The 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA) creates obligations for Registrars to investigate claims of illegal activity using domains registered with them.
This duty is referred to by the UK’s PIPCU when requesting domain suspensions for copyright infringement in particular.
Section 1.13 of the 2013 RAA is in the list of definitions, and states that:
1.13 "Illegal Activity" means conduct involving use of a Registered Name sponsored by Registrar that is prohibited by applicable law and/or exploitation of Registrar's domain name resolution or registration services in furtherance of conduct involving the use of a Registered Name sponsored by Registrar that is prohibited by applicable law.
Duty to Investigate Reports of Abuse
3.18 Registrar's Abuse Contact and Duty to Investigate Reports of Abuse.
3.18.1 Registrar shall maintain an abuse contact to receive reports of abuse involving Registered Names sponsored by Registrar, including reports of Illegal Activity. Registrar shall publish an email address to receive such reports on the home page of Registrar's website (or in another standardized place that may be designated by ICANN from time to time). Registrar shall take reasonable and prompt steps to investigate and respond appropriately to any reports of abuse.
3.18.2 Registrar shall establish and maintain a dedicated abuse point of contact, including a dedicated email address and telephone number that is monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to receive reports of Illegal Activity by law enforcement, consumer protection, quasi-governmental or other similar authorities designated from time to time by the national or territorial government of the jurisdiction in which the Registrar is established or maintains a physical office. Well-founded reports of Illegal Activity submitted to these contacts must be reviewed within 24 hours by an individual who is empowered by Registrar to take necessary and appropriate actions in response to the report. In responding to any such reports, Registrar will not be required to take any action in contravention of applicable law.
3.18.3 Registrar shall publish on its website a description of its procedures for the receipt, handling, and tracking of abuse reports. Registrar shall document its receipt of and response to all such reports. Registrar shall maintain the records related to such reports for the shorter of two (2) years or the longest period permitted by applicable law, and during such period, shall provide such records to ICANN upon reasonable notice.
The obligations are to investigate and respond to complaints, rather than to take any particular action, such as to suspend a domain.
It is also important for the complainant to make “well-founded reports” (3.18.1).
The obligation to investigate and respond within 24 hours only applies to domestic law enforcement and consumer protection (or similar) organisations, ie those from the country where the registrar is based (3.18.2). Otherwise, registrars should take “reasonable and prompt steps” (3.18.1).
Private companies are known to be employed to send in notices, and in one case has been recognised by a government for the purposes of 3.18.2.
- 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement, ICANN
- 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement
- Section 3.18 of the 2013 RAA: Reasonable Investigations, Appropriate Responses, John Horton, on CircleID blog. 8 Dec 2014