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VeriSign antitrust case heading to District Court

Kevin Murphy, August 28, 2010, Domain Registries

The Coalition For ICANN Transparency will have its day in court, after VeriSign this week asked for a “speedy resolution” to the five-year-old antitrust case.

In a filing (pdf) with the Northern California District Court on Wednesday and in an accompanying SEC document, the company said it want it wants the case heard on its merits.

According to CFIT lawyer Bret Fausett, VeriSign had the option to refer the case to the Supreme Court after losing a motion to dismiss on appeal last month.

VeriSign had until October 9 to make its mind up, but evidently did not need that long.

This is the meat of the motion:

On July 9, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an amended opinion in this case and remanded the case to this Court “for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.” The Ninth Circuit spread the mandate on July 19. VeriSign, Inc. respectfully requests that the Court schedule a case management conference at its earliest convenience to discuss plans for a speedy resolution to the case.

The case is important because if VeriSign loses it could lead to the company losing its lucrative monopoly on the .com and .net registries.

While it wants a speedy resolution, analysts are not so hopeful. JP Morgan believes: “All together, the motions in the trial, discovery, trial, and potential appeal could take years to complete.”

The analyst also notes that pretrial discovery will likely lead to a definitive answer to the question: who the hell is CFIT anyway?

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.jobs landrush beauty contest opens

Kevin Murphy, August 28, 2010, Domain Registries

Employ Media has made a request for proposals from companies that want to apply for generic .jobs domain names, to predictable criticism.

ICANN recently permitted the company to start selling non-“company name” .jobs domains, and the RFP is the first phase of its plan.

It basically constitutes a landrush process, albeit one that makes .cn registrations seem laissez faire, and in which you don’t actually get to “own” any domain names at the end.

To apply, companies have to present Employ Media with a business plan and a list of their desired domains, among other information.

The registry appears to be reluctant to talk about the money side of things, other than the non-refundable $250 application fee.

The closest thing in the RFP to an outstretched palm appears to be this paragraph:

Employ Media’s role is to make .JOBS domain names available to those interested in serving the needs of the International HR management community as set forth in the .JOBS Charter. Describe how your proposal will contribute to Employ Media’s role in a manner that reflects the value (financial, services or otherwise) of the proposed .JOBS domains.

The CollegeRecruiter.com blog, and some reader comments, suggest that the registry has been asking potential applicants for “creative” ideas, including revenue sharing deals, and then threatening legal action when such overtures are recounted in public fora.

CollegeRecruiter’s CEO Steven Rothberg was one of the leading opponents of the .jobs liberalization plan.

The only organization I’m aware of that is on record intending to respond to the RFP is the DirectEmployers Association, which intends to apply for thousands of generic domains under its controversial universe.jobs plan.

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It’s Friday, time for Rick Schwartz Apprentice

Kevin Murphy, August 27, 2010, It's Friday

In case you haven’t guessed already, my “It’s Friday…” headlines mark an irregular series of tragically cliquey attempts to be humorous.

This week, 12 fictional TV shows related to the domain name business that could be super-duper awesome, if only somebody would make them.

Apologies in advance to those concerned.

Sponsored TLD Survivor

Stranded on a desert island, .mobi, .jobs, .asia and .tel must fight to stay alive against all the odds. Each week, viewers vote for which contestant they think should be acquired by Afilias.

South Park

Controversial animated series following the antics of a domain parking company that rejects Adsense links in favor of slandering celebrities and deliberately inciting religious violence.

Lawley & Order

Porn-themed police procedural.

DNSSEC and the City

Paul Vixie, Phillip Hallam-Baker and Ram Mohan star as a trio of independent, no-nonsense women trying to find love, fulfillment and stable DNS resolution in New York City.

Bertrand De La Chappelle’s Show

Racially charged stand-up comedy from everybody’s favorite French GAC rep.

America’s Next Top-Level Domain

In which the 300-page DAG is thrown out in favor of a single sassiness-based criterion.

Rick Schwartz Apprentice

Surreal adaptation of the original, in which the self-styled Domain King imparts utterly unintelligible advice to teams of confused domainers, firing one per week with the catchphrase “You’re pigeon shit!”.

UDRP Panelist Judy

Judge Judy takes a break from her important judicial work in order to oversee UDRP complaints in which the winner is decided purely on the basis of which party can shout the loudest and has the most outrageous mullet.

Domaining With The Stars

Teams of top domainers and D-list celebrities compete to see who can make the biggest profit on a domain sale. This week, Elliot Silver patiently explains the finer points of drop-catching ccTLDs to a sobbing Danny Bonaduce.

Rod the Bounty Hunter

Beckstrom and his team pin down a bail-jumping crack dealer at a seedy El Paso motel.

The .XXX Factor

Same as the original, but goes on for six years.

