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Court throws out Russian gaming scandal claims

Kevin Murphy, November 2, 2011, Domain Registrars

Russian registrar RU-Center has won its appeal against a $7.5 million government fine, following claims that it gamed the launch of .РФ, registering tens of thousands of names to itself.

The Moscow Arbitration Court yesterday reversed the decision of the Federal Antimonoply Service, according to a statement from RU-Center, the .РФ registry and local media reports.

The dispute centers on the launch of the Cyrillic-script ccTLD last November, which saw over 200,000 registrations in the first six hours and half a million domains registered in the first few weeks.

RU-Center was quickly hit by claims that it had used its access to the registry, ccTLD Coordination Center, to register over 65,000 premium names to itself in order to auction them to users.

It later emerged that some of the Coordination Center’s launch policy-setters had ownership interests in RU-Center either directly or through family members.

In challenging the FAS ruling, RU-Center said that it only registered domains in its own name, via other registrars, because it had taken over 120,000 pre-orders from customers but was limited to filing 4,800 registrations per hour by the registry.

It also said that the domains remained in its own name because registry rules prohibited transfers during the first year of registration. The transfers will be effective November 11, it said.

Russian firm fined millions over domain land-grab

RU-Center, Russia’s largest domain name registrar, will have to repay 240 million rubles ($8.6 million) for grabbing thousands of domain names and auctioning them during the .РФ landrush.

The company could also be fined up to 75% of its 2009 revenues for breaking competition law, according to a statement from the country’s Federal Antimonopoly Service.

When .РФ was launched by the .ru registry launched last November, it offered domain names on a first-come first-served basis, without the premium landrush period offered by other TLDs.

RU-Center took this opportunity to register 60,000 domains in its own name and sell them off to the highest bidder, essentially bringing the landrush to the registrar level.

Some ccTLD Coordination Center council members, responsible for setting the launch policies, had ownership interests in RU-Center either directly or through family members, according to FAS.

The registrar is currently being acquired by a company called RBC.

New Russian TLD is a smash hit

Kevin Murphy, November 11, 2010, Domain Registries

Russia’s new Cyrillic top-level domain, .РФ, has gone down a storm, beating even the recent launch of .co in terms of the speed of first-day registrations.

The Russian registry is reporting that it broke through the 200,000 domains mark within the first six hours, after it opened its doors at noon local time today.

By my calculations, that’s less than half the time it took .co to hit the same benchmark, despite the fact that .co did not have the same residency requirements as .РФ.

Andrei Kolesnikov, director of the CCTLD Coordination Center, which runs the domain, told the GNSO Council mailing list:

This clearly demonstrates a great demand for domains in national languages and proves Russia’s position as a leader in terms of the dynamic of TLD launch.

There were already 18,000 .РФ domains before the floodgates opened this afternoon, following a sunrise period for trademark owners.

The TLD transliterates as .rf, for Russian Federation. The country has 142 million citizens and is believed to have almost 60 million internet users. The .ru namespace has about three million domains.