Sunday, November 27, 2011

Namibian Government in Talks to take over .NA Registry from Dr Lisse

The Namibian Government is currently in talks with Dr Eberhard Lisse, who manages Namibian Domain registry NANIC, to take over the registry in compliance with a  communication Act passed two years ago. Currently NANIC is administered by Dr Lisse who acquired the registry some years back and even went ahead to register .NA and NA as trademarks in his own name.

Dr Lisse is described as a German-born gynecologist who immigrated to Namibia and developed a deep interest in the domain industry and has since acquired a considerable DNS experience and expertise and is the current chair of ccNSO Tech Working group at ICANN. Although he still practices as a gynecologist,he now juggles this with the management of the Namibian domain registry.  Critics however accuse him of serious conflicts of interest in managing the registry and also for personally profiteering from the country's DNS industry with two of NANIC's three accredited registrars owned by him. He's also accused of being arrogant and managing the Namibian namespace as a personal empire while disregarding due process.

The Namibian public has been up in arms against Dr Lisse in the last few weeks. This came after NamIT domain registry  owner Thorsten Hubner filed fraud and extortion charges against Dr Lisse with the Namibian Anti Corruption Commission. According to NamIT, "Lisse and his counterparts are cartelizing the Namibian web industry. As per the Competition Act of 2003, the abuse of a dominant position is defined as: “directly or indirectly imposing unfair purchase or selling prices or other unfair trading conditions; limiting or restricting production, market outlets or market access”.

Reports Namweb:

 The main complaint being, the Namibian top level internet domain name, meant to represent Namibia as a whole, “.NA”, has for over 20 years, been controlled under suspicious conduct by three foreign-born men. Allegedly, the men, namely German-born Dr Eberhard Lisse, German-born Detlef Lang and Dr Ben Fuller from the United States of America, have created a very lucrative pyramid scheme in their monopolization of name “.NA”.  All “.NA” domains were trademarked by Dr Lisse in 1990, thus giving him complete control.
 “There is a need to have a non-profit, non-political body that will administer the “.NA” domains efficiently and professionally”, said Kaapanda when speaking to Confidénte. “We appreciate that Dr Lisse was a pioneer in the industry, but he must be a real Namibian and act in the best interest of the country”.

 “Na-Nic cc/Dr Eberhard Lisse is the only instance (registry) on the planet that can supply “.na” Namibian internet domain names and that is a dominant position”, says Hübner. Na-Nic now serves as the only .na registry and sells domain names to clients. The company appoints Omadhina cc as the Register Operator and Ondis Internet Services cc as the registrar for domain names. Confidénte has in its possession documentation that proves that the three main reseller entities for .na are Ondis, Omadhina and NamIT. Two of these companies belong to Dr Lisse.

 Furthermore, Dr Lisse could stand to be in direct violation of the Communications Act of 2009.
 “Under section 109 of the Act, a person who is currently administering the .na domain or other related domains may continue to do so for 6 months but then must apply for registration as an association under the Act”, says Kerron Edmunson, of ICTlawyers.

  “Subject to the sections not having come into force and any regulations that might have been published, the .na domain is to be administered by an association to be formed by the Minister which has special rights and duties including the registration of all citizens of Namibia as members of the domain name register for a “nominal” fee”, Edmunson says.

 This association refers to an independent body that will represent all Namibian interests.
 “It is general trend in other countries is that there is a body is that represents  general interest, as opposed to the interest of the individual and we must bear in mind that the domain “.NA” is public property”, says Kaapanda. “Therefore, we are currently trying to come to a consensus on this issue, but it is a slow process”.

 Yet, in violation of both the Competitions Act as well as the Communications Act, Dr Lisse has hiked up registration prices, to the extent that they have become unaffordable.

 According to various domain checker websites, the price difference between “.com” and any “.na” is substantial.  The price to register a “.com” is an average of N$ 500. Namibians hoping to set up a .na domain are forced to pay up to N$ 5 000, whereas foreigners looking to register are expected to pay N$ 50 000.  This is between a ten and hundred percent mark-up.

 Amongst the domains sold by Lisse, are names including, mail.na, gov.na, com.na, org.na, co.na and mweb.com.na.

 NamIT, being the only main entity not owned by Lisse, has been receiving illegal instructions to change details on specific websites, upon refusal, Lisse suspended domains of NamIT cc and its clients.
 Hübner states that he received several complaints, one of the clients affected was Namhost Internet Services. Upon refusal to change administrative details on certain domains, based on instructions from Na-Nic, certain Namhost registered domains were frozen, one of these being confidente.com.na.

 “I was unable to change the name server or any other information on certain domains. This is unacceptable and is costing Namhost a lot of money. That domain is registered by Namhost and we should have the right to change it as we see fit”, said Ardi Coetzee, from Namhost Internet Services.
 According to Hübner, the domains  suspensions were unethical and unlawful. “Lisse indicated that he does not care what the law says as he makes the rules and NamIT must adhere to his unlawful requests”.

 “In fact, in terms of international approaches to domain name registration, this person (Dr Lisse) appears to be acting at the very least, in bad faith, but perhaps also maliciously.  When the Act comes into force or if it already has, he could be prosecuted for breach of the Act”, stated Edmunson.

  “The practice of using well-known names as domains and registering them and then requiring large sums to be paid by owners of the trade marks, is known sometimes as hijacking, or cyber- squatting which is almost universally condemned”, says Edmunson.

 Namibian web hosting administrators and sites have now opted to advise their clients to not register .na domains, but to use .com instead. In this case, the future of Namibian businesses and sites will lose the ability to represent Namibia on the internet and will have to join the endless global sea of dot coms.

 Hübner suggests that the illegal practices and shady dealings of Lisse and his counterparts has, thus far, affected over 1 000 people.

Confidénte tried to reach Dr Lisse, Dr Fuller and Mr Lang for comment but none of them were available.


Work can be republished with attribution. Email Us africadomainnames@gmail.com