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Nominet appoints Baroness to chair

Nominet, the .uk registry manager, has hired Irene Fritchie, aka Baroness Fritchie, to be its new chair.

No, I’d never heard of her either, but apparently Fritchie is a life peer and a dame, with a seat in the House of Lords since 2005.

Her geek credentials appear to comprise her chairmanship, until last year, of the Web Science Research Initiative, a joint initiative between the University of Southampton and MIT.

So she’s on speaking terms with Tim Berners-Lee, it seems.

Fritchie replaces Bob Gilbert, who quit in March after guiding the organization through a tricky period.

A cynic would say that it’s fortuitous that Nominet now has a member of the UK legislature fighting its corner, given that the recently passed Digital Economy Act originated and was primarily written in the Lords.

The Act created powers for the British government to take over .uk if Nominet screws up by letting domainers commandeer its board.

Fritchie is a cross-bencher, meaning she is beholden to no one political party.

Nominet also said that it has appointed Piers White MBE as a non-executive director. White has a background in banking and currently sits on the board of Ordnance Survey.

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Council of Europe wants ICANN role

Kevin Murphy, June 7, 2010, Domain Policy

The Council of Europe has decided it wants to play a more hands-on role in ICANN, voting recently to try to get itself an observer’s seat on the Governmental Advisory Committee.

The Council, which comprises ministers from 47 member states, said it “could encourage due consideration of fundamental rights and freedoms in ICANN policy-making processes”.

ICANN’s ostensibly technical mission may at first seem a bit narrow for considerations as lofty as human rights, until you consider areas where it has arguably failed in the past, such as freedom of expression (its clumsy rejection of .xxx) and privacy (currently one-sided Whois policies).

The Council voted to encourage its members to take a more active role in the GAC, and to “make arrangements” for itself to sit as an observer on its meetings.

It also voted to explore ways to help with the creation of a permanent GAC secretariat to replace the current ad hoc provisions.

The resolution was passed in late May and first reported today by IP Watch.

The Council of Europe is a separate entity to the European Union, comprising more countries. Its biggest achievement was the creation of the European Court of Human Rights.

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How a company hacked the .eu sunrise to register generic domains

Kevin Murphy, June 6, 2010, Domain Policy

An Austrian company exploited a loophole in EurID’s .eu sunrise period to register dozens of generic .eu domain names, according to the European Court of Justice.

An outfit by the name of Internetportal und Marketing GmbH noticed back in 2005 that European Union regulations covering the .eu launch said that trademarks containing “special characters” could be claimed under the .eu sunrise.

If your trademark contained characters not compatible with normal DNS, such as $ or #, you could ignore those characters when you applied for your trademark as a .eu sunrise period domain.

So, with ingenuity I have to grudgingly admire, Internetportal registered 33 trademarks in Sweden that comprised generic dictionary terms interspersed with those special characters.

By applying under the sunrise period, rather than during the landrush or open registration periods, the company could eliminate most of its competitors for the domain.

Crafty.

The ECJ case concerned the domain reifen.eu – meaning “tyre” “or “tire” in German – but the company apparently also applied to register 180 other generic domains using the same method.

Internetportal registered the trademark “&R&E&I&F&E&N&”, knowing that the ampersands would be ignored by EurID’s policy when it applied for reifen.eu.

It did in fact win the domain, and others, during the sunrise, on the back of its Swedish trademarks.

Unfortunately, a man named Richard Schlicht who held a (later) Benelux trademark on the term “reifen” filed a Alternative Dispute Resolution procedure over the registration in 2006 and won.

Internetportal appealed, and it eventually made its way to ECJ. But Europe’s highest court decided last week that reifen.eu had indeed been registered in bad faith and in violation of the rules.

There’s loads of stuff in the ruling to excite IP lawyers, but as far as I can tell it boils down to one basic common-sense precedent: if you register a trademark purely for the purposes of securing a domain name in a sunrise period, you’re out of luck, at least in Europe.

Given that pretty much all the dictionary terms under .eu have already gone, and that the sunrise period ended years ago, I doubt the finding will have a great deal of immediate practical impact.

