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Sex.com sale gets September 28 deadline

Kevin Murphy, September 9, 2010, Domain Sales

The private sale of sex.com will close by September 28, Sedo announced today.

I believe this is the first time the company has put a hard deadline for a deal to be made. It’s been handling the sale since May.

The company is still soliciting buyers, which makes me wonder whether it’s struggling to find a buyer with sufficiently deep pockets.

Sedo director of sales Kathy Nielsen said in a press release:

Sex.com has a proven revenue model that will enable its next owner to quickly build on past success. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own a domain that will instantly expand the visibility of a brand, position a company as a leader in its market, and generate tremendous natural traffic.

The company has previously told buyers that they need to stump up a $1 million deposit in order to enter negotiations.

The last time the storied domain changed hands, the price tag was a cool $14 million.

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dotFree to allow pre-registrations October 1

Kevin Murphy, September 8, 2010, Domain Registries

The dotFree Group, which plans to apply for the top-level domain .free, plans to start allowing pre-registrations from October 1, this year.

While .xxx has had an open pre-registration period for years, I believe .free is the first of the next round of new TLD applicants to offer a similar pre-launch phase.

It would be well over a year from now before .free would be able to actually start taking live registrations, assuming its application was even successful.

The Czech company has just relaunched its web site with a new look and new information. It appears to be closely modelled on the .CO Internet site, even copying big chunks of text in some cases.

It also includes a page targeting registrars, containing this text:

How much do I earn for every free registered .FREE domain?

We plan to pay each reseller $0.05 for every .FREE domain name which was referred to us. The definitive reseller commission is still under review.

Now there’s a way to get Go Daddy beating down your door.

It’s not much of an incentive, and it suggests that dotFree isn’t planning on targeting a traditional registrar channel, at least as far as the free .free domains go.

If you can make a recurring $10 mark-up (my estimate) on a .co domain, or a one-off $0.05 on a .free, which TLD would get your store-front real estate?

However, as I’ve previously reported, not all .free domains will be free, so there may yet be opportunities for the ICANN-accredited registrar market.

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RapidShare loses rapid.org case

Kevin Murphy, September 8, 2010, Domain Policy

RapidShare has failed to grab the domain name rapid.org with a UDRP complaint.

The WIPO decision, sent to me this morning by the current registrant, found both an absence of confusing similarity and a lack of bad faith.

Panelist Matthew Harris recently handed rapidpiracy.com to RapidShare on the grounds that the domain was conceptually similar to the RapidShare trademark.

He found no such similarity on this occasion.

Insofar as there is similarity, it resides in the common use of the word “rapid” alone. On the evidence before the Panel, this is insufficient. The Complainants have failed to satisfy the requirements of paragraph 4(a)(i) of the Policy.

Rapid.org, prior to the filing of the complaint, was a web forum devoted to sharing download links for pirated movies, music and so on. RapidShare used this fact to try to prove bad faith.

But the panelist focused instead on registration dates, observing that the domain was first registered in September 2003, years before RapidShare acquired its trademark rights.

The Complainants do not point to a trade mark registration that pre-dates September 2003. In the circumstances, the Complainants’ apparent assertion that its trade mark rights pre-date the Domain Name registration appears to be simply false.

RapidShare appears to have missed a trick here.

Harris wrote that there was no evidence before him that the domain was first registered in 2001, as the registrant had claimed, and that there was no evidence that the domain had changed hands since then.

A quick search on DomainTools shows that rapid.org was indeed first registered in 2001, and that the current registrant probably only acquired it some time in 2009.

Why Harris was not given this information is probably due to RapidShare’s oversight, but it could have led to a finding of bad faith (not that this would have changed the ultimate outcome).

Amusingly, the decision also refers to the Russian registrant, Ilya Efimov, as a woman throughout. He assures me that, like all Ilya’s, he’s male.

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.CO landrush auctions top $1 million

Kevin Murphy, September 8, 2010, Domain Sales

According to my calculations, the total value of announced .co landrush auction sales has now topped $1 million, helped in part by the recent sale of Aspen.co for $22,500.

