NIC Chile has implemented a program by which registrants of .cl domains can obtain legal assistance free-of-charge, in a step aimed at guiding respondents through a challenging dispute landscape.
So far in 2019, there have been 150 decisions rendered in .cl domain name disputes. The .cl zone file contains about 580,000 names. By comparison, .br has around 4MM active domains and no decisions published so far this year.
The low barrier to filing a .cl dispute is the reason there are so many. The complainant completes a short online form and pays around 15 USD.
Weeks later and after the registrant has received several formal notifications, the complainant is finally asked to pay the arbitrator’s fee of 1000 USD. If they fail to pay, the case is closed and the domain stays with the respondent.
This model heavily favors the expert that knows how to use the system in their favor. In practice, this means that borderline disputes can be filed when there is no real intent to pay the arbitrator’s fee. The registrant doesn’t know this and is confused upon receving the registry’s notice of dispute, this confusion turning to fear when the complainant makes contact to warn of the consequences that await.
The aforementioned legal-aid program has recently concluded its pilot phase, in which centers at three law schools participated: Universidad Finis Terrae, Universidad Católica del Norte and Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción. Citing the success of the pilot program, this assistance will now be made available on a permanent basis.
Although not mentioned in the announcement issued by the registry, it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that the legal aid centers are meant to counteract the practice described above. It is certainly a step in the right direction, but if misuse of the dispute protocol is indeed an issue, why not demand up-front payment and/or implement an enforcable reverse domain name hijacking penalty?