But a more general point holds, for those considering applying for a new TLD: if there are loopholes in your sunrise period rules, you can guarantee they will be exploited.

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Go Daddy launches paid YouTube clone

Go Daddy has opened the doors of Video.me, a video-hosting service with a difference.

The difference is you have to pay for it.

The company seems to be banking on the idea that users will be happy to hand over $2 per month, rather than use YouTube for free, because Video.me has simpler password protection.

“People want privacy online, it’s obvious from the all of the recent news,” chief executive Bob Parsons said in a press release. “YouTube has been the place for mass-consumption videos, but for sharing more personal items, it’s way too complicated.”

Most of the recent news about online privacy has been focused on Facebook. I don’t think I’ve seen many people complaining about YouTube.

Still, at the very least the service is a high-profile use of a .me domains, which could help Go Daddy as a partner in Domen, the Montenegro-based .me registry.

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ICANN’s Draft Applicant Guidebook v4 – first reactions

Kevin Murphy, June 1, 2010, Domain Policy

As you probably already know, ICANN late yesterday released version 4 of its Draft Applicant Guidebook, the bible for new top-level domain registry wannabes.

Having spent some time today skimming through the novel-length tome, I can’t say I’ve spotted anything especially surprising in there.

IP interests and governments get more of the protections they asked for, a placeholder banning registries and registrars from owning each other makes its first appearance, and ICANN beefs up the text detailing the influence of public comment periods.

There are also clarifications on the kinds of background checks ICANN will run on applicants, and a modified fee structure that gets prospective registries into the system for $5,000.

DNSSEC, security extensions for the DNS protocol, also gets a firmer mandate, with ICANN now making it clearer that new TLDs will be expected to implement DNSSEC from launch.

It’s still early days, but a number of commentators have already given their early reactions.

Perennial first-off-the-block ICANN watcher George Kirikos quickly took issue with the fact that DAG v4 still does not include “hard price caps” for registrations

[The DAG] demonstrates once again that ICANN has no interests in protecting consumers, but is merely in cahoots with registrars and registries, acting against the interests of the public… registry operators would be open to charge $1000/yr per domain or $1 million/yr per domain, for example, to maximize their profits.

Andrew Allemann of Domain Name Wire reckons ICANN should impose a filter on its newly emphasised comment periods in order to reduce the number of form letters, such as those seen during the recent .xxx consultation.

I can’t say I agree. ICANN could save itself a few headaches but it would immediately open itself up to accusations of avoiding its openness and transparency commitments.

The Internet Governance Project’s Milton Mueller noted that the “Draconian” text banning the cross-ownership of registries and registrars is basically a way to force the GNSO to hammer out a consensus policy on the matter.

Everyone knows this is a silly policy. The reason this is being put forward is that the VI Working Group has not succeeded in coming up with a policy toward cross-ownership and vertical integration that most of the parties can agree on.

I basically agree. It’s been clear since Nairobi that this was the case, but I doubt anybody expected the working group to come to any consensus before the new DAG was drafted, so I wouldn’t really count its work as a failure just yet.

That said, the way it’s looking at the moment, with participants still squabbling about basic definitions and terms of reference, I doubt that a fully comprehensive consensus on vertical integration will emerge before Brussels.

Mueller lays the blame squarely with Afilias and Go Daddy for stalling these talks, so I’m guessing he’s basing his views on more information than is available on the public record.

Antony Van Couvering of prospective registry Minds + Machines has the most comprehensive commentary so far, touching on several issues raised by the new DAG.

He’s not happy about the VI issue either, but his review concludes with a generally ambivalent comment:

Overall, this version of the Draft Applicant Guidebook differs from the previous version by adding some incremental changes and extra back doors for fidgety governments and the IP interests who lobby them. None of the changes are unexpected or especially egregious.

DAG v4 is 312 pages long, 367 pages if you’re reading the redlined version. I expect it will take a few days before we see any more substantial critiques.

One thing is certain: Brussels is going to be fun.

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