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Trademark+50 coming in October

Kevin Murphy, September 10, 2013, Domain Policy

The controversial “Trademark+50” anti-cybersquatting service for new gTLDs is set to go live October 11 or thereabouts, ICANN announced last night.

Trademark+50 is the name given to a function of the Trademark Clearinghouse that enables trademark owners to obtain protection for strings that they’ve previously won at UDRP proceedings.

The service will be limited to 50 strings per trademark, with the total number of strings only limited by the total number of trademarks submitted.

ICANN said:

Rights holders may submit these domain name labels for association with existing Clearinghouse records as early as 11 October 2013. Once previously-abused labels have been verified, they will be integrated into the Trademark Claims service. ICANN expects this to occur by 18 October 2013, ahead of the earliest anticipated new gTLD Claims period.

In July at ICANN’s meeting in Durban, an IBM rep said that a Trademark+50 launch would be “difficult to reach before the middle of September”, which seems to have proven correct.

Pricing for Trademark+50, which we assume will entail a great degree of manual validation, does not appear to have been published yet.

Strings added to the IBM-run TMCH database under Trademark+50 will be eligible for Trademark Claims notifications, but not Sunrise periods, when new gTLDs launch.

Critics have repeatedly raised Trademark+50 as an example of ICANN going outside of its usual community-based policy-development processes in order to push through an unpopular mechanism.

Non-commercial users have criticized the system because it assumes that all strings won at UDRP are inherently cybersquatty, whereas the UDRP itself also requires the domain to have been used in bad faith.

Trademark owners have been able to submit their marks to the TMCH for several months, but Trademark+50 was a later addition to the new gTLD program’s rights protection mechanisms.

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Government forces Nominet into ludicrous porn review

Kevin Murphy, September 9, 2013, Domain Policy

Should Nominet ban dirty words from the .uk namespace?

Obviously not, but that’s nevertheless the subject of a formal policy review announced by Nominet today, forced by pressure from the British government and the Murdoch press.

Nominet said it has hired Ken MacDonald, former director of public prosecutions, to carry out the review.

He’s tasked with recommending whether certain “offensive” words and phrases should be banned from the .uk zone.

According to Nominet, MacDonald’s qualifications include his role as a trustee of the pro-free-speech Index on Censorship and a human rights audit he carried out for the Internet Watch Foundation, the UK’s child abuse material watchdog.

Nominet said:

Lord Macdonald will work with Nominet’s policy team to conduct a series of meetings with key stakeholders, and to review and assess wider contributions from the internet community, which should be received by 4 November 2013. The goal is to deliver a report to Nominet’s board in December of this year, which will be published shortly thereafter.

You can contribute here.

The review was promised by Nominet in early August following an article in the Sunday Times, subsequently cribbed quite shamelessly by the Daily Mail, which highlighted the fact that Nominet’s policies do not ban strings suggesting extreme or illegal pornography.

You may recall a rant-and-a-half DI published at the time.

While my rant was written without the benefit of any input from Nominet — I didn’t speak to anyone there before publishing it — it appears that Nominet already had exactly the same concerns as me.

The company has published a set of lightly redacted correspondence (pdf) between itself and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport which makes for extremely illuminating reading.

In a July 23 letter to DCMS minister Ed Vaizey, Nominet CEO Lesley Cowley uses many of the same arguments — even giving the same examples — as I did a week later. She was much more polite, of course.

She points out that as a matter of principle it probably should not be left to a private company such as Nominet to determine what is and isn’t acceptable content, and that it’s difficult to tell what the content of a site will be at the point the domain is registered anyway.

In relation to the questions of practicality, the permutations of offensive words and phrases that can be created in the 63 characters of a domain name are almost limitless, so the creation of some kind of exclusion list would ultimately not prevent offensive phrases being registered as domain names. Were we to have a set of words or phrases that could not be registered, we would likely end up restricting many legitimate registrations. A good example is Scunthorpe.co.uk, which contains an offensive term within the domain name, or therapist.co.uk which could be read in more than one way.

