ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade has distanced himself from comments in which he seemed to equate domain investing with “cybersquatting”.
In January, Chehade said in a Huffington Post interview that new gTLDs would help prevent domain “hogging”, which was widely interpreted as his taking a dim view of domaining.
When asked about his remarks last month, he did not backtrack.
Now he has backtracked, responding to an angry letter from the Internet Commerce Association, which represents many of the largest domainers.
In March 24 letter (pdf) published over the weekend, Chehade said that he interpreted the HuffPo interviewer’s question to refer to the practice of registries holding back premium domains, rather than secondary market activity:
I regret that the ICA interpreted some of my comments in the interview as expressing a “disdainful view” of domain investing. As you might have gathered from the reporter’s questions, some people have asked whether the new gTLD program might have created an opportunity for “land grabb[ing]” by industry insiders. It was not my impression that the question being asked referred to established practices in the secondary market; rather, I believe the reporter was inquiring about some of the very practices by registries you cited in your letter. My response — that alternatives are available in different gTLDs — was intended to try to allay the concern that the program was creating artificial scarcity of domains, not to criticize participants in the marketplace.
Was this a fair interpretation of the interviewer’s question? Is this just a misunderstanding?
Watch the two-minute video above to make up your own mind.
Addressing the ICA’s concerns that he had equated domain investing with cyberquatting, Chehade wrote:
We are in complete agreement that there is a very important legal distinction between registering generically-termed domain names and cybersquatting.
A convicted fraudster reportedly escaped from a UK prison by typosquatting.
Neil Moore was serving time on remand when he used a smuggled mobile phone to register a domain name that looked a lot like that of the UK court service, according to local media reports.
The domain, registered last March, was hmcts-gsi-gov.org.uk, a typo of the genuine hmcts.gsi.gov.uk.
Had Moore registered the name after last June, when Nominet enabled direct second-level .uk registrations, he would have been able to get a much more convincing typo.
He populated the Whois with the name of his case’s investigating officer and the address for the Royal Courts of Justice.
He then emailed the prison from his new domain with instructions for his bail.
Prison staff fell for it and he was released.
The scam went unnoticed for three days until his lawyers went to interview him. He handed himself back in to police hours later.
Moore was in prison for socially engineering over £1.8 million ($2.6 million) out of major firms by pretending to be bank staff.
He’s fessed up to several counts of fraud and one count of escape from lawful custody. He’ll be sentenced in April.
Intellectual property interests have asked ICANN to put an immediate stop to the roll-out of the .sucks new gTLD.
A letter to Global Domains Division president Akram Atallah, sent by the Intellectual Property Constituency this evening and seen by DI, calls the registry’s plans, which include an “exorbitant” $2,500 sunrise fee, a “shakedown scheme”.
It’s also emerged that Vox Populi, the .sucks registry, has agreed to pay ICANN up to a million dollars in mysterious fees that apply to no other new gTLD registry.
The IPC letter states.
the Intellectual Property Constituency is formally asking ICANN to halt the rollout of the .SUCKS new gTLD operated by Vox Populi Registry Inc. (“Vox Populi”), so that the community can examine the validity of Vox Populi’s recently announced plans to: (1) to categorize TMCH-registered marks as “premium names,” (2) charge exorbitant sums to brand owners who seek to secure a registration in .SUCKS, and (3) conspire with an (alleged) third party to “subsidize” a complaint site should brand owners fail to cooperate in Vox Populi’s shakedown scheme.
Vox Populi intends to take .sucks to sunrise on Monday, so the IPC wants ICANN to take immediate action.
The high price of registration, the IPC believes, will discourage trademark owners from using the sunrise period to defensively register their marks.
Meanwhile, the registry’s plan to make the domains available for $10 under a “Consumer Advocate Subsidy”, will encourage cybersquatting, the IPC says.
by discouraging trademark owners from using a key RPM, we believe that the registry operator’s actions in establishing this predatory scheme are complicit in, and encourage bad faith registrations by third parties at the second level of the .SUCKS gTLD, and thus drastically increase the likelihood of trademark infringement, all for commercial gain
The letter goes on to say that Vox Populi may be in violation of its registry contract and the Post-Delegation Dispute Resolution Policy, which was created to prevent registries turning a blind eye to mass cybersquatting.
There’s also a vague threat of legal action for contributory trademark infringement.
The IPC has particular beef with the registry’s Sunrise Premium program. This is a list of strings — mostly trademarks — that have been defensively registered in earlier sunrise periods.
Sunrise Premium names will always cost $2,500, even after sunrise, when registered by the trademark owner.
The IPC says:
Vox Populi is targeting and punishing brand owners who have availed themselves of the RPMs or shown that they are susceptible to purchasing defensive registrations… This will have a chilling effect on TMCH registrations and consequently discredit all of the New gTLD Program RPMs in the eyes of brand owners, whose buy-in and adoption of new gTLDs is widely acknowledged to be critical to the success of the new gTLD program.
Finally, and perhaps more disturbingly, the IPC has discovered that the .sucks registry agreement calls for Vox Populi to pay ICANN up to a million dollars in extra fees.
As well as the usual $25,000-a-year fee and $0.25 per-transaction fee, .sucks has already paid ICANN a $100,000 “registry access fee” and has promised to pay a $1 “registry administration fee” per transaction on its first 900,000 domains.
Its contract states:
Registry Operator shall also pay ICANN (i) a one-time fixed registry access fee of US$100,000 as of the Effective Date of this Agreement, and (ii) a registry administration fee of US$1.00 for each of the first 900,000 Transactions. For the avoidance of doubt, the registry administration fee shall not be subject to the limitations of the Transaction Threshold.