I’m currently aware of over 250 reported sales from the official registry auction, which is only about 10% of the total number of contested landrush applications.

These domains fetched a total of $1,125,932. The average sales price is over $4,400.

Here’s a list of the 30-odd most recently reported sales.

aspen.co – $22,500
myhealth.co – $18,500
allergy.co – $16,286
jackpot.co – $12,500
locksmith.co – $10,000
zoom.co – $10,000
breckenridge.co – $8,499
mall.co – $8,350
see.co – $8,300
pens.co – $8,200
fairfield.co – $7,210
groceries.co – $6,600
assessment.co – $6,437
backup.co – $6,310
llc.co – $5,200
mylawyer.co – $5,100
apparel.co – $4,782
america.co – $4,050
continental.co – $3,972
mark.co – $3,900
cheapinsurance.co – $3,600
steamboat.co – $3,600
motivate.co – $3,500
rooms.co – $3,175
jewellery.co – $3,162
honey.co – $3,150
handbag.co – $3,100
cooks.co – $3,090
cola.co – $2,900
travels.co – $2,830
neem.co – $2,800
rafting.co – $2,600

.CO Internet does not disclose the sales of domains with “adult” themes, but its possible to infer from Whois data some of the domains that it probably auctioned.

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ICANN replaces three directors

Kevin Murphy, September 8, 2010, Domain Policy

ICANN has named Cherine Chalaby, Bertrand de La Chapelle and Erika Mann as the new members of its board of directors.

The three will replace current vice-chair Dennis Jennings, along with Harald Tveit Alvestrand and Jean-Jacques Subrenat, whose terms expire next month.

Under ICANN bylaws, Jennings, Alvestrand and Subrenat could have served two additional three-year terms, but I do not know whether any of them applied to do so.

The ICANN Nominating Committee, which was responsible for selecting the new directors, highlighted the fact that the board is getting its first Arabic-speaking member.

That’s Egyptian Cherine Chalaby. I must confess I’d never heard of him either. Google tells me he has a tech/consulting background, and works for a UK-based investment bank.

ICANN has had a couple of minor run-ins with Arabic members of the community recently, such as over the the delegation of Arabic-script ccTLDs, which came in for criticism.

There was also a small flare-up over the random inclusion of an anti-terrorism clause in the new gTLD application process, which led to (in my view overblown) accusations of insensitivity.

NomCom chair Wolfgang Kleinwaechter said the appointment of Chalaby “underlines the importance of further internationalization of ICANN.”

The appointment of Bertrand de La Chapelle, who becomes the first second person to leave the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee to join the board, is also particularly interesting.

De La Chapelle is France’s GAC representative, and one of the most vocal members of the committee.

In my view, he’s currently the GAC rep doing the most to build bridges with the rest of the community over the tricky “morality and public order” policy process. The board’s gain is the GAC’s loss.

Clearly serious about his new role, de La Chapelle said he will quit his job as “Thematic Ambassador and Special Envoy for the Information Society in the French Foreign and European Affairs Ministry” and look for other sources of funding.

German Erika Mann joins the board after a 15-year stint as a Member of the European Parliament, sitting in the Socialist group. She speaks four languages and once ran her own IT consultancy.

According to her CV, she was an expert in ICANN matters between 1985 and 1994, which is almost supernaturally impressive.

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ICANN surveys – Fail or Win?

Kevin Murphy, September 6, 2010, Domain Policy

A couple of times this year, ICANN has supplemented its regular email public comment periods with quicker, easier point-and-click surveys.

I assume they were designed to more clearly communicate the issues and increase response rates. In some respects they seem to have been a success, in others, not so much.

First, the Win.

Of the two comment periods I’ve looked at – on the Post-Expiration Domain Name Recovery policy and ICANN’s public meetings strategy – response rates were definitely up on what you would normally expect to see.

The PEDNR report solicited 10 regular email comments and a whopping 412 survey responses. The meetings survey had three emailed comments and 297 survey responses.

