BOYCOTTING BOYCOTT HOLLYWOOD

Boycott Hollywood is being shut down by its ISP under pressure from the William Morris Agency. I can understand an ISP wanting to avoid potential lawsuits, but the issues addressed in the WMA letter are trivial and would seem to lack any merit whatsoever. Granted, that doesn’t stop legal fees from mounting. But very bizarre all around.

Update: Joy points out, correctly, in the Comments that I didn’t read this correctly: It is the domain name registrar, not the ISP, that is shutting them down. The reason given, falsified contact info, strikes me as dubious, however since 1) they were obviously able to contact the site owner to inform them of the cancelation and 2) it came pursuant to the WMA letter.

(Hat tip: PoliBlogger)

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Jay Solo says:

    This is so wrong! It’s in exactly the spirit some of the celebs accuse the administration of representing.

  2. Jay Solo says:

    Heh. I just double-checked Instapundit before e-mailing that he ought to post about this, and I see he beat me to it.

  3. joy says:

    James, you are incorrect about why the site is being shut down. Dotster, the domain name registrar for the site, is taking down the name because the Boycott Hollywood people registered their site with falsified contact information. Granted, this is a technicality, but it was brought to the attention of the registrar and they can’t legally ignore it.

  4. tom says:

    Free speech for me, but not for thee. It’s all to apparent in Follywood.

  5. Jay Solo says:

    I would use false info if I were getting death threats too! Or go with a registrar that provides an anonymizing Who-Is service. (I believe Go Daddy does that if you want it.)

  6. joy says:

    Sorry, guys, it just doesn’t work that way. While I can’t find specific US legislation (that has passed) with penalties for falsifying domain name registration info, I do know that ICANN, the organization that oversees the domain name registars frowns on the practice.

    In fact, I seem to recall that ICANN has threatened to withdraw domain name registration rights to registrars who don’t fix their records. Now of course, some registrars will only fix their records only if a problem has been pointed out to them. The problem for Dotster (the parent of the original registrar) is that they were told about this by the law firm, so they can’t claim ignorance.

    In other words, if you want to remain anonymous online the best bet you have is to see if your domain name registrar would allow you to use your name (or a variant of) and perhaps their mailing address/contact info. But besides that, there really isn’t much you can do.

  7. James Joyner says:

    Joy,

    Interesting and, you are correct that the letter from WMA pointed this out (albeit very indirectly–I read the “shroud of anonymity” business as just the fact that they weren’t using their names on the site itself). But the substance of the letter was about libel claims rather than the false registration.

  8. Ian S. says:

    Joy: While ICANN may frown upon it, wrong/misleading registration info is pretty widespread and has been in use roughly forever. As far as the reasoning on your blog for it, as long as postmaster@domain works (it generally does) there’s not really an issue with reporting spam and abuse.

  9. Chris Short says:

    James,

    The problem is that providing false information is a breach of their Registrar agreement. It may be that they started investigating the domain based on an outside complaint. And unless told that it was done otherwise, it would have been easy to contact the site owners through the email address that they provided on the site.

    The substance of the letter is immaterial as to whether or not Dotster/Namesdirect shut down the domain. They had every right to do so without the letter having ever been brought to their attention.

  10. James Joyner says:

    Chris,

    True. I doubt they would have, though. My guess–I have no evidence, just a guess–is they normally 1) don’t investigate these things very carefully and 2) would usually be dissuaded from shutting a site down given the explanation of death threats. Why turn away money?

  11. joy says:

    Ian, there is a long history as to how/why WHOIS information should be verified. Right now, ICANN is the organization which is in charge of the Domain Name Registry system, and what they say goes. There is no higher power.

    I understand that false information has been used for a very long time. The problem for ICANN is if they don’t police the situation, they fear Congress trying to control the system instead, (which I agree with them) would be worse.

  12. Chris Short says:

    James,

    I’m sure they don’t investigate these things normally. But there are ways to maintain some anonymnity w/o using false information. I do think that Dotster/Namesdirect did show their true colors in how they handled this and I think they were afraid that they could be drawn into the action somehow. How they could be is beyond me, but it’s amazing how quick people will do stupid things when they have the word lawsuit whispered to them.

    As for them turning away money, I hope that this spreads far enough that at least no blogger uses their services ever again. And those out there that use their services should transfer and then notify them after the fact as to why they’re losing business. Might change their actions in the future, but probably not.

  13. ElCapitanAmerica says:

    Hum, I have a site with namesdirect.com, how are they related to dotster?

    I also have a contract with them until 2005, is there a way to “transfer” this?

    I’m concerned about this issue, but also about protecting my information from being easily accessed. Why can’t your addresss be private between the company providing the domain registration and the customer?