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Attempted Class Action Lawsuit Against Network Solutions

By aidoneus in MLP
Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 06:53:15 PM EST
Tags: News (all tags)
News

Don McKenna and Scott Powell, lawyers with Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton have begun filing a class action lawsuit against Network Solutions, Inc for alleged domain name hoarding. They are currently seeking to find members of the class, specifically those who have attempted to register expired domains but were unable to do so since NSI refused to release them. More information, including how to join the suit may be found at Eyeondomains.com.


There are quite a few members of the Kuro5hin community that have aired their complaints in this forum about wretched experiences with NSI, but is a class action lawsuit the way to go? While lawsuits do tend to bring about results, class action lawsuits are also notorious for making lawyers rich which the plaintiffs end up with little reward for their effort. Anyone willing to join in, and what do you think the chances are for success?

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Poll
If NSI loses, what should the penalty be?
o Free domains for everyone! 12%
o Money to lawyers, NSI does little, and the little guy still suffers. 18%
o NSI loses its power yet again. 22%
o Nominal payments to current NSI domain holders. 0%
o Cheez whiz. Lots of it. 45%

Votes: 70
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Kuro5hin
o Eyeondomains.com
o Also by aidoneus


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Attempted Class Action Lawsuit Against Network Solutions | 10 comments (9 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
Uh... (3.14 / 14) (#1)
by trhurler on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 05:09:52 PM EST

are they aware that there is no law against domain name hoarding? This sounds like a Really Stupid Lawsuit[tm] unless you're grossly misstating what they're up to. After reading their webpage, it doesn't appear so; in fact, it appears that the company running the site is doing this to try to protect a flawed business model. I sincerely hope they get their asses handed to them for being such asinine fucks as to try to use the courts to make their business a success.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

ObIANAL (4.00 / 4) (#3)
by B'Trey on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 05:46:27 PM EST

but it doesn't seem to me that there needs to be a law against domain hoarding. In fact, there shouldn't be a law against hoarding by individuals. However, NSI is essentially a public trust. They don't own the internet, nor do they own particular domain names. They're an organization that's been entrusted to handle something that really belongs to all of us. If they're not doing that responsibly, they deserve to lose in court.

[ Parent ]
When did... (4.00 / 2) (#4)
by trhurler on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 06:10:35 PM EST

namespace on a privately run network service become "something that really belongs to all of us?" I realize this is a common myth among people who think the Internet is not a large collection of private networks, but it is, and DNS is a privately run service on that privately owned network.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Synergy.... (4.33 / 3) (#5)
by B'Trey on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 06:39:47 PM EST

or "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." Certainly, the individual components are privately owned. The internet itself, however, isn't privately owned. When I purchase a domain name, I'm not purchasing name space on a privately owned network. I'm purchasing the right to use that name on all the networks that are linked together.

[ Parent ]
Sum of parts (4.75 / 4) (#6)
by trhurler on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 07:05:27 PM EST

This is a poorly understood fact, but you are not purchasing the "right to use that name on the Internet." You are purchasing the right to have that name associated with your IP address in a privately owned database which happens to be consulted by most people. Those people, each and every one, have the option to consult a different database, or to use none at all, or to use an entirely different, non-DNS based naming scheme.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Popularity shouldn't force cooperation (4.50 / 2) (#7)
by jesterzog on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 07:23:34 PM EST

I disagree with you because the domain name system essentially is a privately run system that's simply become popular. There's not much to stop someone from starting a competing DNS and if they offer what people want, it'll get used.

I'm tempted to agree with you because the way things work at the moment it's getting unfair, since they essentially have a monopoly. The problem is that if and when NSI suddenly gets legislation slapped on it as a result of being popular, it sets a bad precedent.

By the same precedent, spam companies can successfully sue the RBL for publishing its opinion about "who's a spammer" on the grounds that lots and lots of ISP's respect it's opinion. It's built up a reputation for being good, and suddenly it's not allowed to be good because some moron doesn't like it's opinion.

Again by the same precedent, rusty could potentially be ordered not to edit content of kuro5hin on the grounds that lots of people use the site and don't want their comments being edited.

So to sum up, slapping rules on entities that have a good idea after everyone has begun to rely on them sets a bad precedent. Perhaps we need some other sort of solution, but changing the rules afterwards isn't the best way, IMHO.


jesterzog Fight the light


[ Parent ]
Count 1, and some attempts at history (4.50 / 2) (#8)
by interiot on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 07:41:44 PM EST

A particular action doesn't have to be specifically mentioned in a law to be outlawed (by a law that covers more general concepts).

The complaint is linked on that page in a scanned-PDF. Basically, it alleges that NSI violated sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act (15 U.S.C. 1 and 2).

Section 1 and 2 basically say that say that if an organization attempts to monopolize and possibly restrict any part of interstate commerce, than that's illegal.

NSI had a government-sponsored monopoly, and it now has a near-monopoly. So if the Judge decides that restriction of domain names would fall under the claim of restricting interstate commerce, as the legislators intended that phrase, and that NSI was intending to do that, then I guess they'd be subject to the consequences of the Sherman Antitrust act.

I believe an example from the Standard Oil suit would be when the Standard Oil company conspired with the railroad companies to raise the cost of shipping for all the other oil companies. Though the law says it's still illegal even if only one party is conspiring to limit interstate trade (though it's not a trust then?).

Does anyone know antitrust law well enough to explain this better (IANAL) and perhaps predict how good their chances are?

[ Parent ]

Figures (3.50 / 4) (#9)
by trhurler on Tue Dec 12, 2000 at 08:14:29 PM EST

It figures that they'd use the "rubber law" to do this. Sherman is a catchall for use by economic losers with political connections against their betters. Notice the feeding frenzy every time an antitrust suit crops up; every company that could conceivably benefit immediately spends tons of money lobbying, filing "friend of the court" briefs(yeah, that's a friend alright...) and so on. The most disgusting spectacle of the modern political era - worse even than PACs and so on.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Frenzy (none / 0) (#10)
by interiot on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 12:22:05 PM EST

Yes, antitrust suits tend to attract all the competitors. This is perhaps okay for two reasons. First, the competitors are the ones most hurt by the monopolist, if they are indeed that, and they're in a good position to find solid evidence to support the case. Second, there are several situations in court cases where the plantiffs are not as objective as they could be. One instance is murder cases, where a family is possibly more interested in seeing a person sentanced than in finding the real killer. While this isn't necessarily optimal, the court's role is to be an objective third party, not succeptible to lobbying, and to critically assess the facts. So theoretically, the motivations of the plantiffs shouldn't matter.

I get the sense that your gut feeling tells you that NSI's actions shouldn't be classified as antitrust violations. Perhaps an example would help articulate the other side's position? One extreme example of something that would be illegal under Section 2 would be... if there was one phone company that controlled all telephone lines, and they disconnected major companys' phone lines for unjust/random reasons, unecessarily causing many days of downtime and billions of dollars lost. To me, this would clearly be an abuse of monopoly power in a way that hurts society in general. It could be argued that NSI's actions are/were similar to this, and that it makes sense for laws to exist that encourages such companies to operate in as fair of a way as possible.

[ Parent ]

Attempted Class Action Lawsuit Against Network Solutions | 10 comments (9 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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