This makes ICANN look absolutely terrible.
What the hell is a “registry access fee”? What’s a “registry administration fee”?
One guess would be that it’s ICANN stocking up its legal defense fund, suspecting the kerfuffle .sucks is going to cause.
But by taking the Vox Pop shilling, ICANN has opened itself up to accusations that it’s complicit in the “shakedown”.
If it does not block .sucks (which was probably the most likely outcome even without mysterious fees) the IPC and other .sucks critics will be able to point to the $1 million as a “bribe”.
The behavior is not without precedent, however.
There’s a reason ICM Registry pays ICANN a $2 fee for every .xxx registration, rather than the much lower fees charged to other gTLD registries.
Read the IPC letter here.
ICANN’s projection that new gTLDs will see renewals of between 25% and 50% is not based on empirical data from new gTLD registries.
The predictions, which come in under industry standard expectations, are “conservative and somewhat subjective”, ICANN said.
The organization last week revealed that its 2016 budget is partly based on a high estimate of 50% renewals, with 25% for registries that gave their domains away for free.
Because ICANN would have been in possession of actual registry transaction reports for February at the time of publication, I wondered whether the 50% number was anchored in early new gTLD registries’ actual experience.
Transaction reports give the actual number of renewals each registry gets in any given month.
But ICANN told DI today that its 2016 budget was “produced in November 2014 and reviewed in January 2015 by the GDD Domain Name Services team.”
An ICANN spokesperson said:
These projections are strictly for revenue planning, so they are rather conservative and somewhat subjective. We have limited historical data to refer to when examining new gTLD domain name renewals; these are uncharted waters.
As renewals occur, we will be in a better position to refine our assumptions when and if the actual data varies widely from what we have assumed in our model.
ICANN has confirmed to new gTLD registries that governments now get to unilaterally block two-letter domains that match their home ccTLDs.
The organization has essentially given nations a veto — already enthusiastically exercised — over domains including il.army, it.pizza and fr.domains.
I’m not making this up. The Italian government has banned anyone from registering it.pizza.
Governments have already started invoking their new-found right, with dozens of domains already heading to the block-list.
The veto was revealed in a letter from Akram Atallah, president of ICANN’s Global Domains Division, to the Registries Stakeholder Group yesterday.
It has not been published yet, but I’ve had its contents confirmed by a few registries and I understand the RySG mailing list is buzzing about it today.
In it, Atallah says that two-letter strings that do not receive objections from the government with the matching ccTLD will be released within seven to 10 days of comment periods closing.
However, strings that do receive objections will remain blocked.
For labels that receive objections from relevant governments, the labels will remain reserved. Should the registry operator and the objecting government reach an agreement regarding the release of the label, the registry operator shall notify ICANN that it has reached agreement, and ICANN will approve the release request and issue an authorization. The label will no longer be a reserved name.
until there is Consensus Policy or a Board Resolution on this matter, ICANN can only follow the process outlined above. ICANN encourages further community discussions to resolve this matter, and until then, negotiation between the objector and the registry operator as a means to release this class of labels from the reserved names list.
New gTLD registries believe, as they explained in a recent letter (pdf), that neither ccTLD operators nor their governments own these two-character strings. They believe ICANN is creating new rights.
So far, two-character domains have been banned by default in all new gTLDs. It was kind of a placeholder policy in order to get the new gTLD program launched a few years ago.
ICANN did enable the release of letter-number, number-letter and number-number strings in December, but made letter-letter combinations subject to government comments.
Following a GAC outcry last month, the comment periods were extended.
All comments were to be “fully considered”, but it wasn’t clear what that meant until the RySG asked and Atallah replied yesterday.
Some governments are already using the comment period to exercise their new veto.
The European Commission, for example, has objected to eu.credit, eu.creditcard, eu.auction, eu.casino, eu.bingo and eu.law.
The basis for the EU objections is in most of the cases: “The new TLD at hand corresponds to a regulated market in many EU countries. Its release might generate confusion and possible abuses at the end users level.”
It’s a wonder that the EU doesn’t seem to care about those strings in its own .eu ccTLD, where they’re all registered by people that I suspect may lack credentials.
Does credit.eu look to you like the registrant is a credentialed member of a regulated financial services industry? If he was, he may be able to afford a better web site.
The Commission also objects to eu.community, because:
the terms “EU Community” or “European Community” are widely used
That is true, which makes me wonder why the EU is allowing community.eu to languish parked at Sedo. You’d have to ask the Commission.
Israel, meanwhile, objects to il.casino, il.bingo, il.law, il.chat, il.bible, il.country, il.airforce, il.navy and il.army
The Vietnamese ccTLD registry has objected to several vn. domains, but it’s not clear to me whether it has veto authority.
Italy has objected to it.pizza, it.bingo and it.casino. Really, Italy? You’re objecting to “it.pizza”?
Côte d’Ivoire objects to all ci. domains.
Spain objects to es.casino, es.bingo and es.abogado.
Again, I invite you to check out bingo.es and casino.es and make a judgement as to whether the registrants are licensed gambling establishments.
Taiwan has vetoed the release of .tw in all city gTLDs (such as tw.london, tw.berlin etc) over a “concern that the release of above-mentioned domain names may cause the degradation of statehood”.
France has objected to “fr” in .archi, .army, .airforce, .bank, .bet, .bio, .casino, .cloud, .dentist, .doctor, .domains, .finance, .lawyer, .navy and .sarl.
Again again, several of these domains are just parked if you flip the words to the other side of the dot.
As a reminder, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade said recently:
Come on guys, do not apply rules that you’re not using today to these new folks simply because it’s easy, because you can come and raise flags here at ICANN. Let’s be fair.