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Olympic domain watch list shows hundreds of squats, legit names too

Kevin Murphy, May 30, 2012, Domain Policy

Lawyers for the International Olympic Committee have released a list of hundreds of domain names allegedly cybersquatting the Olympic trademark, all registered in just a couple of weeks.

But as well as showing that there are hundreds of idiots out there, the list also sheds light on substantial numbers of apparently legitimate uses of the word “olympic” by small businesses.

The insight comes from two weekly zone file monitoring reports, compiled for the IOC by Thomson Compumark, which were circulated to an ICANN working group this week.

There are about 300 domains on the lists. At first glance, it looks like the IOC has a serious problem on its hands.

According to IOC outside counsel Jim Bikoff:

These unauthorized registrations–often for pornographic, phishing, gambling or parked sites–dilute and tarnish the Olympic trademarks, and attempt to exploit for commercial gain the good will created by the Olympic Movement. The unauthorized domains already oblige the IOC and its National Olympic Committees to expend significant amounts of time and money on monitoring and enforcement activities.

Based on a perusal of the lists and a non-exhaustive, non-scientific sampling of the sites the domains lead to, I’d say a comfortable majority are fairly straightforward cases of bad faith.

I couldn’t find any porn or phishing, but most of the domains I checked either do not resolve or resolve to placeholder or parking pages. If they resolved to a developed site, it was usually a splog.

However, a non-trivial minority of the domains are being used by apparently legitimate small businesses that have absolutely no connection to sports whatsoever.

Check out, for example, olympic-grill.com, olympicautorecycling.com, olympicbuildersgc.com, olympicco.com, olympiclandscapes.com, olympicrollingshutters.com, or olympicpromotions.info.

These are domains all apparently registered in the same week, and all appear to be kosher uses of domain names (though the logo choice at olympicpromotions.info is just begging for trouble).

A fair number of the domains on the list appear to be re-registrations of domains that have previously expired, judging by historical Whois records.

One would imagine that if there was value in cybersquatting a nice-looking domain such as 2012olympicstickets.com, for example, the former squatter probably wouldn’t have let it go.

Perhaps the “best” typo I found on the list, ollympics.com, is registered to a British guy called Olly. Assuming that’s his actual name, it seems like pretty good evidence of good faith.

The IOC, incidentally, has only ever filed 15 UDRP cases, on average fewer than two per year, so claims about spending “significant amounts” on enforcement are questionable.

As TAS closes, ICANN reveals new gTLD runway

Kevin Murphy, May 30, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN has confirmed plans to open up the next phase of its new generic top-level domain program next week.

The controversial “digital archery” process, used to assign priority batches to applications, will begin June 8 and end June 28, according to a statement issued in the early hours of this morning.

That means digital archery will close the same day as ICANN’s public meeting in Prague ends.

The results of the batching will not be revealed until July 11.

And ICANN has confirmed that June 13 is indeed the date for the Big Reveal, when details of all the applications will be published for public perusal, as we reported Friday.

That would make June 12 or thereabouts the deadline for getting a full $185,000 refund.

Applicants have until a minute before midnight UTC tonight to finalize their applications if they have not done so already. Then, the TLD Application System closes for at least a few years.

Surprisingly, as many as a quarter of the anticipated 2,000+ applications were not yet complete as of last night, according to ICANN.

As of today, over 500 applications remain incomplete in TAS – either a complete application has not been submitted, and/or the full fee has not been paid. If you have not completed your application, we urge you to do so in TAS as quickly as possible.

Let’s hope the upgrades ICANN made to TAS are sufficient to handle a hammering today as so many applicants log in to the system.

ICANN is about as fast as a pregnant elephant

Kevin Murphy, May 24, 2012, Domain Policy

Making a binding policy at ICANN takes about the same amount of time as gestating a human fetus, but only when the organization and community are working at their absolute fastest.

It’s much more often comparable to an elephant pregnancy.

That’s according to a timetable researched by ICANN senior policy director Marika Konings and circulated to the GNSO Council this week.

Konings found that the latest iteration of the GNSO’s Policy Development Process has to last for a bare minimum of 263 days, three days shorter than the average human pregnancy.

