Melbourne IT’s (Non)-Response

After unilaterally taking satirical website johnhowardpm.org offline, Melbourne IT is, predictably, staying quiet.

On Monday I complained to Melbourne IT thusly:

I’m disgusted by Melbourne IT’s take-down of johnhowardpm.org.

While (so far) we only have the Fairfax media reports to go by, it looks like you caved in just because you got a phone call from the Prime Minister’s office — not an official takedown notice, not even a communication from the organisations which are actually charged with overseeing the Internet.

And you didn’t even have the courtesy to communicate with the registrant beforehand.

Your comparison with a phishing site is so obviously “covering your arse after the event” that it’s laughable.

What’s worse is that you’re not the hosting provider, who could be in the firing line, but the domain registrar. You’re meant to be providing a robust DNS infrastructure, resisting interference and making changes only after “due process”.

You have failed in that duty, and instead become a pawn of the incumbent political party, an accomplice in its gradual suppression of dissent.

Australia has a strong tradition of political satire, and Richard Neville’s spoof was mild compared with what’s on The Chaser’s War on Everything every week.

If there is any doubt over copyright violation or intent to mislead, then that’s a dispute between Mr Neville and the PM’s office. It is outrageous that you chose to act on the initial complaint of one side rather that allowing due process to take its course.

And, if due process should find a problem with the content of the website, then only the website should be affected — not the entire domain. You seem to have removed the domain from DNS entirely, killing email and all other services that might have been running. This is heavy-handed.

I am disgusted by what I’ve read about this issue so far. I’m hoping that in the clear light of day, Melbourne IT will realise its mistake, reinstate the domain johnhowardpm.org, apologise to Mr Neville and let due process determine whether the domain should be taken down or not.

As I’m writing about this issue in other media, I’d appreciate an “on the record” response.

And here is their “on the record” response:

Dear Stilgherrian,

Thank you for your email.

We are in contact with Mr Neville and the matter is between the relevant parties.

Regards,

Customer Direct
Melbourne IT Ltd – ‘Trusted for Online Success’
www.melbourneit.com.au

Melbourne IT’s “stay quiet and hope it all blows over” tactic will work. There’s plenty in the news this week to distract everyone from this issue — the aftermath of Hurricane Larry and the Commonwealth Games should keep everyone occupied. And the issue is just a little too abstract for most people.

Which is a shame. Because there’s a process for problems with domains, and it’s about contacting the domain registrar (which Melbourne IT didn’t do), and escalation through ICANN and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

What Melbourne IT has shown is that due process can be bypassed with a call from the Prime Minister’s office. And I’ll write more about that soon…

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1 comment

  1. Stilgherrian’s avatar

    Melbourne IT has now admitted this was handled badly. My wrap-up covers some other legal and political aspects of this issue.

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