Employ Media’s fight to avoid losing its contract to run .jobs won’t be resolved this year, according to the latest batch of arbitration documents published by ICANN.
February 2013, two years after the the battle was joined, is now the absolute earliest the company could find out whether ICANN has the right to shut down .jobs due to an alleged contract breach.
As you may recall from deep in the mists of time (actually, February last year) ICANN threatened to terminate Employ Media’s contract due to the controversial .Jobs Universe project.
The registry gave thousands of .jobs domains, mostly geographic or vocational strings, to its partner, the DirectEmployers Association, which started competing against jobs listings sites.
A coalition of jobs sites including Monster.com complained about this on the basis that .jobs was originally designed for companies to list their own jobs, not to aggregate third-party listings.
The coalition believed that the .Jobs Universe project was essentially a fait accompli, despite Employ Media’s promise that all the names now allocated to DirectEmployers would be subject to an open RFP process.
ICANN eventually agreed with the coalition, issued a breach notice, and now it finds itself in arbitration under the auspices of the International Chamber of Commerce.
A face-to-face hearing has now been scheduled for January 28 to February 8, 2013. Between now and December, it’s paper filings – claims and counterclaims – all the way.
Arbitration clauses were added as standard to ICANN’s registry agreements in order to create a cheaper, faster option than fighting out disagreements in the courts.
However, with both sides lawyered up and a process now likely to last at least two years, it’s easy to wonder just how much more efficient it will be.
It won’t be an easy decision for the ICC panel.
While I still believe Employ Media was a bit sneaky about how it won ICANN approval for the .Jobs Universe project – and it certainly disenfranchised other jobs sites – there’s no denying that .jobs is now a much healthier gTLD for registrants as a result of DirectEmployers’ involvement.
An ICANN win might actually be a bad thing.