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This is a revised and extended version of my earlier post in this subject. I now have a better (call it an “educated layman’s”) understanding of the required procedures to resolve such disputes and have incorporate these into this post.

I don’t believe this subject needs introduction, however this is posted at the site in question, ronpaul.com:

Earlier today, Ron Paul filed an international UDRP complaint against RonPaul.com and RonPaul.org with WIPO, a global governing body that is an agency of the United Nations. The complaint calls on the agency to expropriate the two domain names from his supporters without compensation and hand them over to Ron Paul.

My immediate reaction to this was…unsettled: United Nations, expropriate the property of the current owners, without compensation….

Ron Paul has earned enough goodwill with me to last nine lifetimes – unless he joins the Fed Board of Governors or the Board of Directors of one of the merchants of death, I am not sure he can spend even a few drops of the goodwill I have toward him. I do not worship him as perfect; I just respect the significance of what he has accomplished over his lifetime.

But even with this, the action by Dr. Paul initially didn’t sit well.

I do not have specialized knowledge about the procedures and processes involved in this process. So it would seem helpful to first understand a few basics:

What us a UDRP Complaint?

The UDRP (Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy) is the original domain name dispute policy. It was adopted by ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) on August 26, 1999. The UDRP applies to domain names ending in the following extensions: .biz, .cat, .cc, .com, .info, .mobi, .net, .org, .ro, .tel, .travel, .tv, .web, .ws

What is the purpose of the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy?

This Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the “Policy”) has been adopted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (“ICANN”), is incorporated by reference into your Registration Agreement, and sets forth the terms and conditions in connection with a dispute between you and any party other than us (the registrar) over the registration and use of an Internet domain name registered by you.

It is the registrant (current registrant of ronpaul.com) that has agreed to this process. The claimant (Ron Paul) is following the process that the registrant accepted at the time of registration.

What representations are made by the registration applicant?

By applying to register a domain name, or by asking us to maintain or renew a domain name registration, you hereby represent and warrant to us that (a) the statements that you made in your Registration Agreement are complete and accurate; (b) to your knowledge, the registration of the domain name will not infringe upon or otherwise violate the rights of any third party; (c) you are not registering the domain name for an unlawful purpose; and (d) you will not knowingly use the domain name in violation of any applicable laws or regulations. It is your responsibility to determine whether your domain name registration infringes or violates someone else’s rights.

The Policy goes on to outline the circumstances under which a change or transfer to a domain name will be effected and the requirement of submission to a Mandatory Administrative Proceeding. Even though submitting to an administrative proceeding is mandatory, this does not preclude the possibility of additionally submitting to court proceedings.

The mandatory administrative proceeding requirements set forth in Paragraph 4 shall not prevent either you or the complainant from submitting the dispute to a court of competent jurisdiction for independent resolution before such mandatory administrative proceeding is commenced or after such proceeding is concluded.

From Wikipedia:

One of ICANN’s first steps was to commission the United Nations World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to produce a report on the conflict between trademarks and domain names. Published on 30 April 1999, the WIPO Report[4] recommended the establishment of a “mandatory administrative procedure concerning abusive registrations”, which would allow for a “neutral venue in the context of disputes that are often international in nature.” The procedure was not intended to deal with cases with competing rights, nor would it exclude the jurisdiction of the courts. It would, however, be mandatory in the sense that “each domain name application would, in the domain name agreement, be required to submit to the procedure if a claim was initiated against it by a third party[5]

Following adoption by ICANN, the UDRP was launched on 1 December 1999, and the first case determined under it by WIPO was World Wrestling Federation Entertainment, Inc v. Michael Bosman, involving the domain name worldwrestlingfederation.com[6]

It was ICANN that introduced the UN into the process, or more accurately an arbitration service (WIPO) housed within the UN.

So, what is ICANN?

ICANN: Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers

To reach another person on the Internet you have to type an address into your computer — a name or a number. That address must be unique so computers know where to find each other. ICANN coordinates these unique identifiers across the world.

From Wikipedia:

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN, /ˈaɪkæn/ EYE-kan) is a nonprofit private organization headquartered in Los Angeles, California, United States, that was created on September 18, 1998, and incorporated on September 30, 1998[1] to oversee a number of Internet-related tasks previously performed directly on behalf of the U.S. government by other organizations, notably the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which ICANN now operates.

Before the establishment of ICANN, the Government of the United States controlled the domain name system of the Internet.

ICANN is a private organization.

And what of WIPO, the UN agency introduced by ICANN?

Our mission is to promote innovation and creativity for the economic, social and cultural development of all countries, through a balanced and effective international intellectual property system.

Specifically regarding domain name disputes:

Domain Name Dispute Resolution: This area is dedicated to the services established by the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center for the resolution of domain name disputes.

From the above, I conclude the following:

  1. ICANN is a private, non-profit corporation, established for the purpose (among others) of assigning domain names.
  2. ICANN adopted The UDRP (Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy), a policy designed to adjudicate domain name disputes. All registration agreements incorporate this policy by reference, and all registrants agree to this policy.
  3. ICANN has chosen WIPO as the entity to arbitrate and mediate such disputes.
  4. WIPO is a UN agency.
  5. In addition to (but not in place of) the mandatory administrative proceeding, court proceedings are possible.

So now, back to Ron Paul.

I read the complaint. It reads just like a typical legal complaint.

This Complaint is hereby submitted for decision in accordance with the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the Policy), approved by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on October 24, 1999, the Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the Rules), approved by ICANN on October 30, 2009, and the WIPO Supplemental Rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (the Supplemental Rules).

This really got me to thinking….