Judging from the PEDNR summary and analysis report, which breaks down the actual responses, the majority of respondents had something of value to say for most of the questions posed.

(It also reveals that I was the first person to take the survey. Take that, Kirikos!)

The majority of responses came from Germanic-sounding names, so I’m guessing there was some outreach in a German-language forum somewhere. Due to this fact, some respondents confessed to not fully understanding some of the English-only questions.

Now, the Fail.

The survey conducted to gauge feeling on ICANN policy for deciding meeting locations has produced some incomprehensible data. Take this, for example:

Considerations in choosing a host city
246 voters replied:
591 or 40% felt that Facilities were most important
399 or 27% felt that Convenience of meeting location and cost for both ICANN and attendees most important
495 or 33% felt that Safety and Security were most important

So… 246 people voted, but 1,485 votes are tallied?

A few more questions had similar anomalies in their results, rendering the data pretty much worthless. It’s reproduced by ICANN regardless, and without comment.

I suspect the survey provider, BigPulse, may have some of the blame, although it can’t have helped that the ICANN survey itself was reportedly highly confusing.

The PEDNR survey was conducted using Zoomerang. I do not recall having any trouble using it.

On balance I’d say that, teething troubles aside, surveys make a nice complement to public comment periods, provided that, due to the risk of “framing”, they do not carry too much weight.

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Opponents pick holes in .jobs auction plan

Kevin Murphy, September 6, 2010, Domain Registries

A coalition of jobs web sites has accused Employ Media of trying to violate its own charter with its proposal to open up the .jobs namespace to all-comers.

The newly formed .JOBS Charter Compliance Coalition wants ICANN to reverse its approval of the proposal, which would largely liberalize the .jobs domain.

The ad hoc group, made up of dozens of organizations including the International Association of Employment Web Sites, Monster.com and the Newspapers Association of America, wrote:

ICANN is sanctioning a registry operator’s decision to disregard the commitments contained in its charter, which is the fundamental basis upon which the sTLD was awarded.

ICANN approved Employ Media’s “phased allocation program” last month. It allows the company to loosen its previously restrictive policies on who can register domain names and for what purposes.

The first phase of the program, a request for proposals, has already launched. It would assign premium generic .jobs domains to companies willing to offer interesting business partnerships.

It’s seen by some as an obvious smokescreen for Employ Media to hand thousands of domains to the DirectEmployers Association, which plans a huge free jobs portal called Universe.jobs.

The new Coalition is against this plan, and has submitted a paper (pdf) to ICANN claiming to show how the RFP proves Employ Media wants to violate its sponsorship charter.

Its argument seems to boil down to the fact that the charter limits registrations to active human resources professionals, and that the DEA, like members of the Coaltion, does not fall into that strictly defined category.

The document was filed as an addendum to the Coalition’s reconsideration request, which itself was filed with ICANN last month before the Employ Media RFP was published.

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.SO launch date is November 1

Kevin Murphy, September 6, 2010, Domain Registries

.SO Registry, the manager of Somalia’s .so country-code top-level domain, has named November 1 as the opening date for sunrise registrations.

The launch plan has been published here. Until the weekend, the organization has just said that it would open in autumn.

The ccTLD is to be unrestricted, along the same lines as .co, but the launch schedule is a little different to the one offered by .CO Internet, with no phases running in parallel.

Trademark holders can file sunrise applications, which will cost a minimum of $90 for a three-year registration, for the month of November. Domains with multiple applications will be auctioned in the first half of December.

Landrush applications will run from December 16 to February 9 at $10 per year. Contested domains will be auctioned February 10 to 28. General availability is slated for March 1, 2011, also with a registry fee of $10.

Other than that, there’s scant information currently available on the .SO Registry web site. Notably, there’s currently nothing about UDRP or other dispute resolution procedures.

The ccTLD has been delegated to Somalia’s Ministry of Post and Telecommunications since April 2009, but the registry is reportedly being handled by GMO Registry, the Japanese company already tapped to handle Canon’s .canon and its own .shop application.

