of third parties; (ii) defame, embarrass, harm, abuse, threaten, or harass third parties; (iii) violate state or federal laws of the United States and/or foreign territories; (iv) involve hate crimes, terrorism and child pornography; (v) are tortious, vulgar, obscene, invasive of a third party’s privacy, racially, ethnically, or otherwise objectionable; (vi) impersonate the identity of a third party; (vii) harm minors in any way; or (viii) relate to or transmit viruses, Trojan Horses, access codes, backdoors, worms, timebombs or any other code, routine, mechanism, device or item that corrupts, damages, impairs, interferes with, intercepts or misappropriates any software, hardware, firmware, network, system, data or personally identifiable information.