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Registries propose PKI-based new gTLD sunrises

Kevin Murphy, September 12, 2012, Domain Tech

Neustar and ARI Registry Services have come up with an alternative to ICANN’s proposed new gTLDs sunrise period process, based on a secure Public Key Infrastructure.

The concept was outlined in a draft paper published today, following an intensive two-day tête-à-tête between domain companies and Trademark Clearinghouse providers IBM and Deloitte last month.

It’s presented as an alternative to the implementation model proposed by ICANN, which would use unique codes and was criticized for being inflexible to the needs of new gTLD registries.

The PKI-based alternative from Neustar and ARI would remove some of the cost and complexity for registries, but may create additional file-management headaches for trademark owners.

Under the ICANN model, which IBM and Deloitte are already developing, each trademark owner would receive a unique code for each of their registered trademarks and each registry would be given the list of codes.

If a trademark owner wanted a Sunrise registration, it would submit the relevant code to their chosen registrar, which would forward it to the registry for validation against the list.

One of the drawbacks of this method is that registries don’t get to see any of the underlying trademark data, making it difficult to restrict Sunrise registrations to certain geographic regions or certain classes of trademark.

If, for example, .london wanted to restrict Sunrise eligibility to UK-registered trademarks, it would have no easy way of doing so using the proposed ICANN model.

But IP interests participating in the development of the Trademark Clearinghouse have been adamant that they don’t want registries and registrars getting bulk access to their trademark data.

They’re worried about creating new classes of scams and have competitive concerns about revealing their portfolio of trademarks.

Frankly, they don’t trust registries/rars not to misuse the data.

(The irony that some of the fiercest advocates of Whois accuracy are so concerned about corporate privacy has not been lost on many participants in the TMCH implementation process.)

The newly proposed PKI model would also protect trademark owners’ privacy, albeit to a lesser extent, while giving registries visibility into the underlying trademark data.

The PKI system is rather like SSL. It used public/private key pairs to digitally sign and verify trademark data.

Companies would submit trademark data to the Clearinghouse, which would validate it. The TMCH would then sign the data with its private key and send it back to the trademark owner.

If a company wished to participate in a Sunrise, it would have to upload the signed data — most likely, a file — to its registrar. The registrar or registry could then verify the signature using the TMCH’s public key.

Because the data would be signed, but not encrypted, registrars/ries would be able to check that the trademark is valid and also get to see the trademark data itself.

This may not present a privacy concern for trademark owners because their data is only exposed to registries and registrars for the marks they plan to register as domains, rather than in bulk.

Registries would be able to make sure the trademark fits within their Sunrise eligibility policy, and would be able to include some trademark data in the Whois, if that’s part of their model.

It would require more file management work by trademark owners, but it would not require a unique code for each gTLD that they plan to defensively register in.

The Neustar/ARI proposal suggests that brand-protection registrars may be able to streamline this for their clients by enabling the bulk upload of trademark Zip files.

The overall PKI concept strikes me as more elegant than the ICANN model, particularly because it’s real-time rather than using batch downloads, and it does not require the TMCH to have 100% availability.

ICANN is understandably worried that about the potentially disastrous consequences for the new gTLD program if it creates a TMCH that sits in the critical registration path and it goes down.

The PKI proposal for Sunrise avoids this problem, as registries and registrars only need a stored copy of the TMCH’s public key in order to do real-time validation.

Using PKI for the Trademark Claims service — the second obligatory rights protection mechanism for new gTLD launches — is a much trickier problem if ICANN is to stick to its design goals, however.

ARI and Neustar plan to publish their Trademark Claims proposal later this week. For now, you can read the Sunrise proposal in PDF format here.

Go Daddy, Neustar and eNom join White House fake pharma takedown project

Kevin Murphy, July 26, 2012, Domain Policy

Big name companies from the domain name industry are among those leading a new White House-backed project aimed at tackling bogus internet pharmacies.

DI first reported on the formation of the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies back in December 2010, but it only fully announced itself on Monday this week.

It’s a US-based public-private partnership that counts Go Daddy, Neustar and eNom among its members. Other participants include Google, Microsoft, PayPal and Yahoo.

The project was announced along with officials from the US Department of State and the Food and Drug Administration at an event in Washington DC earlier this week.

The goals are consumer education and enforcement action against “rogue” pill sites.