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WIPO suggests RapidShare might own “rapid” after all

Kevin Murphy, September 3, 2010, Domain Policy

RapidShare has won a UDRP complaint against the owner of rapidpiracy.com, after the WIPO panelist apparently went against recent precedent.

As I’ve been reporting for a while now, RapidShare has been trying to clean up its brand by filing UDRP complaints on domains that contain its trademark.

In pretty much all cases the offending domain hosts a web site containing links to copyrighted material hosted on rapidshare.com and other file-sharing services.

In most cases, the domain also includes the word “rapidshare”, which the company has trademarked.

In July, a WIPO panelist rejected RapidShare’s claim on rapidbay.net, concluding that the words “rapidbay” and “rapidshare” were not sufficiently alike to warrant an “identical or confusingly similar” finding.

Now, a different WIPO panelist has come to the opposite conclusion, finding for the complainant in the case of rapidpiracy.com; “rapidshare” and “rapidpiracy” are apparently confusingly similar.

Acknowledging the precedent could have been “fatal” to RapidShare’s case, Matthew Harris drew a distinction, arguing that “piracy” and “share” are conceptually similar, whereas “bay” was not.

it is not fanciful to suggest the term “rapidpiracy” can be read as involving a conceptual allusion to the Complainants’ mark (perhaps suggesting an illegal version of the Complainants’ services).

He backed this argument by pointing to the fact that there were three references to RapidShare on the first page of rapidpiracy.com, before the complaint was filed.

In short, an obvious inference from this content is that the Respondent intended the Domain Name to be understood as alluding to the Complainants’ mark.

Harris noted that WIPO guidelines say that panelists should not take into account the contents of a web site in order to determine whether the domain name is similar to a trademark, but he had an excuse.

The test is not of similarity between businesses or websites. It involves a comparison between mark and domain name only. However, that does not mean that the content of the website cannot in some cases provide a pointer as to how Internet users will perceive a domain name that in turn might inform the relevant comparison.

(Domain Name Wire has previously noted that Harris has a record of “questionable” decisions.)

He concluded:

So do these factors provide sufficient similarity in this case? Bearing in mind that this is a low threshold test and in the absence of argument to the contrary, the Panel ultimately concludes that the Complainants have satisfied that test. The Complainants have only just crossed the threshold and in doing so they were given a helping hand by the Respondent; but they have crossed it nevertheless.

In my humble opinion there’s no doubt that rapidpiracy.com were a bunch of scoundrels, but I can’t help but wonder whether UDRP was the right place to address the problem.

Yet the precedent has been set; RapidShare does have some claim on the word “rapid” under UDRP, despite its lack of a trademark.

What this means for the UDRP case against rapid.org, which is also in the business of helping people share copyrighted material, remains to be seen. I’m told that case has been assigned the same panelist.

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.CO landrush auctions could top $10 million

Kevin Murphy, September 2, 2010, Domain Sales

The ongoing .co landrush auctions could finish up raising more than $10 million for .CO Internet, according to some quick back-of-the-envelope calculations.

My spreadsheet of reported landrush auction sales currently has 194 rows, based on registry reports and the odd unreported sale that Mike Berkens has been able to dig up.

These sales total $869,599, for an average of $4,482 per domain. Multiply that average by 2,523, which is the number of domains that were originally headed to auction, and you get to $11.3 million.

That may well be an unreliable estimate, of course, for any number of reasons.

For instance, .CO Internet is not reporting sales of porn-themed domains, or domains that may have UDRP issues. These domains could possibly have lower average sales prices.

The registry may also not be reporting other results, such as auctions that wound up with only one bidder for whatever reason, which could also drag down the average.

However, it seems that so far UDRP-risky domains or typos of popular generic domains (such as some of the typos of numerical .coms popular in Asia) have been among the big hitters.

AutoGlass.co, for example, appears to have slipped under the registry’s radar, and has been reported sold for $53,000. AutoGlass is a well-known brand here in the UK. I’ll be interested in seeing who bought it.

If these big prices hold true for other unreported sales of domains with possible trademark issues it could actually raise the average sales price.

Either way, it’s clearly been a successful auction so far.

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