.nz Domain Name Disputes

A domain Disputes Resolution System (DRS) was introduced by the Domain Name Commission in 2006 to assist with domain name disputes in .nz. The DRS does not consider Māori knowledge and Traditional Knowledge disputes.

The DRS is an independent, online service that provides a convenient and affordable alternative to the court system.
Complainants are required to show that ‘on the balance of probabilities’ they:

(a) have rights to a name which is identical or similar to the domain name in dispute; and
(b) that the current registration is unfair.

Unfortunately Traditional Knowledge is not taken into account with the disputes process and nor is traditional Māori ownership of tribal names. The DRS works on legal rights to domain names. This means that anything Māori related or tribal related can be used by anyone unless like the Māori Television Services that have legal protection of their names which also includes domain names (see below).

This has lead to widespread registrations of tribal names and other significant Māori names in the .nz space by individuals and companies over many years. The only benefit to this it that it has given the .iwi.nz more integrity for Iwi who do not have a web presence for anything other than their tribal web site.

Often these hijacked names were forwarded to inappropriate content on web sites, or offered for an inflated sale price back to the tribe: a common practice that was first documented by Ross Himona in 1997 with .nz domain names containing the word “Maori”.

On the day of that .maori.nz was made public, Māori saw wide spread domain name hijacking. The most prominent was when a businessman within minutes thanks to an automated system bulk registered a number of tribal names then offered them for sale at highly inflated prices. I scanned the registration details and went to the media for assistance. Due to this action, the businessman gifted all of the domain names back to local tribes, many of whom didn’t keep the domain names.

In 2012 a domain name seller (Crazy Domains) offered domains for sale at $1 per anum. The company web site discussion board was full of racist ideas to use maori.nz and proof that tens of tens of .maori.nz domain names were being registered and redirected to other sites. Included were winz.maori.nz that was directed to kfc.co.nz, fat.maori.nz which was directed to a former and now deceased Māori politician who had weight issues and even google.maori.nz was offered for sale.

The DRS couldn’t deal with any of the racist and clearly mocking of Māori culture domain names as while they were immoral, they were legal. The procedure was and still is to complain to the registrant, then to the registrar. Nether are likely to reply.

The Domain Name Commission states that to cancel any domain names, the Domain Name Commission would require a court order as the mandate of the Domain Name Commission is not to investigate content. That if people are offended, they have alternative routes with lawyers, the Commerce Commission, or the Human Rights Commission.

As a result of the offensive domain names above, Karaitiana Taiuru:

(a) made a complaint to the Human Rights commission who eventually met with the Domain Name Commissioner (details of the meeting are not known)
(b) wrote a letter of complaint to the domain name re seller (registrar). No response was given.
(c) looked at the whois data of every inappropriate domain name registration looking for breaches of the whois policy and complained about each breach individually. This  resulted in a number of domain names being removed from the zone. The most common breaches were false names and addresses. Less common were false phone numbers.
(d) contacted a number of the registrants and complained directly. This resulted in a number of offensive domains being transferred to the Māori Internet Society.

An academic Steve Elers with the best of intentions was also equally disturbed but had no knowledge of the .nz policies, approached the media to express his concerns. The media attention did expose the flawed procedures and based on comments in the discussion boards at the time made some of the registrants think twice about renewing what they perceived as a harmless joke that was not advertised. Another popular blogger wrote about the events stating that it was a private harmless joke that the public would not have known about or cared about if there was no investigation from people such as myself as Steve.

Ten years on, the Domain Name Resolution services is being celebrated and still nothing has been considered for traditional Māori ownership or Indigenous Traditional Knowledge.

In 2017 there is still no protection for Traditional Knowledge and names with domain names. The Intellectual Property Office and other New Zealand government agencies have Māori advisory groups, the Domain Name Commissioner is not a government agency and does not have a Māori advisory group.

The World Intellectual Property Organisation WIPO has identified international Indigenous Domain Names as a having significant issues with being squatted and hijacked in their report.

Protection by New Zealand legislation

Section 11 of the Maori Television Service Act 2003 “Protection of names” states “No person may be incorporated or registered under any other enactment or in any other manner using the following names” and includes “Maori Television Service”, “Te Aratuku Whakaata Irirangi Maori” and “any other name that so resembles the names … as to be likely to mislead a person”.

Māori Television believe this is extended to domain names and anyone trading under a potentially misleading name or trying to sell the domain name to Maori TV would find themselves running afoul of the law.


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