.sucks may be all about freedom of speech, but some registrars reckon the registry is trying to ban them from criticizing the new gTLD in public.
Vox Populi is proposing a change to its standard registrar contract that some say is an attempt to gag them.
A version of the Registry-Registrar Agreement dated December 18, seen by DI, contains the new section 2.1:
The purpose of this Agreement is to permit and promote the registration of domain names in the Vox Populi TLDs and to allow Registrar to offer the registration of the Vox Populi TLDs in partnership with Vox Populi. Neither party shall take action to frustrate or impair the purpose of this Agreement.
It’s broad and somewhat vague, but some registrars are reading it like a gagging order.
While many retail registrars are no doubt happy to sell .sucks domains as part of their catalogs, there is of course a subset of the registrar market that focuses on brand protection.
Brand protection registrars have been quite vocal in their criticism of .sucks.
MarkMonitor, for example, last year wrote about how it would refuse to make a profit on .sucks names, and was not keen on promoting the TLD to its clients.
Asked about the new RRA language, Vox Pop CEO John Berard told DI that it was merely an attempt to clarify the agreement but provided no additional detail.
Registrars are also angry about a second substantial change to the contract, which would allow the registry to unilaterally make binding changes to the deal at will.
The new text in section 8.4 reads:
Vox Populi shall have the right, at any time and from time to time, to amend any or all terms and conditions of this Agreement. Any such amendment shall be binding and effective 15 days after Vox Populi gives notice of such amendment to the Registrar by email.
That’s the kind of thing that ICANN sometimes gets away with, but some registrars are saying that such a change would let Vox Pop do whatever the hell it likes and would therefore be legally unenforceable.