Go Daddy’s acting general counsel Nima Kelly said in a statement:

Go Daddy’s partnership with the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies is to help create awareness and fund educational campaigns in conjunction with the FDA. Go Daddy is also hosting the safemedsonline.org site pro bono.

Neustar vice president of business affairs Jeff Neuman, who’s also treasurer of CSIP, told us:

the overall goals of CSIP include providing a neutral forum for sharing relevant information about illegal US internet pharmacies among members and aiding law enforcement efforts where appropriate.

Neustar is working with the rest of the partners to address rogue pharmacies at their very source—their web addresses. Neustar has been and will continue to be vigilant in taking down rogue sites that contain malware and those that do not comply with our acceptable use policies – which include compliance with applicable drug laws.

American government kills off .kids.us

The US government is killing off the failed .kids.us domain, ten years after it was created by Congress.

The decision was explained in a statement posted on www.kids.us:

As a result of the changed landscape of the Internet and the many other tools that parents now have available to them to protect their children’s online experience, effective July 27, 2012, the Department of Commerce suspended the kids.us

An accompanying document (pdf) from Commerce says that .us registry operator Neustar should stop accepting new registrations and ask registrants to suspend their sites.

All .kids.us domains will be removed from the .us zone by June 27, 2013.

The .kids.us space was created by the Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act of 2002 and essentially forced on Neustar as a means for some politicians to get some family-friendly fluff on their voting records.

It’s been considered an abject failure ever since, largely due to its strict content regulations and a lack of marketing.

From the Google results and the old .kids.us directory, I’d estimate the number of registrations at fewer than 100.

In the new gTLD program there are two applicants for .kids — Amazon and DotKids Foundation. There’s also an applicant for .kid and an applicant for the Russian “.children”.

Neustar gets 358 back-end contracts, beating Verisign

Neustar has revealed that it is contracted to supply registry services for 358 new generic top-level domain applications.

Given the over 1,900 applications ICANN has received, the deals give the .biz/.us manager roughly 19% of the new gTLD back-end market.

It’s more than Verisign, which announced last month that it’s named on 220 applications. Afilias is now the only one of the big incumbent gTLD registry service providers yet to disclose its magic number.

Neustar was pretty aggressive about recruiting dot-brand applicants from the outset, announcing a $10,000 entry-level offering just a few days after ICANN approved the gTLD program a year ago.

The company also confirmed today that it’s behind the official .nyc bid, and that it has applied for .neustar.

Neustar adds voice to anti-batching chorus

Kevin Murphy, June 9, 2012, Domain Policy

Neustar and MarkMonitor have come out in opposition to digital archery and new gTLD batching.

In letters to ICANN this week, both companies have asked for delays in the digital archery process to give the community time to come up with better solutions.

Neustar’s new deputy general counsel Becky Burr wrote:

A modest delay would permit both ICANN and the community of affected stakeholders to consider the validity of those assumptions in light of actual applications.

Informed reflection by the community could result in greater efficiencies and fewer disputes down the road.

On the other hand, launching the Digital Archery process prior to publication of the list of applications is going to create winners and losers that will unnecessarily complicate, and perhaps prevent, thoughtful adjustments to the approach.

MarkMonitor’s Elisa Cooper simply wants to know “Why should some TLDs receive the benefit of being delegated before others?” She asked ICANN to reconsider whether batching is necessary.

While it is understandable that not all 1900+ applications cannot be simultaneously processed, why not just wait until all applications have completed the Initial Evaluation before announcing results. Why should some TLDs receive the benefit of being delegated before others?

If batching is even required, allow the Community to see the entire list of applications so that they can provide meaningful feedback. It may become apparent that certain types of strings should be processed together.

MarkMonitor also expressed concern that ICANN’s TLD Application System terms of use may prohibit applicants from using third-party archery services, such as those offered by Pool.com and Digital Archery Experts.

Sharing TAS passwords seems to be against the rules, but would be necessary to let a third party into your TAS account.

(I reported earlier in the week that it would also let the third-party view the confidential portions of your application, but that appears not to be the case after all.)

By officially coming out against batching and archery, Neustar and MarkMonitor join Melbourne IT, Group NBT, ARI Registry Service and the Intellectual Property Constituency.

Digital archery nevertheless is already underway, ICANN having launched the system on schedule yesterday.

All the applicants I’ve spoken to about this seem to be planning to wait until after the Big Reveal next Wednesday before taking their shots.