Tuesday, January 9, 2001
Web site host Verio Inc. began a legal counteroffensive last week in its battle for access to the customer database of Web address registrar Register.com, which is suing to prevent Verio from sending unsolicited marketing material to its clients.
Verio, Englewood, CO, announced it had appealed a federal judge's preliminary injunction in December that ordered the company to cease accessing the "whois" database of Register.com, New York.
The Web site host also has filed a petition with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the authority responsible for assigning domain names and IP addresses, to terminate Register.com's accreditation as a Web address registrar.
The legal maneuvers were the latest actions in a fight that began last year when Verio sent e-mails and direct mail and made telemarketing calls to Register.com customers listed in the company's "whois" customer file, which by agreement with ICANN is available to the public on the Web.
Register.com said it tried negotiating with Verio to stop unsolicited marketing to its customers but filed a lawsuit in August when talks broke down. In December, a judge in U.S. District Court in New York ordered Verio to cease accessing Register.com's "whois" database, although Verio had said earlier that it would stop using the database while it awaited the court's final decision.
With its appeal, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Verio is seeking to strike down that judge's order. Verio officials stated that the temporary injunction threatens public access to all "whois" databases.
The petition to ICANN asks that Register.com no longer be allowed to act as a Web site registrar. In the petition, Verio argued that Register.com broke ICANN rules by denying access to its "whois" database, which ICANN makes publicly available to facilitate third-party marketing.
But Shonna Keogan, spokeswoman for Register.com, said the real issue is not restrictions on access to the company's "whois" database but rather Verio's misuse of the customer information. The database puts its customers in a vulnerable position, and abuse of the database hurts Register.com's business, she said.
"What they're doing now is basically a litigation tactic to try to get leverage," Keogan said. "But we think the allegations are groundless."
ICANN has issued an advisory stating that it has requested a response from Register.com. The registrar plans to issue a response within the next two weeks, Keogan said.
During court proceedings in Register.com's lawsuit, ICANN filed a "friend of the court" brief stating that while Register.com's restrictions on access to its "whois" file exceed ICANN limitations, the process Verio used to gather information from the database was contrary to ICANN policy.