Governments are toying with the idea of asking ICANN for greater powers over gTLDs that match their geographic features.
The names of rivers, mountains, forests and towns could be protected under ideas bandied around at the ICANN 57 meeting in India today.
The Governmental Advisory Committee held a session this morning to discuss expanding the list of strings that already enjoy extra ICANN protections on grounds of geography.
In the 2012 application round, gTLDs matching the names or ISO acronyms of countries were banned outright.
For capital city names and non-capital names where the gTLD was meant to represent the city in question, government approval was required.
For regions on the ISO 3166 list, formal government non-objection was required whether or not the gTLD was intended to represent the region.
That led to gTLDs such as .tata, a dot-brand for Tata Group, being held up indefinitely because it matches the name of a small region of Morocco.
One applicant wound up agreeing to fund a school to the tune of $100,000 in order to get Montenegro’s support for .bar.
But other names were not protected.
Notably, the string “Amazon” was not on any of the protected lists, largely because while it’s a river and a forest it doesn’t match the name of a formal administrative region of any country.
While GAC objections ultimately killed off Amazon’s bid for .amazon (at least for now), the GAC wants to close the Amazon loophole in time for the next new gTLD application round.
The GAC basically is thinking about the power to write its own list of protected terms. It would build on the existing list to also encompass names of “geographic significance”.
GAC members would be able to submit names to the list; applicants for those names would then require non-objection letters from the relevant government(s).
Some governments, including the UK and Peru, expressed concern that “geographic significance” is a little vague.
Truly, without a narrow definition of “significance” it could turn out to be a bloody big list. The UK alone has over 48,000 towns, not to mention all the named forests, rivers and such.
Peru, one of the nations that had beef with Amazon, said it intended to send ICANN a list of all the geographic names it wants protecting, regardless of whether the GAC decides to create a new list.
Other GAC members, including Iran and Denmark, pressed how important it was for the GAC to coordinate with other parts of the ICANN community, mainly the GNSO, on geo names, to avoid overlap and conflict further down the line.
The GAC has a working group looking at the issue. It hopes to have something to recommend to the ICANN board by the Copenhagen meeting next March.