Friday January 6 2006

Nominet wins data mining case (Chesley Rafferty + Bradley Norrish)

Filed under: Bradley Norrish, Chesley Rafferty, UK Internet Registry — Josh @ 7:18 am


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Nominet wins data mining case
Fraudsters ’scraped’ WHOIS database to send misleading domain name notices

Ken Young, 05 Jan 2006

Nominet UK, the national registry for all .uk domain names, has been awarded more than AUS$1.3m in damages following a data mining scam that led to thousands of Nominet registrants receiving misleading domain name notices.

Legal firm Pinsent Masons said that the case goes back to January 2003 when Nominet discovered that its WHOIS database, which lists domain names and their owners, had been illegally mined.

Details of registrants were “scraped” from the database and 50,000 registrants received misleading notices from an unknown “UK internet registry”.

The unsolicited notices resembled invoices and tried to sell .com names to the holders of .uk names.

Nominet warned its registrants to disregard the notices, and began an investigation which led to Chesley Rafferty and Bradley Norrish and three of their companies (Diverse Internet Pty Ltd, Internet Payments Pty Ltd and Seychelles-based UK Internet Registry Ltd).

In September 2004 Rafferty and Norrish, together with their three companies, were found liable for copyright infringement and breaches of Australian fair trade laws by copying data from Nominet’s WHOIS service, and issuing misleading domain name registration notices.

Nominet has been awarded damages for copyright infringement of AUS$810,953, with additional damages of AUS$500,000 to reflect the “flagrancy” of the breaches.

The latter award is one of the highest additional damages awards ever made by the Australian courts, according to Nominet. The defendants are also liable for the costs of the proceedings.

“We take the protection of our intellectual property and copyright ownership very seriously, both as the core of our business and in protecting our .uk registrants from domain name scams,” said Nominet chief executive Lesley Cowley.

“This judgment not only recognises the value of Nominet’s domain name register, but underlines the responsibility of legal systems worldwide in tackling internet scams.

“By fighting, and winning, this case we are very clearly showing that scamming is a serious industry issue which will not be tolerated.”

Struan Robertson, editor of Pinsent Masons’ Out-law website, explained that the case was a civil action rather than a criminal proceeding.

“The WHOIS database is in the public domain, but you are not entitled to scrape it and use it in this way. They may also have been ‘passing off’ by pretending to be a Nominet representative,” he said.

“It was copyright infringement on a large scale but, because it is a civil action, there is no threat of a custodial sentence in such a case.”

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