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Rockefeller slams .sucks as “predatory shakedown”

Kevin Murphy, March 12, 2014, 19:29:58 (UTC), Domain Policy

US Senator Jay Rockefeller today came out swinging against the proposed .sucks new gTLD, saying it looks like little more than a “predatory shakedown” by applicants.

In a letter to ICANN (pdf), Rockefeller has particular concern about Vox Populi, the .sucks applicant owned by Canadian group Momentous.

As we’ve previously reported, Vox Populi plans to charge trademark owners $25,000 a year for defensive registrations and has already started taking pre-registrations even though .sucks is still in contention.

Rockefeller told ICANN:

I view it as little more than a predatory shakedown scheme… A gTLD like “sucks” has little or no socially redeeming value and it reinforces many people’s fears that the purpose of the gTLD expansion is to enrich the domain name industry rather than benefit the broader community of internet users.

Unusually, I find myself in agreement with Rockefeller, who chairs the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee — Vox Populi’s plan does bring the domain industry into disrepute.

But it’s not the only applicant for .sucks. Top Level Spectrum and Donuts have also applied for the string.

While neither has revealed their proposed pricing, in Donuts’ case a blocking registration via its Domain Protected Marks List service will cost substantially less on a per-domain basis.

Rockefeller asks that ICANN keep his thoughts in mind when reviewing the application, and I’m sure ICANN will pay lip service to his concerns in response, but I don’t think the letter will have much impact.

A bigger question might be: does Rockefeller’s letter foreshadow more Congressional hearings into the new gTLD program?

The last one, which Rockefeller chaired (for about five minutes, before he buggered off to do more important stuff) was in December 2011, and they have tended to happen every couple of years.

Such a hearing would come at an inopportune moment for ICANN, which is trying to distance itself from the perception of US oversight in light of the Edward Snowden spying revelations.

It’s been setting up offices all over the world and championing the forthcoming NetMundial internet governance meeting, which is happening in Brazil next month.

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Comments (20)

  1. Luc says:

    He’s right. .Sucks will be a shakedown extension for all business owners. And a $25k defensive registration fee is a real slap in the face that most small businesses can’t afford.

  2. Ms Domainer says:

    *

    I also agree with Senator Rockefeller.

    Anyone who has a business, large or small, is at risk from these predatory tactics.

    It’s the virtual version of Tony the Terminator whacking your knee caps if you don’t pay up.

    Pure and simple, it’s legal extortion.

    *

  3. John Berard says:

    Kevin,

    I am surprised you did not call for comment. May I assume you did not call either of the other applicants for .sucks?

    Whether a .sucks registry is a good idea or not will be determined by the market. Maybe no names will be registered; maybe those that are will be used in the manner we hope — to strengthen the link between companies and their customers.

    I would encourage all to read our application. For those in Washington, D.C., I hope the fact that we are picking up on a proposal first offered by Ralph Nader in 2000 will mean something.

    It might be said that $25,000 is a lot for a domain name, but it is pennies in a marketing campaign. The success of the registry will be told in whether it is viewed as one or the other.

    As for congressional oversight, one wonders were the interest has been in reviewing the thousands of ‘somethingsucks.com” domains already active.

    Our plan is to bring it all into the light and make it a valuable part of the commercial R&D process. You, Senator Rockefeller and we will see at the same time if it works out that way.

    John Berard, serving as CEO of voxpopuliregistry

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      Berard,

      Sorry for not calling for comment on this particular occasion. You’re correct to assume that I didn’t call either of the other two applicants either.

      It didn’t seem necessary given the circumstances.

      Rockefeller was commenting on the reputational damages Vox Populi’s pricing is doing to the new gTLD program, which I don’t believe has changed since we last spoke.

      I linked twice in this post to the original DI story about your sunrise fees, during which your defenses of Vox Populi’s strategy are liberally quoted.

      http://domainincite.com/15390-extortion-sucks-vox-pop-ceo-defends-under-priced-25000-sunrise-fee

      I don’t have a problem with .sucks as a new gTLD. I have a problem with a company overtly trying to milk the trademark market with extortionate fees before it’s presented a value proposition for non-defensive registrations.

      You’re an incredibly good PR guy, Berard — I genuinely believe you’re one of the best I’ve met — but I think you’re defending the indefensible in this particular case.

      Kevin

      • John Berard says:

        Totally understood, Kevin.

        And, as the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different outcome, I will not do that here. I will admit, it has been professionally invigorating to engage on the story.

        But .sucks is more than a story and more than about domain names. It is about organizing one of the last remaining Wild West elements of the Internet.

        See you in Singapore.

        Berard

  4. Ms Domainer says:

    *

    Greed, Greed, Greed, vox populi.

    The “Voice of the People”?

    Yeah, right.

    More like the voice of a certain type of organization that preys on the weak and shakes them down, the legal version of cybersquatting on TMs.

