Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

Tata ponders “buy a school” strategy to release .tata from limbo

Kevin Murphy, August 30, 2016, Domain Policy

Tata Group is reportedly considering buying a school for the Moroccan province of Tata in order to unlock the .tata gTLD.

The huge Indian conglomerate has been prevented from acquiring its own dot-brand because it matches the name of the tiny region, which is as protected geographic string under ICANN rules.

Without the express permission of Morocco, Tata will not get its desired domain.

According to the New Indian Express newspaper, the company has now reached out to the Indian government in an attempt to open diplomatic channels with Morocco and finally resolve the issue.

The paper cites an unnamed “official” as stating that buying a new school for the province may be the best way to “open the door” to a formal non-objection.

That has precedent.

New gTLD registry Punto 2012, managed to get a non-objection for its .bar application from Montenegro by offering to pay $100,000, spread over 10 years, to fund a school in the Bar region of the country.

Tata came close to acquiring .tata in 2014.

It was the final new gTLD application to pass its evaluation, after it managed to produce a letter from Morocco that was taken as a non-objection.

But Morocco’s digital minister subsequently objected, denying that the government had permitted the use of the string.

Tata’s application was then returned to its Geographic Names Review, which it flunked last December.

Since then, the bid has been marked “Will Not Proceed”, a status that usually only changes when an application is withdrawn.

Terror fears prompt security crackdown for ICANN 55

Kevin Murphy, January 28, 2016, Domain Policy

ICANN is bringing in metal detectors, bag searches and ID checks at its forthcoming public meeting in Marrakech, Morocco.

The measures are being introduced despite ICANN’s assurances that it considers the chance of terrorism at ICANN 55 to be “LOW”.

In a statement today, ICANN meetings boss Nick Tomasso said:

we are in constant and on-going communication with our hosts and the Moroccan government, to assess any security concerns surrounding the upcoming meeting. In addition, we are working with a highly respected global security-consulting firm, which gives us on-going updates of potential risks. This firm has also assigned a senior level analyst to work with ICANN.

As of this date, the assessments of these various security experts is that there is only a LOW risk of any type of terrorist activity in Morocco.

The statement comes as some members of the ICANN community have been expressing concerns about visiting Morocco, in the light of recent ISIS/Daesh-linked terrorist attacks in North Africa.

Morocco itself has not been the target of any successful Daesh attacks, though members of the cell behind the November attacks in Paris are reported to have Moroccan links.

Marrakech was bombed by an Al Qaeda-linked group in 2011.

Several Western governments urge visitors to the country to exercise caution, saying there’s a high risk of terrorist attacks.

The UK government says, for example:

There is a high threat from terrorism in Morocco. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.

The US government is less alarmist:

The potential for terrorist violence against U.S. interests and citizens exists in Morocco. Moroccan authorities continue to disrupt groups seeking to attack U.S. or Western-affiliated and Moroccan government targets, arresting numerous individuals associated with international terrorist groups. With indications that such groups still seek to carry out attacks in Morocco, it is important for U.S. citizens to be keenly aware of their surroundings and adhere to prudent security practices such as avoiding predictable travel patterns and maintaining a low profile.

I’ve heard community members speculate that an ICANN meeting, with its broad international mix of delegates, some governmental, might be an attractive target.

Personally, I’m not convinced the risk is much greater than it would be in any Western capital. My mother is vacationing unaccompanied in Egypt around the same time, and I’m fine with that.

However, ICANN seems to be taking the concerns seriously.

Tomasso added the following, non-exhaustive list of new security measures for ICANN 55:

  • Every delegate will now need a government-issued ID to pick up a badge at the registration desk.
  • There will be increased security screening for those entering our meeting venue, which may include metal detectors, magnetic wands and bag checks.
  • There will be advanced verification of delegate registration information by Moroccan authorities.
  • Security will be increased at the hotels where delegates are staying.
  • We are establishing a 24/7 operations center at the venue.

It’s not exactly TSA-levels of privacy invasion, but I can see some would-be delegates being put off by the extra hassle.

If ICANN were to cancel the Marrakech meeting, it would risk seriously pissing off African community members.

The Marrakech meeting was originally scheduled for 2015, but it was postponed due to fears about the Ebola virus, which at the time was running rampant in African countries thousands of miles away.

In 2010, ICANN was criticized for its handling of security concerns around a meeting in Kenya, where at least 74 delegates cancelled their registrations over terror fears.

ICANN also cancelled a planned 2011 meeting in Jordan due to Middle East security concerns.

ICANN 55 is scheduled for March 5 to 10.

Tata’s bid for .tata gTLD scuppered by Morocco

Kevin Murphy, December 20, 2015, Domain Registries

Tata Group, the humongous Indian conglomerate, has been told its flagship application for a dot-brand gTLD has been refused.

