Domain name registrars under scrutiny by USTR

Online pharmacyThe annual US Trade Representative (USTR) Notorious Markets report has for the first time highlighted the role of Internet domain name registrars in piracy and trademark counterfeiting.

The report is drawn every year from comments submitted by US businesses and tries to identify areas where there is substantial intellectual property (IP) rights infringement.

While it has limited legal value, the document is designed to "increase public awareness and guide related trade and other enforcement actions," according to the office of USTR Michael Froman.

The inclusion of registrars in this year's report comes after "several respondents to the 2014 Federal Register Request identified registrars that purportedly facilitate the distribution of unauthorized copyright-protected content," says the USTR.

One of the primary motives behind the inclusion of registrars seems to be an increasing awareness of the role they play in facilitating the activities of illicit online pharmacies.

"One respondent identified several registrars that have apparently refused requests to lock or suspend domain names used to sell suspected counterfeit pharmaceuticals to consumers worldwide," it continues.

The report cites a 2010 National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) that said an estimated 96 per cent of online pharmacies targeting US consumers were operating in violation of applicable US law and standards.

"Registrars can play a critical public safety role in the Internet ecosystem," says the USTR, which includes Canadian registrar as an example of an organisation that fails to take action when notified of its clients' infringing activity.

"Ignoring that role, or acting affirmatively to facilitate public harm, is of great concern."

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