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Battle over .jobs to drag on into 2013

Kevin Murphy, May 22, 2012, 10:50:23 (UTC), Domain Registries

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.

Employ Media demanded arbitration in May last year, but it has inexplicably taken until now for it, ICANN and the ICC to publish a draft timetable for the process.

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.

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Comments (1)

  1. John Bell says:

    Kevin: As the Chairman of the .JOBS Charter Compliance Coalition, I wanted to respond to your post. The Coalition strongly disagrees with your “the end justifies the means” argument and the free pass you give to Employ Media for what you casually deem as being “a bit sneaky.” The truth is that Employ Media — along with its conspiring alliance partner DirectEmployers — engaged in deceptive tactics throughout its tenure as the .JOBS registry operator. As an initial matter, Employ Media employed a standard “bait and switch” strategy in its application for the .JOBS registry, defying the clear registration restrictions of the .JOBS Charter it previously agreed to for the sole purpose of advancing its own financial interests. While you acknowledge that the so-called Dot Jobs Universe “certainly disenfranchised other jobs sites,” you justify that wrongdoing with an unsupported claim that .JOBS “is now a much healthier gTLD for registrants as a result of DirectEmployers’ involvement.” This unproven claim, however, contradicts the determination made by ICANN in its breach notice that Employ Media/DirectEmployers operated the Dot Job Universe to “the detriment of some participants of the human resources community” – the very community for which .JOBS was created and Employ Media was obligated to serve. Moreover, even if .JOBS registrants somehow benefited under the Dot Jobs Universe – a point which the Coalition does not concede – the greater Internet community would be subject to greater harm and uncertainty if a rogue registry operator were permitted to randomly violate the rules under which it agreed to operate the TLD. Such a result would serve as a terrible precedent for both prospective registrants and ICANN in light of the recent launch of the new gTLD initiative.

    In addition, Employ Media was more than “a bit sneaky” in its conduct surrounding the launch of the Dot Jobs Universe in late 2010/early 2011. In fact, Employ Media purposely misled ICANN during this process, a somewhat unsurprising event given the previous misconduct evident in its unauthorized launch of the “beta test” with DirectEmployers in early 2009.

    I agree with you that it is inexplicable that it took nearly ten months for the parties to agree to a third arbitrator and an arbitration schedule. It should be noted, however, that your characterization that Employ Media “demanded” arbitration implies that the registry operator sought an expeditious prosecution to this matter when in fact it proposed an unreasonably lengthy timetable in which the arbitration hearing would not occur until July 2013. In addition, Employ Media/DirectEmployers exploited this interval to sign up more registrants to their non-compliant job board. The Coalition is curious whether you have asked Employ Media/DirectEmployers if they advised prospective registrants that the Internet’s global governing body has ruled that the operation of the Dot Jobs Universe is in contravention of the Charter, and of the ramifications if/when Employ Media is ordered to unravel the non-compliant universe.jobs.

    Given all these facts, the Coalition disagrees with your claim that “it won’t be an easy decision for the ICC panel” and “an ICANN win might actually be a bad thing.” Employ Media cannot provide any argument rebutting the indisputable fact that the Charter does not permit the operation of job boards that advertise job openings for multiple employers. I am highly confident the arbitration panel will arrive at the correct conclusion once it has reviewed the applicable Charter language and Employ Media’s non-compliant conduct.

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