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The Olympics and the death of the GNSO, part deux

Kevin Murphy, March 26, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s GNSO Council today narrowly voted to approve controversial special brand protections for the Olympic and Red Cross movements in the new gTLD program.

The vote this afternoon was scheduled as an “emergency” measure after the Council’s dramatic showdown at the ICANN public meeting in Costa Rica earlier this month.

Then, the Non-Commercial Stakeholders Group forced a deferral of the vote on the grounds that ICANN’s proper bottom-up policy-making processes had not been followed.

Today, a virtually identical motion barely squeaked through, turning on just a single vote after all six NCSG councilors abstained in protest.

It was a fairly tense discussion, as these things go.

“This is a sham of a proposal cooked up by a couple of lobbyists and shoved down the GNSO’s throat and that’s why I’m abstaining,” said Robin Gross, sitting in for absent councilor Wendy Seltzer.

“I’m abstaining to avoid the downfall of the GNSO Council,” said fellow NCSG councilor Rafik Dammak.

Essentially, the non-coms are upset that the decision to give special protection to the Olympics, Red Cross and Red Crescent appeared to be a top-down mandate from the ICANN board of directors last June.

(The board was itself responding to the demands of its Governmental Advisory Committee, which had been lobbied for special privileges by the organizations in question.)

ICANN policies are supposed to originate in the community, in a bottom-up fashion, but in this case the normal process was “circumvented”, NCSG councilors said.

Rather than bring the issue of special protection to the GNSO constituencies of which they are members, the IOC and Red Cross went directly to national governments in the GAC, they said.

The motion itself is to create a new class of “Modified Reserved Names” for the new gTLD program’s Applicant Guidebook, comprising solely of strings representing the Olympic and Red Cross.

Unlike the current version of the Guidebook, the International Olympic Committee and Red Cresent and Red Cross would actually be able to apply for their own brands as gTLDs.

The Guidebook would also give these Modified Reserved Names the same protection as ICANN itself in terms of string similarity – so Olympus might have a problem if it applies for a dot-brand.

Of course, the GNSO Council resolution does not become law unless it’s approved by the ICANN board of directors and implemented by staff in the Applicant Guidebook.

With the March 29 and April 12 application deadlines approaching, there’s a limited – some might say negligible – amount of time for that to happen if the GNSO’s work is to have any meaning.

That said, ICANN chair Steve Crocker said on more than one occasion during the Costa Rica meeting that he wants the board to be more flexible in its scheduling, so it’s not impossible that we’ll see an impromptu board meeting before Thursday.

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ICANN adds 266 new gTLD applicants in a week

Kevin Murphy, March 24, 2012, Domain Registries

Remember that last-minute rush I was telling you about?

ICANN has revealed that it now has 556 registered users in its Top-Level Domain Application System, up from 290 just a week ago.

Each TAS account can be used to apply for 49 new gTLDs (not 50 as previously reported), so we’re looking at anywhere from 0 to 27,244 new gTLD applications.

Based on what I’ve heard from consultants, I estimate that the true number of applications represented by these 556 accounts could be over 1,000.

Companies applying for dot-brand gTLDs are in many cases also applying for a couple of keyword gTLDs related to their vertical industry too, I hear.

Fairwinds Partners, which has been mostly working with skeptical brands, said this week that its clients on average are applying for 2.7s gTLD each.

Applied across all the TAS accounts registered to date, that would mean 1,501 applications.

The deadline for new TAS registrations is this Thursday, March 29, at 2359 UTC. That’s 1659 in ICANN’s native California and 1959 on America’s east coast.

Remember that while the UK switches from GMT (which is the same as UTC) to BST tomorrow morning, UTC does not observe daylight savings and remains the same.

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M+M joins .music fight

Kevin Murphy, March 23, 2012, Domain Registries

Minds + Machines parent Top Level Domain Holdings has become the third company to publicly confirm an application for the .music top-level domain.

TLDH has partnered with “music industry figures including artists, managers, music producers and lawyers” going by the name of LHL TLD Investment Partners on a joint-venture bid.

M+M will provide the technical back-end for the applicant.

The other two known applicants for .music are Far Further, which has the backing of most major music trade groups, and the long-running MyTLD/Music.us/Roussos Group campaign.

Assuming Roussos and TLDH can each pull one plausible public comment objection out of the bag, Far Further’s Community Priority Evaluation is probably scuppered.

With two objections, a CPE candidate needs a perfect 14/14 score on the remaining criteria, which is likely going to be pretty difficult when you’re applying for such a generic term.

In other new gTLD applicant news…

.miami — TLDH also announced today that it plans to apply for .miami, having secured the support of City of Miami in a 4-0 vote of its commissioners.

.nyc – The city of New York has reportedly granted its consent to Neustar to apply for .nyc, apparently beating out other wannabe applicants including TLDH.

