The Canadian trade regulator has sent ICANN a big old “Whatever” in response to queries about the legalities of .sucks.
The response, sent by Industry Canada’s deputy minister John Knubley yesterday, basically says if the intellectual property lobby doesn’t like .sucks it can always take its complaints to the courts.
Other than opening and closing paragraphs of pleasantries, this is all Knubley’s letter (pdf) says:
Canada’s laws provide comprehensive protections for all Canadians. Canada has intellectual property, competition, criminal law and other relevant legal frameworks in place to protect trademark owners, competitors, consumers and individuals. These frameworks are equally applicable to online activities and can provide recourse, for example, to trademark owners concerned about the use of the dotSucks domains, provided that trademark owners can demonstrate that the use of dotSucks domains infringes on a trademark. Intellectual property rights are privately held and are settled privately by the courts.
There’s not much to go on in there; it could quite easily be a template letter.
But it seems that Vox Populi Registry has been cleared to go ahead with the launch of .sucks, despite IP owner complaints, at least as far as the US and Canadian regulators are concerned.
The Federal Trade Commission was equally noncommittal in its response to ICANN two weeks ago.
Vox Populi is based in Canada. It’s still not entirely clear why the FTC was asked its opinion.
Pricing for .sucks names in sunrise starts at around $2,000.
ICANN told DI in April that it was in “fact finding” mode, trying to see if Vox Pop was in breach of any laws or its Registry Agreement.
The .sucks domain is due to hit general availability one week from now, June 19, with a suggested retail price of $250 a year.
If anything, the $250 says much more about Vox Pop’s business model than the sunrise fees, in my opinion.
ICANN’s Compliance department is looking into whether Donuts broke the rules by activating a domain name for the forthcoming The Hunger Games movie.
Following up from the story we posted earlier today, ICANN sent DI the following statement:
We are well aware of this issue and are addressing it through our normal compliance resolution process. We attempt to resolve compliance matters through a collaborative informal resolution process, and we do not comment on what happens during the informal resolution phase.
At issue is whether Donuts allowed the movie’s marketers to launch thehungergames.movie before the new gTLD’s mandatory 90-day “controlled interruption” phase was over.
Under a strict reading of the CI rules, there’s something like 10 to 12 days left before Donuts is supposed to be allowed to activate any .movie domain except nic.movie.
Donuts provided the following statement:
This is a significant step forward in the mainstream usage of new domains. One of the core values of the new gTLD program is the promotion of consumer choice and competition, and Donuts welcomes this contribution to the program’s success, and to the promotion of the film. We don’t publicly discuss specific matters related to ICANN compliance.
I imagine what happened here is that Donuts got an opportunity to score an anchor tenant with huge visibility and decided to grasp it with both hands, even though distributor Lion’s Gate Entertainment’s (likely immovable) launch campaign schedule did not exactly chime with its own.
It may be a technical breach of the ICANN rules on name collisions — which many regard as over-cautious and largely unnecessary — but it’s not a security or stability risk.
Of course, some would say it also sets a precedent for other registries to bend the rules if they score big-brand backing in future.
Donuts and ICANN are currently in the process of signing new gTLD agreements for .wine and .vin, after the European Union and wine sellers dropped objections.
As of today, both gTLDs are “In Contracting” rather than “On Hold”, according to ICANN’s web site.
ICANN revealed earlier this week that the European Union and various wine trade associations have both dropped their Cooperative Engagement Process complaints.
CEP is less formal precursor to a much more expensive and lawyer-hungry Independent Review Process complaint.
With the CEPs out of the way, Donuts is now free to sign its contracts.
Donuts won the auction for .wine back in November, but its application was frozen due to ongoing arguments about the protection of “geographic indicators” representing wine-making regions.
Governments, particularly in Europe and Latin America, had protested that .wine and .vin should not be allowed to launch until areas such as Rioja and Champagne were given special privileges.
Last October, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade told the French government that it was negotiating with applicants to get these protections included in the contracts.
Either Donuts has agreed to such protections, or the EU and wine-makers have gotten bored of complaining.
My feeling is the former is probably more likely, which may be controversial in itself.
There is no international agreement on GI protection — the US and Australia opposed the EU’s position on .wine — so this may be seen as a case of ICANN creating new rights where none previously existed.
Donuts may have launched its best new gTLD anchor tenant in violation of ICANN rules.
The company revealed earlier this week that The Hunger Games movies are using thehungergames.movie to promote the fourth and final installment of the wildly successful “trilogy”.
The domain name even features in the trailer for the film, which currently has over 1.7 million YouTube views.
But it has been claimed that Donuts activated the domain in the DNS two weeks before it was allowed to under its ICANN registry contract.
It boils down to “controlled interruption”, the controversial mechanism by which registries mitigate the risk of potentially harmful name collisions in the DNS.
Under ICANN’s rules for CI, for 90 days registries have to implement a wildcard in their zone file that redirects all domains other than nic.[tld] to 127.0.53.53 and your-dns-needs-immediate-attention.[tld].
“The Registry Operator must not activate any other names under the TLD until after the 90-day controlled interruption period has been completed,” the rules say, in bold text.
Donuts’ .movie was delegated on or around March 26, which means when thehungergames.movie was activated there were still about two weeks left on the .movie CI clock.
As far as I can tell from reading ICANN documentation on CI, there are no carve-outs for anchor tenants.
The .movie zone file has five other domains related to The Hunger Games in it — the only names other than nic.movie — but they don’t seem to resolve.
There’s no actual security or stability risk here, of course.
If .movie had used the old method of blocking a predefined list of identified name collisions, thehungergames.movie would not have even been affected — it’s not on .movie’s list of collisions.
However, if ICANN decides rules have been broken and Donuts is forced to deactivate the domain, it would be a painfully embarrassing moment for the new gTLD industry.
It can perhaps be hoped that ICANN’s process of investigating such things takes about two weeks to carry out.
I’ve contacted Donuts for comment and will provide an update if and when I receive any additional information.
A group of new gTLD registries have got together to form the TLD Operator Community, a new “think tank” devoted to the commercial aspects of running new TLDs.
According to its web site:
The TLD Operator Community is designed to provide all new TLD applicants with an opportunity to share their experiences, learn from each other and focus on the commercial realities of operating a TLD – away from the confines of ICANN, policy or technical discussions.
The group appears to be coordinated right now by ARI Registry Services.
The distinction between the TLD Operator Community and the Domain Name Association appears to be that the DNA has more of a focus on outreach and education beyond the industry.
The new group will hold an introductory webinar June 30 (or July 1, depending on your time zone) featuring speakers from Donuts, Vox Populi, dotBerlin, Barclays and others.