The Daily Show with Jim Fleming

The perennial commentator and theorist takes a sideways look at today’s domain name news, whether you want him to or not.

Next week: domain-themed movies.

In the meantime, I want to see your TV show ideas in the comments please. If golf can have its own channel, I’m sure we can fill a schedule too.

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What .xxx means for trademark holders

Kevin Murphy, August 26, 2010, Domain Registries

Trademark holders have been screwed over by ISP domain name wildcarding more than they realise, I’ve discovered from the .xxx contract documents.

ICM Registry is planning a novel approach to trademark protection if its application to launch the .xxx top-level domain is successful, but it’s been watered down compared to its original plan.

Hypothetically, let’s say you’re Lego. You really, really don’t want some cybersquatter snapping up lego.xxx and filling it with… well, you can imagine what Lego porn might look like.

At the same time, for the sake of your family-friendly brand, you don’t want to actually own a resolvable lego.xxx either.

And you certainly don’t want to be forced to to hand some pornographer over $60 a year for each of your brands. Some companies could see this as supporting pornography.

ICM had originally planned to allow companies in this position to pay a one-time fee to have their brand.xxx turned off permanently.

Personally, I like this idea. It would give the IP lobby a lot less to complain about in discussions surrounding the new TLD program.

But the company may now water down this plan, called IP Protect, due to the way that non-existent domains are increasingly handled by some ISPs.

As you probably know, ISPs worldwide are increasingly capturing NXDOMAIN traffic in order to show search results and advertising links to their customers.

It’s generally frowned upon in DNS circles, and it’s now likely to have the effect of making IP Protect costlier and more of an administrative hassle for brand owners.

You’re Lego again. You pay ICM the one-time shut-down fee, only to find that Comcast is now showing its users links to Lego porn whenever they type in lego.xxx.

ICM president Stuart Lawley tells me that one option currently being looked at is to have IP Protect domains resolve to a standard page at an ICM-controlled server.

The problem here is that ICM has to pay ICANN and its registry back-end provider annual fees for every resolving domain name, and that cost will have to be passed on to the registrant, in our case Lego.

Lawley says that ICM is “engaging” with the ICANN intellectual property community to figure out the best solution. It appears that both options are still open.

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Why .xxx will be domainer-friendly (and why it won’t)

Kevin Murphy, August 26, 2010, Domain Registries

The proposed .xxx top-level domain may be “sponsored”, but the restrictions on who will be able to register names are so loose that pretty much anybody, including domainers, will be able to register one.

I’ve now had time to dig through the mountain of documents that ICANN published earlier this week. I’m submitting something to The Register later today, but I thought I’d first look here at the domaining angle.

First, the bad news: .xxx domains won’t be cheap.

ICM Registry, which wants to run the TLD, plans to charge $60 per year, and that’s just the registry fee.

That’s a lot of money to recoup if you’re planning to park a domain, so it’s likely that much of the value of .xxx for domainers will be in development and resale.

The proposed contract does suggest, and ICM president Stuart Lawley is on record as saying, that the price of registrations could eventually come down. Whether that would include renewals remains to be seen.

Now for the good news: you won’t actually have to be a pornographer to register a .xxx domain.

It’s true that .xxx is ostensibly restricted to members of the adult entertainment community, but the definition also includes companies that supply products and services to the industry.

According to Lawley, flipping domain names falls into that category.

So, if you register a nice .xxx in order to sell it later to an actual pornographer, you’re technically part of the .xxx Sponsored Community. Congratulations, you’re in the adult business.

Parking .xxx domains will also be possible, and it doesn’t look like parking companies will need to make any changes in order to support the TLD.

It’s true that all .xxx sites will have to be “labelled” as porn, but that doesn’t mean, as I initially thought, that all .xxx web sites, including the parked ones, will have to slap a logo on their pages.

Lawley says that ICM will handle all the labelling transparently at the registry end, using a W3C standard called POWDER. Apparently this is doable without touching anybody’s HTML.

Of course, getting hold of a prime piece of .xxx real estate at launch will not be easy.

Anybody with designs on a geo .xxx domain is out of luck. ICANN will reserve all place names, and two-letter domains are banned, due to potential confusion with country codes.

But single-letter domains will be possible. The provision that banned it has been deleted from the new contract.

ICM plans to auction some premium names. It may even reserve some names, such as movie.xxx, in order to offer registrations at the third level.

An additional barrier is that roughly 9,400 people have already “pre-reserved” about 176,000 names (an average of 18 each). That’s about as many words as there are in the English language by some counts.

Quite how these reservations will be handled isn’t spelled out in detail in the contract, as far as I can tell.

The .xxx TLD is still in the application phase, of course, and there are ways it could still fail. If the contract is ultimately signed, general availability is expected seven months later.

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