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Google Finds Unregistered Whois Data

A few weeks back I was Matt Cutts Watching when I noticed he was participating in a Law Bloggers meeting. Mental note made; move on. Now I see Matt report from his blog about the Bay Area Blawgers meeting. Best bit: Matt notes how the US Copyright Office houses a database of domain names associated with registrations for Online Service provider status. In order to technically qualify for the Safe Harbor provisions of the DMCA, a company or web site must register with the copyright office. That registration costs $80, and includes a place to name the business and list alternative names for the business. In other words, it’s a self-registered list of domain names owned/operated by a legal entity, identified in the public records.

Now Matt didn’t identify it as such… that’s what you need me for :-) Matt simply commented on how Kurt Opsahl of the Electronic Frontier Foundation polled the table about DMCA takedown notices, and pointed out how easy it was to register as an Online Service Provider. But if I were Matt, and that was news to me, I would take a look at that US Copyright web site and when I saw page after page of webmasters listing all of their “other domains” I would say aaaahhhhh…. and fire off an email to a junior Googler to “organize this information”.

If you look around the US Copyright filings for Online Service Provider you will see many, many webmasters listing dozens or more domains under one registration. Some of the big boys also list domains together, while others seem to register single domains. Warner Bros Entertainment for example listed and, which have WHois records assigned to Warner Entertainment, but they also included on the same registration form, which has a Whois registrant of Astro America, LLC in San Francisco. Nice find for Google, as this allows Google to associate with Warner Brothers when, based on Whois alone, that was not obvious public knowledge. That’s just one example for you.

I am sure it would be fun to dig around the site further, but I don’t have time. Besides, Google can make it searchable and cross-reference-able, which would be MUCH easier the scanned PDFs. I am sure Google could ask for this information direct from the copyright office in electronic form,or perhaps make a trade of indexing for access. In many cases this makes a nice addendum to Google’s efforts to associate web sites to each other and webmasters to web sites (via email address at the very least, names and legal representatives, etc). Right now it looks like mostly big corps and adult web sites, but it seems clear that this is a likely addition to the legal requirements for web publishers and so … another tool for Matt’s Top Secret Spam Fighting VPN-connected laptop computer!

I just hope that when Google organizes this part of the world’s information, it makes it accessible to all of us and not just the competitive teams inside Google. Maybe that’s a good idea for the Copyright office… if you give away our data, require that the indexed form also be freely available to the public? Maybe a Taxpayers Content License or something?


  1. scoreboard wrote:

    Great sleuthing, John. This has some nice competitive uses for not only Google and SEO’s, but I think some smart domainers could do nice things via “organization”.

    Thursday, March 29, 2007 at 2:43 pm | Permalink
  2. Artem wrote:

    Matt Cutts is bluffing. He reminds me a politician which is prepearing for elections, but not one time a four years, everyday.

    Saturday, July 14, 2007 at 11:21 am | Permalink
  3. Libria wrote:

    Really nice find.

    Friday, July 20, 2007 at 7:45 am | Permalink
  4. Bien wrote:

    Very interesting. A directory of sites per company, that’s something I haven’t seen before that could proves useful for everyone.

    Thursday, August 2, 2007 at 7:50 pm | Permalink
  5. Music wrote:

    This could be old news to Google and they already use this data.

    Thursday, August 2, 2007 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

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  1. » Google does WHOIS, again. - John Andrews - on Sunday, April 6, 2008 at 1:00 am

    […] Google Finds Unregistered WHOIS Data from March 2007 […]