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Nominet bill set for UK law

Kevin Murphy, March 25, 2010, Domain Registries

The UK government is set to pass a controversial law that will create powers to regulate domain names more or less arbitrarily and even seize control of the .uk registry.

The Digital Economy Bill is best known for its Draconian anti-piracy provisions, but it also gives the relevant Secretary of State the power to replace Nominet as the .uk registry manager.

To oust Nominet, the secretary of state would have to decide that certain fairly broad criteria had been met. Quoting from the bill’s explanatory notes:

The registry itself, its end-users (that is, owners of or applicants for domain names) or registrars (that is, agents of end-users) have been engaging in practices prescribed in regulations made by the Secretary of State which are unfair or which involve the misuse of internet domain names; or

The registry’s arrangements for dealing with complaints in connection with domain names do not comply with requirements prescribed in regulations made by the Secretary of State.

The practices in question are expected to include: cybersquatting, drop-catching, “pressure sales tactics”, phishing, distributing malware, spamming or “intentionally misleading the public into believing there is a connection between the domain name owner and other organisations”.

Basically, the daily background noise of the internet. (continue reading)

Pornographers still hate .xxx

Kevin Murphy, March 24, 2010, Domain Registries

The Free Speech Coalition, a trade group for the porn industry, has condemned the proposed .xxx top-level domain as “untenable” and “detrimental”.

In a letter to ICANN, FSC executive director Diane Duke challenged ICANN’s board to “settle the issue once and for all by going to the actual community to test the application’s true level of support”.

The FSC is concerned that the introduction of .xxx, as proposed and pursued by ICM Registry for the last 10 years, will inevitably lead to government regulation of the online porn industry.

Duke wrote: “a proposal for a ‘Sponsored’ top-level domain by a company that is not of the industry, with the added intent to ‘regulate’ an industry it knows nothing about, is simply untenable”.

The FSC has an even bigger problem with IFFOR, the International Foundation for Online Responsibility, the group set up by ICM to act as its sponsoring organisation

IFFOR – a bit of a hack to get around the fact that ICM was essentially applying for a gTLD during a “sponsored” TLD round – was loosely modelled on ICANN’s own bottoms-up structure, with four supporting organisations creating policy for .xxx domains.

Judging by this flowchart, which is open to interpretation, the adult industry would control less than half the votes.

“Our resolute position is that no self-respecting industry would ever agree to have a minority voice on a board tasked with setting critical policies for its members,” Duke wrote.

While ICANN ultimately rejected .xxx due to the lack of community support, ICM did manage to get some support from other areas of the adult community back in 2005.

ICANN was found at fault when it rejected .xxx. The question now is whether ICANN decides to stand by its first decision, to approve .xxx, or its second, to reject it.

Bottom line: It can’t win either way.

Colombians not keen on .co grandfathering

Kevin Murphy, March 24, 2010, Domain Registries

Uptake of .co domains among existing .com.co registrants under the current “grandfathering” process has been quite low, according to .CO Internet chief executive Juan Diego Calle.

The formerly restrictive Colombian ccTLD is opening for global registrations soon, but the domain’s roughly 27,000 third-level registrants have already been given the chance to re-register their brands at the second level.

Calle told me earlier that only about 10% to 20% of .com.co registrants have chosen to do so. Grandfathering opened on March 1 and ends next Tuesday.

“Third-level domains are very well recognised in Colombia as a way to show you have a Colombian presence,” Calle said.

The sunrise period for trademark holders begins on April 1. Companies with trademarks registered in Colombia will be given priority, regardless of where the company is based.

I’ll be writing more about the .co launch tomorrow, to be published in a slightly more respectable venue.

Dot-XXX lights fire under ICANN’s feet

Kevin Murphy, March 22, 2010, Domain Registries

ICM Registry has urged ICANN to stop messing around and finalise the contract that would add .xxx to the domain name system.

“There is no legitimate obstacle to the approval of ICM’s registry agreement,” ICM chair Stuart Lawley said in a letter to ICANN yesterday. “We can see no reason for further delay in the process of approving ICM’s registry agreement”.

At its Nairobi meeting earlier this month, ICANN’s board decided to hand the problem of how to handle .xxx to its staff, saying it “wishes to create a transparent set of process options which can be published for public comment.”

ICM now claims that no such process options are necessary. The .post application, Lawley said, was approved last December, six years after it was made, without the need for any new processes.

There are some differences between .post and .xxx, of course. While the .xxx application has previously been approved, it has also previously been rejected.

It is back on the table following an Independent Review Panel decision that ICANN broke its fairness rules by singling out ICM for special treatment.

Lawley reminds ICANN of as much several times in his latest letter, which can be found here.

ICANN’s staff is expected to deliver its process options next week. There will be a period of public comment, and the board will have to make a call by its June meeting in Brussels.

VeriSign creates .tv mini land-rush

Kevin Murphy, March 19, 2010, Domain Registries

Domainers are buzzing with the news that VeriSign has just made tens of thousands of premium .tv names viable for speculation.

The company cut the prices of its premium names and, more importantly, has reset the annual renewal fees for premium domains to the much lower standard flat renewal fee.

Judging from the Namepros forums, a lot of people bought a lot of domains and, potentially, got a lot of very good deals on one-word dictionary or three-letter .tvs.

Some domains appeared to have dropped off the premium list altogether, leading some to speculate that the prices were too good to be true, and that registrar glitches must be responsible.

However, I talked to Chris Sheridan, VP of sales at eNom, a little earlier and he seemed to be of the opinion that the prices were probably legit.

The new lower renewal fees, incidentally, do not appear to apply to previously registered premium .tv names, which is bound to cause angst for some.

I’m not usually much of a speculator, but I took a risk on a couple of cheap dictionary words a couple of hours ago. My new registrar is telling me the registrations were “successful”, but I’ve no idea whether I can believe it.