.vlaanderen – The Flemish government has awarded the right to apply for .vlaanderen (.flanders) to DNS.be. The registry will reportedly work with Nic.at on the application.

.nagoya – GMO Registry has announced a bid for the Japanese city gTLD .nagoya, with the backing of the local government. Nagoya is Japan’s third-largest city.

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Today is your first new gTLD deadline

Kevin Murphy, March 23, 2012, Domain Policy

If you’re planning to apply to ICANN for more than one new generic top-level domain and you do not already have a TLD Application System account, today might be your last day to get one.

Go here to get one.

It’s been widely publicized that April 12 is the last day to file a new gTLD application with ICANN.

It’s also been widely publicized that March 29 is the last day to register an account with TAS, which is a prerequisite to filing an application.

A less well-known date is today, March 23, five business days before TAS closes to new registrants.

According to ICANN, organizations applying for more than one gTLD with the same TAS account need to get registered in TAS at least a week before registration closes.

ICANN said this today, in reply to a DI inquiry:

29 March is the deadline for registration.

This means applicants will have until 29 March to request an application.

If the applicant is a new user and wishes to submit only one application, the applicant may initiate and complete the application request on the same day (29 March for example).

If an applicant wishes to submit multiple applications, it will need to initiate the registration process several days in advance of the application window.

The reason being that only registered TAS users may request multiple applications.

The process for becoming a registered TAS user not only includes completing the application request as mentioned, but also the legal review, USD 5000 registration fee payment, reconciliation of the registration fee payment, and receipt of TAS login credentials.

ICANN announced a few weeks ago that “ICANN recommends that organizations wishing to submit several TLD applications under a single TAS user account complete steps 1 and 2 several days (e.g. 5 to 7 business days) in advance of 29 March.”

It seems that if you need to submit multiple new gTLD applications and you haven’t already, you will still be able to do so before March 29, as long as you file them under separate newly created TAS accounts.

But please don’t take my word for it. ICANN’s communications on this particular issue have not been great.

Go check out the official site or contact ICANN if you’re worried.

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Company claims ownership of 482 new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, March 22, 2012, Domain Registries

A small New York company has warned new gTLD applicants that it owns 482 top-level domain strings and that ICANN has “no authority” to award them to anybody else.

Name.Space claims it has ownership rights to potentially valuable gTLDs including several likely to be applied for by others, such as .shop, .nyc, .sex, .hotel and .green.

It’s been operating hundreds of “gTLDs” in a lightly-used alternate DNS root system since 1996.

Now the company has filed for trademark protection for several of these strings and has said that it will apply for several through the ICANN new gTLD program.

But Name.Space, which says it has just “tens of thousands” of domain registrations in its alternate root, is also claiming that it already owns all 482 strings in the ICANN root too.

“What we did is put them on notice that they cannot give any of these 482 names to anyone else,” CEO Alex Mashinsky told DomainIncite. “These names predate ICANN. They don’t have authority under US law to issue these gTLDs to third parties.”

“We’re putting out there the 482 names to make sure other people don’t risk their money applying for things ICANN cannot legally give them,” he added.

I could not find a comprehensive list of all 482 strings, but Name.Space publishes a subset here. Read the company’s full list here (pdf).

It’s a slightly ridiculous position. Anyone can set up an alternative DNS root, fill it with dictionary words and start selling names – the question is whether anyone actually uses it.

However, putting that aside, Name.Space may have a legitimate quarrel with ICANN anyway.

It applied for a whopping 118 gTLDs in ICANN’s initial “test-bed” round in 2000, which produced the likes of .biz, .info, .name and .museum.

While ICANN did not select any of Name.Space’s proposed names for delegation, it did not “reject” its application outright either.

This is going to cause problems. Name.Space is not the only unsuccessful 2000 applicant that remains pissed off 12 years later that ICANN has not closed the book on its application.

Image Online Design, an alternate root provider and 2000 applicant, has a claim to .web that is likely to emerge as an issue for other applicants after the May 2 reveal date.

These unsuccessful candidates are unhappy that they’ve been repeatedly told that their old applications were not rejected, and with the privileges ICANN has given them in the current Applicant Guidebook.

ICANN will give any unsuccessful bidder from the 2000 round an $86,000 discount on its application fees, provided they apply for the same string they applied for the first time.

However, like any other applicant this time around, they also have to sign away their rights to sue.

And the $86,000 discount is only redeemable against one gTLD application, not 118.

“We applied for 118 and we would like to get the whole 118,” said Mashinsky.

ICANN is not going to give Name.Space what it wants, of course, so it’s not clear how this is going to play out.

The company could file Legal Rights Objections against applications for strings it thinks it owns, or it could take matters further.

While the company is not yet making legal threats, any applicants for gTLDs on Name.Space’s list should be aware that they do have an additional risk factor to take into account.

“We hope we can resolve all of this amicably,” said Mashinsky. “We’re not trying to throw a monkey wrench into the process.”

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