    Don’t like that perception? Too bad. It is what it is.

    This is a totally useless gTLD, designed to prey on companies both large and small.

    You are so out of touch as to what small companies can afford in their marketing campaigns and what large companies will tolerate from companies like yours.

    You have been singled out because of your proposed large registration fee. The other applicants have yet to revealed their plans, but it they are smart, they will withdraw from this ridiculous gTLD.

    *

  5. Luc says:

    Wait, you said “$25,000 is pennies for a marketing campaign”? I’m a small business owner and $25k is not pennies, in fact, it’s someones yearly salary.

    You’ll find that most of US small business cannot afford to pay that. Lower it guys. This is not a domainer speaking, it’s a small business owner and there are millions more like me around the world.

    Make it something reasonable, and most small business will pay it, and you’ll make a ton of money in the process.

  6. Alan says:

    dot sucks……….sucks!

  7. Brad Mugford says:

    The response by John Berard shows how out of touch with reality he is.

    $25,000 is pennies in a marketing budget. Really? Maybe for Google, not for 99% of small business.

    I hope there is a Congressional hearing about this. I would love to see John Berard called to testify in defense of his application and pricing model for .sucks.

    This is an extension that basically exists solely to gouge TM holders. Asking a $25K yearly fee is totally absurd.

    I expect small and large businesses to push back on this garbage.

    This extension is everything the new extensions should not be about. If ICANN allows this extension to exist they will severely damage their credibility.

    Brad

  8. Perry says:

    .sucks really sucks!

    What an arrogant thing to say that $25.000 “it is pennies in a marketing campaign” How may companies do you thinks spend that million dollar budget?

    Let me see, so you need to sell only 5 domains to break even on your application fee.

    Do you really think that main-street US businesses are that stupid.

    I think you will find…NOT.

  9. John Berard says:

    I accept the point made by Ms. Domainer and Luc that use of the word “pennies” was sarcastic and pejorative. It was a bad choice of words that masked a good point still worth making.

    If — and it is an open question — .sucks names are viewed as, well, domain names, the cost is a lot higher than might be found for another name as any registrar.

    But, if the .sucks domain is viewed as a new and essential asset in the marketing mix of a company of any size, then the cost takes on quite a different hue.

    “Pennies” was a bad choice of words; “dotSucks” is not.

  10. Sean Sullivan says:

    John,

    I seriously hope the registry has a massive amount of money tucked away for litigation. You and Jay Westerdal think that the 1st amendment is going to protect you, it’s not. Most people within the USA take the perversion of our rights seriously, you’ll find out the hard way.

    There will be millions in judgements hanging over whomever ends up with this terrible domain extension.

    40 years in the PR business huh? Guess you didn’t learn that much. This isn’t innovation, you just found a great way to burn a bridge with every brand imaginable.

  11. Ms Domainer says:

    *

    .sucks will exist for one reason, and one reason only:

    To gouge TM holders for money through fear and intimidation.

    No more than a legal racket.

    You offer nothing of value; your company has trumped up something nasty that no one wants, all in the name of profit for your company.

    A .sucks domain offers no value whatsoever to the registrant; it will just sit in a company’s account, gathering dust, all in the name of “protection.”

    You’re in it for the money, nothing more, and you’re being called out on it.

    *

  12. Weren’t most of these .whatevers marketed as defensive registrations? I’m sure I’ve seen GoDaddy or eNom advertisements telling people not to let ‘their name” get registered by someone else. When they start to examine most to the new gTLD’s someone will catch the ire of the government leading to quiet the catastrophe for everything but .COM. This is the beginning.

    • Ms Domainer says:

      *

      You have a point; some of the registrars are also using fear tactics.

      But there is a significant difference: most .whatevers can be branded and used in their own right.

      And there is a mechanism in which companies can enter their TMs in a TM Clearing house data base.

      And the URS is fast in suspending obvious TM squatted domains.

      *

  13. Mike says:

    How do TM’s play out with .sucks extension, paying so called pennies for protection from whom at $25k?…………what is next .mafia?

  14. Richard Funden says:

    Nice brand you got there, mate… Would be a shame if someone registered a .sucks for that…

    Oh no, it is URSman, our plan is foiled!

  15. Rubens Kuhl says:

    Let’s hope the other applicants for .sucks beat Vox Populi Registry in auction…

  16. All of the New Quasi-Derivative gTLD extensions are pushed out mainly as Spamm Fodder for the ring Leader GOOGLES usage for flooding the DNS for Anti-Competitive reasons. Those who dispute this will find this to be the end result of continual monitoring and future depositions proving this premise as fact. JAS 5/8/15

    Gratefully, Jeff Schneider (Contact Group) (Metal Tiger) (Former Rockefeller IBEC Marketing Analyst/Strategist)

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