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Group wants trademark study before new TLDs launch

Kevin Murphy, September 21, 2010, Domain Services

The International Trademark Association has told ICANN it believes a study into the economic “harms” of launching new TLDs is “essential” before the program gets under way.

INTA president Heather Steinmeyer wrote, in a September 8 letter (pdf) published today (my emphasis):

We applaud the recommendation… to conduct a study to assess the harms associated with intellectual property abuse and related forms of consumer fraud in the domain name system, including how the current gTLDs have affected intellectual property and consumers since their introduction. Indeed trademark owners believe that such a study is not only a sensible recommendation, but an essential prerequisite before any rollout of new gTLDs.

Steinmeyer offered INTA’s assistance with any such study.

The recommendation she refers to can be found in “An Economic Framework for the Analysis of the Expansion of Generic Top-Level Domain Names”, a report prepared for ICANN by three independent economists in June.

That report made a number of suggestions for possible further studies of the possible benefits and harms (although Steinmeyer only mentions the harms) of introducing new TLDs. It did not make any firm conclusions.

Following a public comment period that ended July 22, the status of that report appears to be ‘in limbo’.

The public comments have not yet been compiled into a summary and analysis document and as far as I can tell no other action has been taken on the report’s recommendations.

At least one ICANN director, chairman Peter Dengate Thrush, seems to consider the problem of balancing trademark protection and other parties’ interests pretty much resolved.

Just last week, in a fairly strongly worded statement at the Internet Governance Forum in Vilnius, Lithuania, he said:

The IP lawyers… have had their chance to make all these cases in a five-year process, and the intellectual property protections that have been put in place are the result of a delicate balance that has been wrought with everybody in the community, not just with the IP lawyers. IP lawyers always want more protections.

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Internet closes in on 200 million domain names

Kevin Murphy, September 21, 2010, Domain Registries

The internet will almost certainly break through the 200 million domain names milestone before the end of the year, judging from VeriSign’s latest Domain Name Industry Brief.

There were about 196.3 million registered domains at the end of June, according to the report, up by 3 million on the first quarter and 12.3 million on the second quarter 2009. That’s 2% and 7% growth, respectively.

The drag factor on the overall market caused by the mass expiry of millions of Chinese .cn domains seems to have levelled off, making the growth a little more encouraging than in the first quarter.

Regardless, VeriSign said that 76.3 million domains were registered in the ccTLDs, basically flat when compared to the March numbers and a 2.5% increase year-on-year.

The ccTLDs may see a growth spurt in the third-quarter DNIB, due to the influence of .co’s launch, assuming another .cn situation does not arise in another TLD.

VeriSign doesn’t say as much, but if the ccTLDs only grew by a net 63,000 names, that means the bulk of the 3 million new domains were in the gTLDs, but it doesn’t break the number down by gTLD.

It doesn’t even say precisely how many .com/.net domains it manages, or what its growth rates were, just that the two TLDs’ combined total now exceeds 100 million.

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ICANN to reconsider .jobs auction deal

Kevin Murphy, September 21, 2010, Domain Registries

ICANN will take a second look at its decision to allow the .jobs registry to allocate premium domain names to its partners, following an outcry from jobs boards including Monster.com.

The Board Governance Committee posted a brief note yesterday confirming that it will process the Reconsideration Request filed by the .JOBS Charter Compliance Coalition a month earlier.

This does not mean that the .jobs decision will be reversed. The BGC has the power to make recommendations to the ICANN board, which the board is free to accept or reject.

The Coalition is annoyed that ICANN has given Employ Media, the .jobs registry, a carte blanche to allocate premium dictionary and geographic domain names via an RFP process.

Many expect the registry to allocate substantial chunks of real estate to the DirectEmployers Association, under previously announced plans to create a free listings site at universe.jobs.

Under ICANN bylaws, the BGC now has 90 days to reach a decision.

The deadline for submissions in response to Employ Media’s RFP is this Friday.

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US seeks powers to shut down domains

Kevin Murphy, September 20, 2010, Domain Policy

COICA is the new acronym we’ll all soon be talking about — it’s the law that could give the US its very own Great Firewall of China.

A bipartisan group of US senators today introduced the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, legislation that would enable the government to quickly turn off domain names involved in piracy.

The bill would enable the Department of Justice to seek a court order against a domain name it believes is involved in piracy or selling counterfeit goods.

If the sponsoring registrar or registry is located in the US, the order would force it to stop the domain from resolving and lock it down.

The likely effect of this would be to force piracy sites out of .com and into offshore registrars. But the bill has thought about that too.

If it’s a non-US registrar and registry, injunctions could be sought to block the domain at the ISP level.

That’s right folks – if this bill passes, the US would get its very own Chinese-style national firewall.

The bill would allow the domain registrant to petition the court to lift the order.

“By cracking down on online piracy of television shows and movies, we hope this bill will encourage copyright owners to develop innovative and competitive new choices for consumers to watch video over the internet,” said Sen. Herb Kohl.

Which is about as disingenuous a statement as it gets, when you think about it, given that it essentially eliminates a major incentive for business model innovation.

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Man asks ICANN for “list of all domains”

Kevin Murphy, September 20, 2010, Domain Policy

A man has used ICANN’s freedom of information procedure to ask for “a list of all registered domains”, forcing the organization to politely decline.

Barry Carter wrote (pdf):

Per http://www.icann.org/en/transparency/didp-en.htm please provide me a list of all registered domains (including all public registrant information). If you are unable to provide this information, please let me know why.

As you might imagine, with the number of registered domains in the gTLDs and ccTLDs numbering in the hundreds of millions, that’s what you might call a Big Ask.

ICANN’s response (pdf) patiently explains that it doesn’t have such a list and that assembling one would constitute an unreasonable request under its Documentary Information Disclosure Policy.

Still, worth a shot, eh?

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