Supplemental Discussion Paper:
This paper is a supplement to the "Discussion Paper: Redemption Grace Periods for Deleted Names", which was originally posted on the ICANN website on 14 February 2002. The lively community discussion in response to that paper has been gratifying, but has also revealed a few areas in which additional information and clarification about the proposal would be helpful. This paper provides that information and clarification.
The proposed Redemption Grace Period would not replace the existing sequence by which domain-name registrations are deleted in the registry, but would instead erect a "safety net" to catch names after registrars and the registry operators follow their usual procedures leading to deletion of names. A summary of the existing deletion procedures may be helpful to set the context for the Redemption Grace Period's operation.
Under current specifications, registry operators (except for .name) will "auto-renew" all domain registrations at the time of their expiration. Registrars are immediately charged the registry fee for a one-year renewal of the registration. Registrars are then given forty-five days to attempt to secure a renewal payment from the current registrant. If the current registrant does not pay a renewal fee, the registrar explicitly deletes the registration. (See Subsection 3.7.5 of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement.) If the registrar deletes the registration within forty-five days after the auto-renewal, the registry operator credits the auto-renewal fee back to the registrar.
The current provisions relating to the handling of expired registrations do not require that registrars give a uniform notice or grace period to registrants. Registrars' "grace period" practices vary some delete names within days, while some registrars wait weeks or even months to delete expired domain registrations. Also, registrars vary as to the number and type of renewal notices they send. Some registrars simply send e-mails to the administrative and/or billing contacts for an expiring registration. Some registrars send renewal notices to the listed registrant by postal mail. Other registrars supplement these notices with a registrar-implemented holding period, during which the domain registration is deactivated (removed from the zone file) as an added method of trying to get the registrant's attention to the need to renew the name.
Whether the registrar implements its own holding period or not, under current procedures domain names deleted within the forty-five day "auto-renew grace period" become available for re-registration immediately upon deletion by the sponsoring registrar. Domain names deleted outside the auto-renew (or any other applicable) grace period are currently subject to a five-day "delete pending period," during which the registration can be recovered by the deleting registrar by means of a special request to the registry operator. Essentially the new Redemption Grace Period would extend this delete pending period to thirty days (up from five), and apply it to all deletions whether inside or outside of any applicable "grace period."
The new Redemption Grace Period would essentially be invisible to registrars, and would not force any changes to their current deletion practices. The basic changes required to implement the new "safety net" would be instituted at the registry level, and would only come into play after a registrar had issued a "delete" command to the registry.
As noted in the original discussion paper, experience has demonstrated that some deletions by registrars are occurring contrary to registrant desires due to mistake, inadvertence, or fraud. The "safety net" proposed would ensure that when this happens there is time to reverse the situation before the registrant loses the name permanently when it is re-registered by another party.
One of the questions left open in the initial Redemption Grace Period Discussion Paper was the question of whether the registrant suffering an undesired name deletion should be forced to renew its registration only through the original registrar. Although requiring that the original registrar be used would simplify procedures, on balance we believe that a registrant should be given freedom to select a different registrar to perform the redemption, rather than being forced to continue doing business with the registrar that deleted the name contrary to the registrant's desires.
Some cases of domain non-renewal are caused by disputes or registrant dissatisfaction with the original registrar. Significantly, the redemption period will be used in cases where the registrar explicitly deleted a registration contrary to the registrant's wishes. Based on these circumstances, it would be highly undesirable to restrict registrants to being able to redeem only through the original registrar.
Also, placing the registrar that deleted the name in the position of being the sole source for the redemption of the domain registration could lead to registrars imposing unfair terms or prices on registrants (in the absence of competition for their business). Enabling registrants to choose which registrar redeems would help ensure that registrants are able to secure good service at fair prices.
Allowing registrants that suffer undesired deletions to choose the redeeming registrar does present additional challenges in verifiying that the redemption is actually being sought by the former registrant. Clearly, some technical arrangements will need to be developed, but it seems likely that appropriate procedures can be developed.
Another aspect of the proposed Redemption Grace Period that was not discussed in detail in the original discussion paper was the question of a registry service charge. It would appear to be appropriate to allow registry operators, which will be required to provide special handling for domains renewed during the Redemption Grace Period, to make a cost-based charge for their efforts associated with the service. Registries would presumably play at least a coordinating role in verifying the identity of the original registrant that is seeking to redeem particularly in cases where the registrant elects to renew with a different registrar.
In addition to the direct costs to registry operators associated with the handling of Redemption Grace Period renewals, registry operators might also reasonably expect to be compensated at least in part for the potential lost revenue associated with keeping a large number of domain names "on hold" and ineligible for registration during the grace period. A majority of the names that would be subject to the Redemption Grace Period would not in fact be redeemed. While the names are on hold, the registry operator would be unable to return those names to the pool of names available for registration.
While some have already argued that registry operators should provide this service for free or for a minimal charge, experience has demonstrated that the demand for any "free" service will be unrestrained. A cost-based service charge would be appropriate to offset the special handling required for names renewed after deletion. Also, it is clear that the option to pay any such fee would be attractive to people who otherwise would have faced losing their digital identities.
ICANN encourages further discussion of the questions and issues raised above. Recommendations for how to achieve the desired ability to permit registrants to choose their redeeming registrar would be especially appreciated.
"Domain-Name Deletion Procedures" have been added to the agenda for the Public Forum at ICANN's meetings in Accra, Ghana, 10-14 March 2002. Also, questions and comments can be e-mailed to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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