New gTLD portfolio player Radix has acquired the pre-launch TLD .fun from its original owner.
The company took over the .fun Registry Agreement from Oriental Trading Company on October 4, according to ICANN records.
Oriental is a party supplies company owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.
It won .fun in a private auction in April last year, beating off Google and .buzz operator DotStrategy.
It had planned to run it as a “closed generic” — keeping all the domains in .fun for itself — but those plans appeared to have been shelved by the time it signed its RA in January this year.
Evidently Oriental’s heart was not in it, and Radix made an offer for the string it found more attractive.
Radix business head Sandeep Ramchandani confirmed to DI today that .fun will be operated in a completely unrestricted manner, the same as its other gTLDs.
It will be Radix’s first three-letter gTLD, Ramchandani said. It already runs zones such as .online, .site and .space.
.fun is not yet delegated, but Radix is hoping for a December sunrise period, he said.
Top Level Spectrum has been accused today of running the gTLD .feedback in a “fraudulent and deceptive” manner.
Over a dozen famous brands, corralled by corporate registrar MarkMonitor, today formally complained to ICANN that .feedback is a “complete sham”.
They reckon that the majority of .feedback domains belong to entities connected to the registry, violate trademarks, and have been stuffed with bogus and plagiarized reviews.
TLS denies any involvement.
MarkMonitor clients Adobe, American Apparel, Best Buy, Facebook, Levi and Verizon are among those that today filed a Public Interest Commitments Dispute Resolution Policy complaint with ICANN.
PICDRP is the mechanism third parties can use to complain about new gTLD registries they believe are in breach of the Public Interest Commitments found in their registry contracts.
The 50-page complaint (pdf), which comes with hundreds of pages of supporting documentation spread over 36 exhibits, purports to show TLS engaging in an “escalating pattern of discriminatory, fraudulent and deceptive registry misconduct”.
While the allegations of wrongdoing are fairly broad, the most interesting appears to be the claim that TLS quietly registered thousands of .feedback names matching trademarks to itself and then filled them with reviews either ripped off from Yelp! or supplied by overseas freelancers working for pennies.
TLS denies that it did any of this.
The .feedback registry is closely tied to the affiliated entity Feedback SAAS, which offers a hosted social platform for product/company reviews. Pricing for .feedback domains is dependent on whether registrants use this service or not.
The complaint states:
the overwhelming majority of domain names registered and activated within the .FEEDBACK TLD — over seventy percent (70%) — are currently owned and operated by Respondent [TLS], and parties working in concert with Respondent
Respondent has solicited and paid numerous third parties, including professional freelance writers who offer to post a set number of words for a fee, to write fabricated reviews regarding Complainants’ products and services.
These ostensibly independent reviews from ordinary consumers are intended to give the appearance of legitimate commentary within .FEEDBACK sites, when, in fact, the reviews are a complete sham.
An investigation carried out by MarkMonitor (pdf) showed that of the 2,787 .feedback domains registered up to July 31, 73% were registered to just five registrants.
The top registrant, Liberty Domains LLC of Las Vegas, owned 47% of these domains.
MarkMonitor believes this company (which it said does not show up in Nevada company records) and fourth-biggest registrant Core Domains LLC (based at the same Vegas mail forwarding service) are merely fronts for TLS, though it has no smoking gun proving this connection.
TLS CEO Jay Westerdal denies the company is affiliated with Liberty.
The MarkMonitor investigation counted 27,573 reviews on these sites, but 22% of them purported have been written prior to the date the domain was registered, in some cases by years.
The company reckons hundreds of reviews can be traced to five freelance writers who responded to February job ads looking for people who could write and post 10 150-word reviews per hour.
Other reviews appear to have been copied wholesale from Yelp! (this can be easily verified by visiting almost any .feedback site and searching for exact-match content on Google).
Westerdal told DI last week that registrants can use an API to import reviews.
The brands’ complaint goes on to criticize TLS for its Free.feedback offering, a very odd, bare-bones web site which seems to offer free .feedback domains.
When you type a domain or email address into the form on Free.feedback, it offers to give you the equivalent .feedback domain for free, automatically populating a second form with the Whois record of the original domain.
According to the complaint, after somebody registers a free .feedback domain, Feedback SAAS starts contacting the person listed in the Whois about their “free trial registration” regardless of whether they were actually the person who signed up the the domain. The complaint states:
Complainants and multiple other trademark owners who received such email notifications from Feedback SAAS and TLS registrars never visited the FREE.FEEDBACK website, and they never requested a free trial registration in the .FEEDBACK TLD
I’ve been unable to fully replicate this experience in attempts to test Free.feedback.
The complaint alleges multiple breaches of the PICs in the .feedback ICANN Registry Agreement.
The brands want ICANN Compliance to conduct a thorough investigation of .feedback, for all Free.feedback domains with phony Whois to be terminated, and for affected trademark owners to get refunds. They also want their legal costs paid by TLS.