ICANN on Friday changed the status of the application for .tata from “On Hold” to “Will Not Proceed”, a limbo state that is usually expected to lead to the application being withdrawn.

It is believed that Tata’s row with Morocco is to blame.

While Tata Group is a 150-year-old, $100 billion-a-year company, Tata is also a province of Morocco with a population of about 120,000.

Under the rules of the ICANN new gTLD program, the string “tata” is therefore a protected geographic name, for which the applicant needs to show the unequivocal support or non-objection of the relevant government.

Tata was the last applicant to pass its ICANN evaluation, when in July 2014 it finally managed to pass its Geographic Names Review on the basis of a letter from a Moroccan official.

However, in September last year the Moroccan’s government’s digital economy minister denied that the letter indicated support for .tata.

This February, ICANN threw Tata back into a Geographic Names Review, where the onus was on the company to prove that it really did have support.

That support has evidently not been forthcoming.

Morocco has indicated in letters to ICANN that it may want the .tata gTLD itself in future.

Tata unit Tata Motors has already been delegated the dot-brand gTLD .tatamotors.

Back in evaluation! Tata dot-brand bid falls foul of Morocco

Kevin Murphy, February 5, 2015, Domain Registries

Tata Group, the Indian conglomerate, is to see its application for .tata head back into evaluation, after the Moroccan government denied it had given its approval for the bid.

ICANN told the company this week that .tata will have to be reviewed by the Geographic Names Panel for a third time.

Tata, as well as the name of the 150-year-old, $100 billion-a-year company, is also the name of a tiny Moroccan province (pop. 121,618) that is a protected geographic term under the new gTLD program’s rules.

Tata needed to get a letter of endorsement or non-objection from the relevant Moroccan authorities in order to pass the Geographic Names Panel review.

The company apparently had secured such a letter, when last July .tata became the final new gTLD application to pass through evaluation.

However, senior officials at Morocco’s industry of trade started kicking up a fuss last September, denying any such non-objection had been given.

In exchanges of letters with ICANN over the last few weeks, Morocco has elaborated. It now claims the letter provided by Tata to the panel referred to trademark protection of the Tata brand under Moroccan law and did not specifically not object to .tata.

The original letter (pdf) was sent by the Moroccan Office for Industry and Intellectual Property (OMPIC). It’s in French, so it’s hard for me to comment with much confidence either way even with a translation, but it seems to say that no Moroccan law would forbid the .tata application.

Now, OMPIC director Adil El Maliki has told ICANN (pdf) that there was no intention to confer non-objection. Another letter from the ministry of trade says the same.

ICANN has accepted the government’s explanation and has thrown .tata back at the evaluation process, where it is basically now at the mercy of the Moroccan government.

It’s not the first time there’s been some (charitably) confusion in government agencies about endorsements for new gTLD applications. DotConnectAfrica’s bid for .africa had backing from an African Union representative at first, which was subsequently withdrawn.

Other “geographic” gTLDs have found it’s easiest to throw money at the problem. Tata Group’s best hope for .tata now might be to build Tata province a new school.

“Frustrated” Morocco denies it supported .tata gTLD

Kevin Murphy, October 2, 2014, Domain Registries

The Moroccan government claims that it did not give its support to the .tata dot-brand gTLD, which was granted to Tata Group, the massive Indian conglomerate, in July.

According to Boubker Seddik Badr, director of digital economy at Morocco’s ministry of trade, .tata “did not receive any endorsement from any Moroccan authority”.

In a September 17 letter (pdf), he expressed his “surprise and very deep frustration” that .tata had been approved by ICANN regardless.

Under ICANN rules, .tata was classified as a “geographic” string because it matches the name of a Moroccan province found on an International Standards Organization list of protected names.

But Tata’s application was finally approved — it was the last bid to pass through evaluation — after a period Extended Evaluation. Its evaluation report (pdf) reads:

The Geographic Names Panel has determined that your application falls within the criteria for a geographic name contained in the Applicant Guidebook Section 2.2.1.4, and the documentation of support or non-objection provided has met all relevant criteria in Section 2.2.1.4.3 of the Applicant Guidebook.

The Guidebook states that letters of support or non-objection:

could be signed by the minister with the portfolio responsible for domain name administration, ICT, foreign affairs, or the Office of the Prime Minister or President of the relevant jurisdiction; or a senior representative of the agency or department responsible for domain name administration, ICT, foreign affairs, or the Office of the Prime Minister.

It’s not clear what documentation Tata provided in order to pass the geographic names review.

Tata Group is a family-owned, $103.27 billion-a-year conglomerate involved in everything from oil to tea to cars to IT consulting to airlines.

The company does not yet appear to have signed a Registry Agreement with ICANN for .tata.

ICANN is to hold its 52nd week-long public meeting in Marrakech, Morocco in February 2015.