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.health backer has cop-like takedown powers for all gTLDs in Japan

Kevin Murphy, December 8, 2014, Domain Registrars

LegitScript, a US company focused on eradicating illegal online pharmacies, which backs the .pharmacy and .health gTLDs, has been given police-like powers to have domain names taken down in Japan.

It has also emerged that when IP Mirror, a brand protection registrar, was hit with an embarrassing ICANN contract-breach notice in November, it was as a result of a LegitScript complaint.

Under section 3.18.2 of ICANN’s 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement, registrars must have a 24/7 abuse hotline that can be used by “law enforcement, consumer protection, quasi-governmental or other similar authorities” to report illegal activity.

Registrars must act on complaints made to the hotline within 24 hours, but only authorities designated by national governments get to use it.

Now, it transpires that LegitScript has been formally designated a 3.18.2 authority by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

That means the US company’s complaints about domains hosting potentially illegal pharmacy sites have the same weight as complaints from the Japanese police, when made to registrars that have an office in Japan, even if they’re headquartered elsewhere.

IP Mirror, which was recently acquired by CSC Digital Brand Services, is based in Singapore but has an office in Tokyo.

As far as I can tell, most of the top 10 registrars do not have offices in Japan. KeyDrive (Moniker, Key-Systems etc) may be the exception. GMO is the largest registrar based in Japan.

LegitScript announced its relationship with the Japanese ministry in September (I missed it at the time) and company president John Horton provided some context to the IP Mirror breach notice on CircleID today.

I only report the deal today because it strikes me as noteworthy that a private enterprise has been given the same powers under the 2013 RAA as law enforcement and government consumer protection agencies — and it’s not even in its home territory.

Horton told DI today that while LegitScript is legally based in the US and has offices in the EU, only Japan has so far formally granted it 3.18.2 powers. He said in an email:

We only have formal Section 3.18.2 designation in Japan at present. We have some other endorsements or recommendations by or on behalf of government authorities, although they do not specifically reference Section 3.18.2. We work closely with the Italian Medicines Agency and the Irish Medicines Board, for example, and report rogue Internet pharmacies in consultation with them.

Horton pointed out that anybody is able to to file abuse complaints under the 2013 RAA — and registrars are obliged to “take reasonable and prompt steps to investigate and respond appropriately”.

His CircleID piece cites two instances in which such complaints from LegitScript resulted in ICANN breach notices.

The chief difference is that under 3.18.2 registrars do not have much flexibility in their response times. They have to “take necessary and appropriate actions” within a black-and-white 24-hour deadline.

.love won by class action lawyers

Kevin Murphy, December 8, 2014, Domain Registries

It appears that the contested new gTLD .love has been won by the law firm Merchant Law Group, after an auction.

Minds + Machines, Richemont, Google and Donuts have all officially withdrawn their competing applications. I gather that withdrawals from Uniregistry and Famous Four Media are on their way.

.love would be MLG’s first successful new gTLD application.

The would-be portfolio applicant applied for eight strings, all of which were contested by others. It has withdrawn bids for .news, .club and .law after auctions.

MLG is odd as new gTLD applicants go. It’s a Canadian law firm that offers services across many areas of law but seems to specialize in class action lawsuits.

According to its application, .love will be positioned in the same space as .wed and .wedding:

.LOVE’s target markets are broad enough to maintain a financially viable TLD and distinct enough that the .LOVE TLD will not become ‘just another .info’. A .LOVE TLD will provide a unique space on the Internet for information and services related to the idea of love, engagements, marriage, and family. It will allow anyone to register a domain name and post information about products and services related to the idea of love, an engagement, a marriage, or family.

It is anticipated to be an open, unrestricted gTLD running on a CentralNic back-end.

Private auction settles controversial plural gTLD fight

Kevin Murphy, December 8, 2014, Domain Registries

A private auction has been used to settle a new gTLD contention set containing two different strings for the first time.

Afilias has won the right to run .pet after Google withdrew its application for .pet and Donuts withdrew its bid for .pets.

The two strings, one the plural of the other, had been placed into indirect contention by ICANN after a String Confusion Objection panel controversially ruled in August 2013 that .pet and .pets were too confusingly similar to be allowed to coexist.

This means that Donuts has been forced to withdraw an uncontested application.

Notably, it was Google that filed, fought and won the SCO complaint, and it didn’t even wind up with the TLD it wanted.

The final settlement of the contention set reflects ICANN’s inconsistent policy on plurals. Several plural/singular combinations — such as .career(s) and .photo(s) — already coexist in the DNS.

Donuts blames “license” problems for Chinese gTLD delays

Kevin Murphy, December 8, 2014, Domain Registries

Donuts says that problems obtaining “licenses” from the Chinese government are to blame for the fact that it is yet to launch any of its Chinese-script new gTLDs.

Currently, four of the company’s portfolio of 156 gTLDs are in Chinese. Three have been delegated to the DNS root but none of them have been launched.

The first, .游戏 (for “games”) has been in the root since October 2013, but does not yet have a firm date for Sunrise. Another, .商店 (“shop”), was delegated just last week, almost a year after Donuts signed its Registry Agreement with ICANN.

Donuts explained the .游戏 delay with the following statement:

The Chinese government division which handles this area is MIIT [Ministry of Industry and Information Technology] and in conjunction with [.cn registry] CNNIC they are still to advise of the licensing application process. We hope to make these TLDs available during the first half of 2015.

No additional details were available and it’s not clear what licenses Donuts — which is based in the United States — thinks it needs to obtain before launching.

I’ve heard rumors that China may introduce a licensing system in future, but other new gTLD registries with Chinese-script strings in their stable have managed to launch their gTLDs just fine without a Chinese government license.

TLD Registry — legally based in Dublin, Ireland, founded by Finns — launched .中文网 and .在线 earlier this year and has tens of thousands of names under management.

Thousands of those domains, which match Chinese geographic names, were allocated to Chinese government, however.

“No licenses are currently possible, because the new law is MIA,” TLD Registry chief marketing officer Simon Cousins told us.

ICANN 53 will be in Buenos Aires

Kevin Murphy, December 8, 2014, Gossip

ICANN has picked Buenos Aires, Argentina, for its 53rd public meeting.

The choice of city was approved by the ICANN board late last week.

The meeting will be held June 21-25 next year, sandwiched between February’s return to Singapore and October’s first foray into Dublin.

The BA venue has not been disclosed yet, but it’s possible ICANN will return to the Sheraton hotel and convention center.

It’s the third time ICANN has held one of its public meetings in Argentina. It visited BA last year for ICANN 48 and the sleepy seaside town of Mar Del Plata in 2005.

Having attended both previous meetings, I’ve discovered that it’s possible for a vegetarian to quickly become seriously malnourished in Argentina, so it’s quite likely DI’s coverage of ICANN 53 will heavily leverage the excellent remote participation facilities.

BA’s great if you love steak, however.