ICANN does not typically publish the outcome of PICDRP complaints. Indeed, this is only the second one I’m aware of. It’s difficult to judge what MarkMonitor’s posse’s chances of success are.
Four US states attorneys general have quietly thrown in the towel in their attempt to have the IANA transition blocked.
The AGs of Texas, Nevada, Arizona and Oklahoma unilaterally dropped their Texas lawsuit against the US government on Friday, court records show.
A filing (pdf) signed by all four reads simply:
Plaintiffs hereby provide notice that they are voluntarily dismissing this action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(i).
That basically means the case is over.
The AGs had sued the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration, seeking an eleventh-hour restraining order preventing the IANA transition going ahead.
The TRO demand was comprehensively rejected, after ICANN and organizations representing numerous big-name technology companies let their support for the transition be known in court.
The plaintiffs had said they were considering their options, but now appear to have abandoned the case.
It was widely believed that the suit was politically motivated, an attempt by four Republican officials to stir up anti-Obama sentiment in the run-up to the US presidential election.
Donuts has outlined plans to suspend or delete .doctor domain names used by fake medical doctors.
Despite protestations from governments and others, .doctor will not be a restricted gTLD when it goes to general availability next week — anyone will be able to register one.
However, Donuts said last week that it will shut down phony doctor sites:
While we are firmly committed to free speech on the Internet, we however will be on guard against inappropriate or dangerous uses of .DOCTOR. Accordingly, if registrants using this name make the representation on their websites that they are licensed medical practitioners, they should be able to demonstrate upon request that in fact they hold such a license. Failure to so demonstrate could be considered a violation of the terms of registration and may subject the registrant to registrar and registry rights to delete, revoke, suspend, cancel, or transfer a registration.
A Donuts spokesperson said that the registry will have the right to conduct spot-checks on sites, but at first will only police the gTLD in response to complaints from others.
“We have the right to spot check, but no immediate plans to do so,” he said.
In a few fringe cases, the failure to present a license would not result in the loss of a domain.
For example, a “registrant is in a jurisdiction that doesn’t license doctors (if that exists)” or a “registrant that represents him/herself as a licensed medical doctor, but uses the site to sell cupcakes”, the spokesperson said.
ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee had wanted .doctor restricted to medical doctors, but Donuts complained noting that “doctor” is an appellation used in many other fields beyond medicine.
It can also be used in fanciful ways to market products, the registry said.
ICANN eventually sided with Donuts, allowing it to keep an open TLD as long as it included certain Public Interest Commitments in its registry contract.
.doctor goes to GA October 26.
ICANN has implicated a Chinese domain name registrar in the online selling of medications, including Viagra and Cialis, without the required prescription.
The organization’s Compliance department filed a contract breach notice with Nanjing Imperiosus, which does business as DomainersChoice.com, today.
The move follows an allegation from pharmacy watchdog LegitScript in the US Congress that DomainersChoice is “rogue internet pharmacy operator”.
Because ICANN has no authority to police online pharmacies, it’s gone after the registrar based on an obscure part of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement.
Section 3.7.7 of the 2013 RAA says that domains must be registered to a third party, unless they’re used by the registrar in the course of providing its registrar services.
According to ICANN, DomainersChoice has refused to provide evidence that many of its domains are not in fact registered to itself and CEO Stefan Hansmann, in violation of this clause.
It cites 5mg-cialis20mg.com, acheterdutadalafil.com, viagra-100mgbestprice.net and 100mgviagralowestprice.net as examples of domains apparently registered to Hansmann and his company.
Historical Whois records show Hansmann and Nanjing Imperiosus as the registrant of these names until recently.
The domains all refer to erectile dysfunction medicines, which are usually only available in the US with a prescription.
A reverse Whois lookup reveals Hansmann’s name in the records for many more pharmaceuticals-related domains, some of which are for more serious medical conditions.
Several of the domains contain the words “without prescription” or similar, where the drug in question requires a prescription in the US.
Some of the domains do not currently resolve or no longer provide current Whois records and others have been recently transferred, but some resolve to apparently active e-commerce sites.
ICANN’s breach notice (pdf) doesn’t allege any illegal activity.
The same cannot be said for LegitScript CEO John Horton, who lumped DomainersChoice in with a few other registrars he believes are operating “illegal online pharmacies”.
Horton testified (pdf) before Congress last month that the registrar was playing host to 2,300 such sites.
The testimony was filed September 14, the same day ICANN began its compliance investigation.
ICANN’s notice, which alleges a handful of other relatively trivial breaches, asks that Hansmann provide a full list of domains registered in his and his company’s name via DomainersChoice.
It also demands evidence that the domains were either used to provide registrar services or were registered to a third party.
It wants all that by November 2, after which it may start to terminate the company’s RAA.