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Nominet Opens Debate on Whether it Should Police the Legality of Websites

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Nominet opens debateNominet, prompted by Police comments, is opening a stakeholder debate on its current lack of power, or responsibility according to the rules established for it, to close down sites that are illegal under English law.

It has announced that it will have a public debate over whether it should be responsible for cutting off access to websites suspected of involvement in criminal activity, in response to the amount of interest which the issue has aroused already.

The Police have had plans to push through changes to Nominet’s constitution to give it powers shut down web domains believed to be used by criminals, since last November.

That was when; the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) produced a plan to give such powers to Nominet, which oversees the .uk domain. This action would plug a problem in the UK when closure of websites clearly in breach of the law has been difficult for the Police to act upon.

The initial reactions of those interested in this area will be compiled by Nominet and distributed to form the basis of a debate which will encompass all the issues raised so far and engage all interested stakeholders in the discussion. Nominet in order to eoncourage this consultative approach to policy development, has published more details of its new possible process framework at www.nominet.org.uk/policy

Nominet is the organisation which is recognised by the UK government as the official administrator and manager of the .uk domain name extension.

It will involve the development of an ‘issue group’ to discuss issues relating to .uk policy, and encourage participation from relevant stakeholders around the UK. Those who want to take part are being asked to put their names forward by 23 February at the latest. Contributors will all submit their names by 2nd March. A decision as to whether this SOCA proposal will be progressed to the constitution of an issue group will be based on the feedback received.

Nominet is a company limited, by guarantee. It acts on a “not for profit” UK basis, it does not have shareholders, instead it has members who act as its guarantors. For it to take this new function on-board would be a big change. However, a number of other national domain registrars do already take action in such cases. It has been the UK view previously that other organisations such as the ISPs should close down sites considered illegal.

There is no question that Nominet has been acting incorrectly. It is running a successful system. Nominet is the Registry for all internet Domain Names ending in .uk and provides a public service for the .uk namespace on behalf of the Internet community.

Some have described the move as putting the organisation under government control. A view is that such a move would damage the organisation, they believe that .uk has grown so strong precisely because it is not controlled by a public body. Nominet is a company limited by guarantee. In essence this means that it does not have shareholders, instead having members who act as its guarantors.

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