If I felt wronged in some manner, I would first attempt to work out a resolution with the other party. As long as this was proceeding in a timely manner, with the other party negotiating in good faith, I would continue in this course. Ultimately, if I felt appropriate resolution through this approach was not likely, I would pursue recourse in the appropriate venue. This might be arbitration, or it might be a court – oftentimes contractual and licensing agreements stipulate the avenue of dispute resolution procedure.

What is the dispute here? In a gross oversimplification, Ron Paul claims his name and that the current registrant is not meeting the terms of the registration agreement. This claim therefore extends to specific domain names that incorporate his name. I do not intend to get into the particulars or details of this claim. I don’t know enough either about the facts or the law to do this in any case. This will be decided in the manner that was agreed to at the time the domain name was registered by people competent to decide such matters.

In the case of domain name disputes, the procedures for resolution are spelled out in detail – procedures to which the registrant must agree to at the time of domain name registration. These procedures are developed by a private organization, ICANN; ICANN has chosen WIPO, a UN agency, to arbitrate and mediate such disputes. The requirement to follow these procedures for dispute resolution is mandatory once one chooses to register a domain name.

Ron Paul did not choose the UN. The current registrant agreed to these procedures at the time of registration.

But it is coercion! It is force! Certainly a court decision or arbitration requires the losing party to act in a manner not of his choosing – the party on the losing end is required to act in a certain manner. However, such force (in a very loose application of the term) is not in violation of the non-aggression principle – technically, the objective of the adjudication is to correct a previous violation. In other words, force is applied in defense – a perfectly legitimate application of force. It is the result of a decision by a competent adjudicator.

Even the most libertarian of societies must develop some form of dispute resolution. That in today’s world the procedures of dispute resolution often involve government or government-sanctioned entities is irrelevant – non-violent dispute resolution is a legitimate function in any society. If government entities (or the UN) are the only (or the prescribed) avenues through which one can gain relief in a dispute, it is appropriate that these avenues are utilized.

In this type of situation, there isn’t even a government entity involved; only an entity housed within the UN, brought in at the request of a private organization to adjudicate the dispute. That WIPO is housed within the UN is secondary to its legitimate purpose of dispute resolution.

None of this precludes an advocate of the NAP from utilizing the process, an inherently legitimate function of non-violent dispute resolution, made no less legitimate by its tangential UN connection.

I now return to the description of this action, from the subject site (ronpaul.com):

Earlier today, Ron Paul filed an international UDRP complaint against RonPaul.com and RonPaul.org with WIPO, a global governing body that is an agency of the United Nations. The complaint calls on the agency to expropriate the two domain names from his supporters without compensation and hand them over to Ron Paul.

There is a self-serving intent behind the language of this opening paragraph: international, a global governing body, agency of the United Nations, expropriate, without compensation, hand them over. Taken in a vacuum and independently, there is a varying level of truth to each of these terms.

It is, however, language meant to incite a negative emotional reaction. The reality of this situation is that this is the means, the mandatory means, by which such disputes will be resolved. The registrant knew this process and agreed to this at the time the site names were registered. Emotionally charged words like “United Nations” and “expropriate” are irrelevant in this situation. There is no alternative, and the facts relevant to compliance with the terms in the registration agreement will determine the outcome – this is not expropriation, it is justice.

To offer that Ron Paul is attempting to use the UN to achieve his ends, besides clouding the reality of the situation, is irrelevant. To the extent that 1) he is acting in good faith to attempt to recover something that he believes rightly belongs to him, and 2) that the only available means to achieve this end (after good-faith attempts with the other party have failed) is to use the process as defined in the registration documents, Ron Paul is following the process as agreed to by the registrant.

In this case, ICANN (a private organization) is the entity that both assigns domain names and has developed the procedures for dispute resolution. ICANN has chosen WIPO to adjudicate such disputes. That WIPO happens to be housed within the UN is irrelevant; where else can Ron Paul go? It isn’t by Ron Paul’s doing that the jurisdiction and procedures are established in this manner. In fact, the registrants agreed to these procedures at the time of registration.

So here is where I am at the moment:

  1. It seems clear that Ron Paul believes he is attempting to recover something that rightly belongs to him.
  2. I can only assume that good-faith attempts were made to negotiate and resolve this dispute. I have read some of what has become public on this. It is not enough to determine (nor, in any case, is anyone not directly privy to all of the details of the discussions able to determine) the extent of efforts made to resolve this privately.
  3. In every society – including a libertarian society – there is and would be some means of non-violent dispute resolution. That we currently live in a society where oftentimes a state agency provides this service should not preclude a libertarian from using these means – although the issue of a state agency is not even applicable here.
  4. To resolve this dispute, Ron Paul must follow a specifically outlined set of procedures. These procedures were agreed to by the registrant before the registration of the domain name could be complete.
  5. Have I mentioned it enough? The registrant agreed to these procedures in case of domain name dispute.

Being libertarian or a proponent of the non-aggression principle does not mean that two such parties will never have disputes. Disputes will occur. The possibility of resolution of disputes via a third party would certainly exist in a libertarian community. Therefore taking such an action is appropriate for one who feels wronged. This is how I see this issue and Ron Paul’s actions.

More importantly, the registrant of ronpaul.com agreed to these procedures at the time of the registration of the domain name. To complain now that Ron Paul is using these procedures seem disingenuous.

I am certain there are many details of the regulatory procedures that I have not captured for instance, see here). Even with this, I don’t believe these details will lead me to a different conclusion. I am open to further understanding on this issue. However, from what I currently understand and what is currently public, it seems to me that there is nothing inappropriate in Ron Paul’s action.

Reprinted with permission from the Bionic Mosquito.

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