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Eleven new ccTLDs coming next week

Kevin Murphy, January 19, 2011, Domain Registries

ICANN is set to approve 11 new internationalized domain name ccTLDs, representing four nations in Asia and the Middle East, at its board meeting next week.

On the January 25 consent agenda – which is typically rubber-stamped without discussion – is the approval of IDN ccTLDs for South Korea, India, Singapore and Syria.

Korea is due to get .한국, Singapore gets . 新加坡 (Chinese) and .சிங்கப்பூர் (Tamil), while Syria gets the Arabic string .سورية.

Massively polyglot India will be delegated its ccTLD in seven of its most-popular languages.

The delegations will push the number of TLDs in IANA’s database to over 300 for the first time.

This week, the ccTLD for Thailand went live with Thai-language registrations under .ไทย. You can watch a video of ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom congratulating the nation here.

Also on ICANN’s agenda next week is the re-delegation of the ASCII ccTLDs for Burkina Faso, Congo and Syria – .bf, .cd and .sy respectively – to new registry managers.

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RIAA threatens ICANN over new TLDs

Kevin Murphy, January 18, 2011, Domain Registries

The Recording Industry Association of America has added itself to the list of organizations making vague legal threats over ICANN’s new top-level domains program.

The RIAA, no stranger to playing the bogeyman when it comes to technological change, is concerned that .music, for example, could be used to encourage copyright infringement.

It wants ICANN to “ensure best practices are developed” to prevent musical TLDs being used to enable music piracy. In a letter, RIAA deputy general counsel Victoria Sheckler wrote:

We are concerned that a music themed gTLD will be used to enable wide scale copyright and trademark infringement.

We would like to work with ICANN and others to ensure that best practices are developed and used to ensure this type of malicious behavior does not occur.

She signs off with a barely veiled threat:

We strongly urge you to take these concerns seriously… we prefer a practical solution to these issues, and hope to avoid the need to escalate the issue further.

One of the RIAA’s objections to the current Applicant Guidebook for new TLDs is the “community objection” procedure, which the RIAA doesn’t think gives it a good enough chance of blocking a .music TLD application.

I wonder if the RIAA is planning its own .music bid.

There is already one very public .music initiative, championed for the last couple of years by Constantine Roussos, an active and vocal ICANN community member.

But the string is valuable, is likely to be contested, and there’s a not insignificant chance that Roussos will be beaten to it by an applicant with deeper pockets.

Regardless, the RIAA’s argument that .music equals piracy is pretty poor, possibly disingenuous, and unlikely to influence the Guidebook.

ICANN constantly walks the tightrope between technical coordination and content regulation; getting into the business of fighting piracy is not going to make it onto the agenda any time soon.

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Banks to write security rules for “.bank”

Kevin Murphy, January 17, 2011, Domain Registries

Financial services firms unhappy with ICANN’s new top-level domains program are to take matters into their own hands by writing security guidelines for TLDs like “.bank”.

BITS, the technology policy arm of the Financial Services Roundtable, said it plans to develop “elevated security standards for financial gTLDs” and wants ICANN to make them mandatory.

The organization, which counts many major world banks as members, is concerned that a “.bank” in the hands of a registry with lax security could increase fraud and reduce confidence in banking online.

BITS said its guidelines would be drafted by a globally diverse working group and submitted to an international standards-setting organization for ratification.

It wants ICANN to include a single sentence in its new TLDs Applicant Guidebook, apparently incorporating the guidelines by reference:

Evaluators will use standards published by the financial services industry to determine if the applicant’s proposed security approach is commensurate with the level of trust necessary for financial services gTLDs.

An ICANN working group is working on the concept of a High Security Zone TLD for precisely this kind of application, but in September the ICANN board abruptly decided that it “will not be certifying or enforcing” the idea, apparently in order to mitigate its own corporate risk.

The BITS project appears to be in direct response to that move.

It certainly seems to be a more productive avenue of engagement than hinting at a lawsuit, which it did in a November letter to ICANN.

I’m attempting to confirm whether the BITS plan, submitted as a response to the Applicant Guidebook public comment period, is being proposed with ICANN’s backing. (UPDATE: it isn’t.)