She also points out that domains such as “childabuse.co.uk”, which may on the face of it cause concern, actually just redirect to the NSPCC, the UK’s main child abuse prevention charity.

The real eye-opening correspondence discusses the Sunday Times article that first compelled Vaizey to lean on Nominet.

As I discussed in my rant, it was based on the musings of just one guy, a purported expert in internet safety called John Carr, who once worked for the IWF and now apparently advises the government.

The examples of “offensive” domains he had supplied the Sunday Times with, I discovered, were either unregistered or contained no illegal content whatsoever.

Nominet’s correspondence contains several more .uk domains that Carr had given the newspaper, and they’re even less “offensive” than the “rape”-oriented ones it eventually published.

The domains are teens‐adult‐sex‐chat.co.uk, teendirtychat.co.uk, teens.demandadult.co.uk, teenfuckbook.co.uk and ukteencamgirls.co.uk, all of which Nominet found contained legal over-18s pornography.

One of them is even owned by Playboy.

Carr, it seems, didn’t even provide the Sunday Times or Nominet privately with any domains that suggest illegal content in the string and actually contain it in the site.

Judging by the emails between Nominet’s PR people (which, admittedly, may not be the best place to obtain an objective viewpoint) the Sunday Times reporter was “not interested in the complexity of the issue” and:

has taken a very hostile stance and is broadly of the view that the internet industry is not doing enough to stop offensive (legal) content.

The Sunday Times’ downmarket sister publication, The Sun, is famous primarily for printing topless photographs of 18-year-old women (in the 1980s it was 16-year-old girls) on Page 3 every day.

The Sun, the UK’s best-selling daily, is currently resisting a valiant effort by British feminists, which I wholeheartedly support, to have Page 3 scrapped.

In other words, the level of media hypocrisy, government idiocy and registry cowardice that came together to create the MacDonald review is quite outstanding.

Still, Nominet in recent years has proven itself pretty good at making sure its independent reviews turn out the way it wants them to, so it’s looking fairly promising that this one is likely to conclude that banning rude words would be impractical and pointless.

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Angry Birds backing two Chinese-language gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, September 9, 2013, Domain Registries

The Finnish/Irish new gTLD applicant TLD Registry Ltd has signed two ICANN Registry Agreements, covering the Chinese strings .在线 (.online) and .中文网 (a phrase meaning “Chinese language website”).

The deals were signed yesterday, but the news is set to be formally announced in Beijing on Tuesday by the Finnish prime minister, Jyrki Katainen, who’s on a state visit to the country.

He’ll be joined by Peter Vesterbacka, chief marketing officer of Angry Birds maker Rovio Entertainment, which is supporting TLD Registry as the first announced member of its “founders program”.

The two new agreements mean ICANN has now contractual powers over more new gTLDs (19) than legacy ones (18).

TLD Registry CEO Arto Isokoski told DI this morning that 在线 and 中文网 are already extremely well-known and widely-used phrases on the Chinese internet.

“在线” is the direct translation of “online” and “中文网” is what Chinese web users instinctively type when they’re searching for the Chinese-language version of a foreign brand’s web site, he said.

“It surprises me as well that these were not contested,” Isokoski said. “These are the strings that Chinese users type in when they’re looking for web sites online.”

Both TLDs will be open to registrants anywhere in the world, though .中文网 seems to be particularly suited for brands from the ASCII parts of the world, looking to improve SEO in the country.

Isokoski said that the company hopes to take .在线 and .中文网 to market early next year. If the strings are delegated in early November, then general availability could start in mid-January, he said.

Depending on ICANN delays, the launch schedule may have to be moved back to February or March in order to avoid the “dead period” around Chinese New Year, which starts in late January, he said.

The most directly competitive gTLD would be .网址, an arguably superior string meaning roughly “website”, which is now out of contention and likely to sign its own contract soon.