However, that deadline would only be met if ICANN staff were fully resourced, all community participants were firing on all cylinders, and there was full agreement about the policy from the outset.

That’s obviously a completely fanciful, largely theoretical scenario.

The more realistic estimated average time for a PDP to run to completion – from the GNSO Council kick-starting the process with a request for an Issue Report to the ICANN board voting to approve or reject the policy – is 620 days, Konings found.

That’s slightly slower than the gestation period of an Asian elephant.

In other words, if some hypothetical policy work were to start in the GNSO today, we could not reasonably expect to see an outcome one way or the other until February 3, 2014.

Konings’ findings were accompanied by an assessment of eight relatively recent PDPs, which took between 415 days and 1,073 days to reach a board vote. The median time was 639 days.

Some GNSO Councilors think ICANN needs a fast-track PDP for no-brainer policies. I tend to agree.

Digital Archery lessons from tonight’s tweet-up

Kevin Murphy, May 22, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN held a Twitter session tonight during which executives answered questions about the new gTLD program in that notoriously restrictive 140-character format.

Unsurprisingly, in light of the frustration borne out of ongoing delays, most of the questions were about timing.

New gTLD applicants wanted to know when ICANN plans to host its Big Reveal event, when the Digital Archery application batching system will open, and when the batches will be confirmed.

The only specific date applicants were given was May 29, which is when ICANN plans to publish its updated program timetable.

But @ICANN gave away enough information to make a broad estimate about the date digital archery will commence.

First, ICANN confirmed that the Big Reveal will be before its public meeting in Prague kicks off on June 23.

ICANN also said that the digital archery process will begin before the reveal day and finish after.

The archery window will be open for about three weeks, we learned.

We can draw some broad conclusions from this information.

The latest possible date for the Big Reveal, given what ICANN said tonight, is June 22 (the Friday before Prague), so the latest possible date for the digital archery window opening is June 21.

In that case, digital archery would run June 21 – July 12, or thereabouts.

Because the archery can’t start before the applications are all submitted, the earliest window would be May 31 – June 20.

My estimates err towards the lower end. I think we’re looking at archery starting within a week of the application window closing and ending immediately before or during Prague.

If ICANN decides that it wants the archery out of the way before the meeting begins, the window could have to open as early as May 31.

If it wants the window to close post-Prague, we’re looking at it opening around June 11.

TAS reopens after humiliating 40 days

Kevin Murphy, May 22, 2012, Domain Policy

Forty days after it was taken offline for a bug fix, ICANN has reopened its TLD Application System, giving new gTLD applicants a week to finish off their applications.

TAS will now close May 30 at 2359 UTC, which is 1559 in California next Wednesday afternoon.

But applicants are being warned that waiting until the final day “may not provide sufficient time to complete all submission steps before the submission period closes.”

The date of the Big Reveal of applications, which I’m now expecting to come at some point before the Prague meeting at the end of June, is likely to be confirmed in the next day or so.

As well as fixing the bug – a data leakage vulnerability that enabled applicants to see each others’ file names, affecting over 150 users – ICANN has made system performance improvements and cleaned up its HTML preview function, in response to user complaints.

Repairing the vulnerability has cost ICANN “hundreds of thousands of dollars” since TAS was taken offline April 12, chief operating officer Akram Atallah estimated last Thursday.

The fact that the system has reopened half a day ahead of the most recently scheduled deadline – it was due to open at 1900 UTC tonight – is unlikely to win ICANN many plaudits.

If the opinions of the opinionated are any guide, the TAS outage has left ICANN with a severe dent in its already patchy reputation, even among fervent supporters.

Atallah and senior vice president Kurt Pritz came in for a pummeling during an ICANN summit attended by registrars and registries, many of them gTLD applicants, late last week.

Several outspoken long-time community members made it clear that their confidence in ICANN’s ability to hit deadlines is at an all-time low.

Expectations of professionalism have increased, as AusRegistry CEO Adrian Kinderis told Atallah, now that ICANN has $350 million of applicant cash in its bank account.

The bug itself may have been as unavoidable and understandable as any bug in new software, but ICANN’s tardiness resolving the problem has left applicant trust in many cases shattered.