Ed O’Brien, guitarist with the band Radiohead, has become the latest musician to throw his support behind DotMusic’s community-based application for the new gTLD .music.
In a letter to ICANN today (pdf), O’Brien said that if DotMusic loses its ongoing Community Priority Evaluation, it will “be setting back the world’s chances of a Fair Trade Music Industry by many years”.
“I challenge The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers views that the global music community to which I belong does not exist,” he wrote.
He’s arguably the highest-profile musician to support DotMusic to date. Radiohead have sold over 30 million records and a few years ago O’Brien was ranked by Rolling Stone as the 59th greatest guitarist of all time.
The phrase “Fair Trade Music Industry” appears to have been coined last week at TechCrunch Disrupt by Grammy-nominated musician Imogen Heap, another one of DotMusic’s celebrity supporters.
It refers to the notion that artists should be fairly compensated for their work, opposing services such as Spotify, which reportedly pays artists less than a tenth of a cent every time one of their songs is played.
Both Heap and Radiohead are noted for their innovative uses of technology in their music (for example, listen to Radiohead’s incredible 1997 album OK Computer, bootlegs of which are available to stream for free on YouTube).
Radiohead is also known for its love-hate relationship with internet-based music business models.
In 2007, Radiohead released a new album for free on its web site, allowing fans to set their own price. But in 2013, it pulled its back catalog from Spotify, with lead singer Thom Yorke calling the service “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse”.
Its music is back on Spotify now.
But you can see why the band would support DotMusic’s application for .music, which proposes a number of novel rights protection mechanisms covering not just trademarks, but also copyright.
One interesting proposal is to ban any domain name from .music if a matching domain in another TLD has received over 10,000 copyright infringement notices from a big music industry body. This is to prevent TLD “hopping” affecting .music.
So, for example, if thepiratebay.com had received 10,000 notices, thepiratebay.music would be permanently blocked from registration.
The company is proposing a somewhat restricted namespace too, where only “community members” are allowed to register domains.
But prospective registrants merely need to self-identify as a member of one of the community’s dozens of subsets — which includes “fans” and “bloggers” — in order to register.
Parking will be prohibited, however, which would cut down on domain investor speculation.
Quite how .music will enhance the move for “fair trade” for artists is not entirely clear from O’Brien’s letter. After .music launches, there will still be hundreds of other TLDs that do not have DotMusic’s rules in place.
It’s also unlikely that the Economist Intelligence Unit, which is currently handling the CPE, will even see O’Brien’s letter.
ICANN told DotMusic (pdf) recently that the EIU “may not consider” any support letters received after October 13, which was two months after the official deadline for letters to be submitted.
DotMusic has letters of support — mostly the same letter with a different signature — from literally hundreds of musicians, trade groups, producers and publishers.
CEO Constantine Roussos told DI last week that it has more support letters than all the other “Community” gTLD applicants combined.
He said he’s confident that DotMusic’s CPE will be successful, citing positive precedent set by EIU panels in .osaka, .hotel and .radio CPE cases.
But the closest precedent we have so far is the Far Further application for .music, which comprehensively lost its CPE a year ago, scoring just three points out of the available 16, well short of the 14-point passing score.
There are differences between the applications, but Far Further’s CPE panel told it that there was no such thing as “the music community”, which sets a pretty high bar for DotMusic to leap.
If DotMusic wins its CPE, the remaining seven competing applications for the string get kicked out of the program. If it loses, it goes to an auction it has little chance of winning.