Two other Chinese gTLDs, both owned by Donuts, have ICANN contracts already — .游戏 (games) and .企业 (business).

Isokoski said that TLD Registry hopes to have about 20 members of its founders program (included Rovio, which is Finnish but makes games wildly popular in China) and about 20 launch registrars.

Like other IDN gTLD registries, the company is hoping that its first-to-market advantage will give its marketing a lift due to the extra media interest.

TLD Registry is based in Ireland, near its back-end provider Afilias, but was founded by Finns. Afilias alum Pinky Brand is managing registrar relationships for the company.

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Famous Four says that Demand Media’s .cam should be rejected

Kevin Murphy, September 6, 2013, Domain Policy

Demand Media’s application for .cam should be rejected because it lost a String Confusion Objection filed by .com registry Verisign, according to rival applicant Famous Four Media.

“The process in the applicant guidebook is now clear: AC Webconnecting and dot Agency Limited proceed to resolve the contention set, and United TLD’s application cannot proceed,” chief legal officer Peter Young told DI.

dot Agency is Famous Four’s applicant for .cam, which along with AC Webconnecting survived identical challenges filed by Verisign. United TLD is the applicant subsidiary of Demand Media.

Serious questions were raised about the SCO process after two International Centre for Dispute Resolution panelists reached opposition conclusions in the three .cam/.com cases last month.

Demand Media subsequently called for an ICANN investigation into the process, with vice president Statton Hammock writing:

String confusion objections are meant to be applicant agnostic and have nothing to do with the registration or use of the new gTLD.

However, Famous Four thinks it has found a gotcha in a letter (pdf) written by a lawyer representing Demand which opposed consolidation of the three .cam cases, which stated:

Consolidation has the potential to prejudice the Applicants if all Applicants’ arguments are evaluated collectively, without regard to each Applicant’s unique plan for the .cam gTLD and their arguments articulating why such plans would not cause confusion.

In other words, Demand argued that the proposed usage of the TLD should be taken into account before the ICDR panel ruled against it, and now it saying usage should not have been taken into account.

Famous Four’s Young said:

Whether or not one ascribes to the view that usage should not be taken into account, and we believe that it should (otherwise we would not have argued it), the fact is that United TLD were very explicit prior to the publication that usage should indeed be taken into account.

The SCO debate expanded yesterday when the GNSO Council spent some time discussing .cam and other SCO discrepancies during its regular monthly meeting.

Concerns are such that the Council intends to inform the ICANN board of directors and its New gTLD Program Committee that it is looking into the issue.

The NGPC, has “Update on String Similarity” on its agenda for a meeting on Tuesday, which will no doubt try to figure out what, if anything, needs to be done.

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Five gTLDs fail the geo test, but .banque passes IE

Kevin Murphy, September 6, 2013, Domain Registries

Five new gTLD applications failed their Initial Evaluation this week after being ruled “geographic”, according to results just published by ICANN.

The big name failure is Tata Group, the $100 billion-a-year Indian conglomerate, which had its bid for .tata put on hold because (presumably) its name matches the name of a tiny Moroccan province.

TUI AG, a €17.5 billion-a-year Germany-based travel group, also failed to pass the geo test with its bid for .tui, which matches the name of province of Burkina Faso.

Both of these applications were highlighted in our July 2012 article “20 new gTLD applications that think they’re not geographic, but are”.

Guangzhou YU Wei Information Technology failed on geographic grounds with three applications which match the names of Chinese provinces: .深圳, .佛山 and .广州.

Under ICANN rules, if your string matches a name of an administrative region of a country, you need support or a letter of non-objection from that country’s government.

All three applicants now have Extended Evaluation to try again to secure this support.

Also today, Gexban’s application for .banque got a passing IE score. It’s uncontested but has outstanding Governmental Advisory Committee advice standing in the way of contracting with ICANN.

While ICANN formally closed its IE process last week, it’s still mopping up the stragglers. Today, 23 applications remain in Initial Evaluation.

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