How a Simple UDRP Rule Change Could Help Reduce Cyberflight

By Doug Isenberg As I've written before, "locking" a domain name during a UDRP proceeding is an important concept, and now a report from ICANN staff seems to agree -- and, fortunately, is even recommending that the UDRP rules be modified to help avoid cyberflight.

As the "Draft Initial Report on the Locking of a Domain Name Subject to UDRP Proceedings Policy Development Process" (46-page PDF) notes, "The 'locking' associated with UDRP proceedings is not something that is literally required by the UDRP as written, but is a practice that has developed around it, but as a result, there is no uniform approach, which has resulted in confusion and misunderstandings."

In addition to its recommendations that locking be defined and adopted, the report includes this important suggestion:

Modify the provision from the UDRP rules that specifies that upon submission of the complaint to the UDRP provider the complainant should also ‘state that a copy of the complaint […] has been sent or transmitted to the respondent’ (section 3, b – xii) and recommend that, as a best practice, complainants need not inform respondents that a complaint has been filed to avoid cyberflight. The UDRP Provider will be responsible for informing the respondent once the proceedings have officially commenced.

Because cyberflight -- that is, a cybersquatter's intentional transfer of a domain name to evade legal pursuit -- often occurs after a UDRP complaint has been filed but before the dispute resolution service provider has officially commenced the proceeding, this change certainly would be helpful in avoiding some shenanigans. Law-abiding domain name registrants would not be penalized, as they would still have the benefit of the full 20 days allowed for a response under the existing rules, which does not begin until "the date of commencement of the administrative proceeding."

ICANN is accepting comments on this important UDRP rule change until April 26, 2013.