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Red Bull files UDRP after domain expires

Kevin Murphy, January 17, 2011, Domain Policy

Energy drink maker Red Bull has filed a UDRP complaint over the domain name red-bull.com, which until recently it actually owned.

It’s moderately embarrassing, but not unheard of, for companies to turn to the UDRP after domains they allow to expire are then snapped up by squatters.

What makes the complaint unusual is that the domain red-bull.com is not an obscure fringe case – it’s virtually identical to the company’s trademark and to its primary domain, redbull.com.

Also, according to Whois records, Red Bull also appears to use MarkMonitor, the brand-protection registrar, for its domain name needs.

Whois history shows that Red Bull acquired the domain in about 2005, but allowed it to expire in September 2010, after which it was quickly acquired by a third party.

Did Red Bull deliberately allow it to expire? There’s a case to be made for rationalizing defensive registration portfolios to reduce costs, but this domain would seem (to me) to be a definite keeper.

MarkMonitor has a policy of declining to comment on clients, which it chose to exercise when I inquired.

The domain red-bull.com currently resolves to what can only be described as a splog. It shows up on page two of Google for the search [red bull], which may go some way to explaining the UDRP.

Red Bull acquired red-bull.net, red-bull.cc and red-bull.tv via UDRP proceedings between 2001 and 2004, but has since allowed all three, as well as the .org, which it also owned, to expire.

The .tv and .net versions are currently parked, meaning they don’t rank so well in search engines.

It’s not the first odd UDRP Red Bull has filed. Last year, it lost a UDRP complaint despite winning a court case over the same domain name, as I reported in June.

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No cheap TLDs for poor countries

Kevin Murphy, January 17, 2011, Domain Registries

Applicants in the developing world that hoped to get a new top-level domain on the cheap will be disappointed after proposals to help subsidize their applications were watered down.

The ICANN GNSO Council last week voted against measures that could have reduced application fees or asked ICANN set up an aid fund for applicants from poor nations.

ICANN’s application fee for a single TLD is $185,000, but it is widely expected to cost most applicants at least double or triple that, once add-on fees and consulting costs are taken into account.

While this is not a lot of money if you’re a big corporation, it’s a substantial barrier to entry if you’re an entrepreneur or community initiative from a poorer country.

So for several months an ICANN working group known as JAS, for Joint Applicant Support, has been working on ideas for how ICANN and others can support less wealthy applicants.

The group wanted to do further work to establish ways to subsidize the application fee, set up an ICANN fund using revenue from TLD auctions, and negotiate registry-level support.

But the GNSO Council voted those ideas down last Thursday, ostensibly on the basis that they were too far-reaching and “beyond the scope of the GNSO” to approve.

The vote was split roughly along party lines, with almost all of the support for the broader motions coming from non-commercial stakeholders.

Business interests such as registrars, registries, ISPs and intellectual property stakeholders voted in favor of a more “limited” set of objectives.

Proponents of the new limited charter tell me that they remain supportive of the work of the JAS, but that they did not believe it has the expertise to carry out such far-reaching work.

I suspect that commercial factors also played a role. For example, the JAS wanted to:

Discuss with Backend Registry Service Providers the extent of coordination, to be given by Backend Registry Service Providers (e.g. brokering the relationships, reviewing the operational quality of the relationship) and propose methods for coordinating that assistance

But the registry-supported replacement resolution, which was approved, asks the JAS to instead:

Propose methods for applicants to seek out assistance from registry service providers.

References to reduced application fees for needy applicants, and to the need for an ICANN-supported fund, were cut entirely.

The changes received majority support on the Council, but were not universally welcomed. Former Council chair Avri Doria called it “neocolonialism”, and wrote on her blog:

The only kind of aid the JAS WG is allowed to work on is aid that makes a applicant from a developing economy beholden and subject to the control of an incumbent or an expert.

Because the JAS working group was a joint effort of the GNSO and At Large Advisory Committee, it now has two charters – one broad, one narrow – and it’s not entirely clear how its work will proceed.

But it does seem that the $185,000 application fee is here to stay, no matter where you come from.

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