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US unhappy with ICANN, urges more delay to many new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, February 8, 2014, Domain Policy

The US government is not pleased with ICANN’s rather liberal interpretation of Governmental Advisory Committee advice on new gTLDs and wants more talks about “safeguards”.

Not only that, but it wants to start talking to ICANN about extending safeguards applicable to new gTLDs to old gTLDs, presumably including the likes of .com, too.

A letter to ICANN from Department of Commerce assistant secretary Larry Strickling, obtained by DI today, calls for more talks before ICANN finalizes its handling of the GAC’s Beijing communique.

Strickling notes, as DI has previously, that ICANN softened the meaning of the advice in order to smooth its implementation.

as can be the case when translating GAC Advice to contractual provisions, the NGPC [the ICANN board's New gTLD Program Committee] made adjustments to the GAC Advice that the United States believes could cause enforcement problems and as such merits further discussion. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), on behalf of the United States, is planning to raise these concerns for discussion at the March GAC meeting in Singapore and requests that ICANN take this fact into account before moving forward with applications for strings impacted by the relevant portions of GAC advice

The letter (pdf) was sent February 4, just a day before the NGPC held a meeting — the results of which we do not yet know — that had the GAC Advice on its agenda.

The New gTLD Applicants Group had urged the NGPC to finally put the GAC Advice to rest, highlighting the “heavy burden that the delay in the implementation of GAC Category 1 Advice has imposed upon affected applicants” in a letter last week.

The Category 1 advice, you may recall, comprised eight “safeguards” mandating policies such as industry engagement and registrant authentication, applicable to at least 386 gTLD applications.

Back in November, ICANN announced how it planned to handle this advice, but changed its meaning to make it more palatable to ICANN and applicants.

Those changes are what Strickling is not happy with.

He’s particularly unhappy with changes made to the GAC’s demand for many gTLDs to be restricted to only card-carrying members of the industries the strings seem to represent.

The GAC said in Beijing:

At the time of registration, the registry operator must verify and validate the registrants’ authorisations, charters, licenses and/or other related credentials for participation in that sector.

In other words, you’d have to provide your doctor license before you could register a .doctor domain.

But ICANN proposed to implement it like this:

Registry operators will include a provision in their Registry-Registrar Agreements that requires Registrars to include in their Registration Agreements a provision requiring a representation that the Registrant possesses any necessary authorisations, charters, licenses and/or other related credentials for participation in the sector associated with the Registry TLD string.

The doctor under this policy would only require the doctor to check a box confirming she’s a doctor. As Strickling said:

The NGPC has changed the GAC-coveyed concept of “verification and validation” to “representation”

Requirements for registries to mandate adherence to government regulations on the protection of financial and healthcare data are also his targets for further discussion.

What all this boils down to is that, assuming ICANN paid heed to Strickling’s letter, it seems unlikely that NTAG will get closure it so desperately wants until the Singapore meeting in late March — a year after the original Beijing communique — at the earliest.

In other words, lots of new gTLD applicants are probably going to be in limbo for a bit longer yet.

But Strickling also has another bombshell to drop in the final sentence of the letter, writing:

In addition, we will recommend that cross community discussion begin in earnest on how the safeguards that are being applied to new gTLDs can be applied to existing gTLDs.

So it seems the GAC is likely to start pressing to retroactively apply its new gTLDs advice to legacy gTLDs too.

Registrant verification in .com? Stricter Whois checks and enforcement? That conversation has now started, it seems.

IBM files URS complaints against guy who spent $2,500 on two domains

Kevin Murphy, February 6, 2014, Domain Registries

If you were a cybersquatter, would you spend $2,500 on just two domain names without doing even the most basic research into whether you’d get to keep the names?

One individual from New Jersey has done precisely that, apparently, and has now been hit with what may well be the first new gTLD Uniform Rapid Suspension complaint, according to Donuts.

Donuts VP Mason Cole said in a DI comment today that the company has “been notified of an additional URS action involving two IBM names.”

I believe he’s referring to ibm.guru and ibm.ventures, two new gTLD domains I highlighted earlier today as being registered under Go Daddy’s Whois privacy service.

Privacy protection has since been lifted from both domains, in accordance with Go Daddy policy, revealing the registrant (assuming it’s not a fake name) as one Denis Antipov of New Jersey.

Both domains were redirecting to ibm.com when I checked a few days ago — showing that the registrant clearly had IBM in mind when he bought the names — but now do not resolve for me.

What’s funny is that the registration date of the domains is January 31. Due to Donuts’ Early Access Program, the registrant will have paid Go Daddy a total of $2,479.98 for the pair.

Now, he stands to lose that investment in a URS case that will set IBM back about the same amount.

Donuts’ Cole said: “When infringement is alleged, we want to see the due process tools developed for new TLDs put to use. Registries are not trademark adjudicators — we implement the objective decisions of others.”

UPDATE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the price the registrant will have paid for these names.

TMCH sees cybersquatting in 1&1’s pre-reg requests

Kevin Murphy, February 6, 2014, Domain Registries

Would-be cybersquatters have pre-registered new gTLD domains matching many famous brands, according to the Trademark Clearinghouse.

According to a bit of TMCH PR fluff coming out tomorrow, there are pre-registrations in .web for 40 out of the 50 most-valuable British brands.

I gather that the data came from 1&1, the most aggressive registrar in its pursuit of new gTLD leads, which has reported over three million pre-regs.

In what appears to be outreach to drum up additional trademark registrations, the TMCH said:

According to the Trademark Clearinghouse’s data, unknown entities have already pre-reserved their interest in registering the domain names of 80 per cent of the UK’s 50 most valuable under the .WEB domain name. Similarly, third parties have attempted to pre-order 78 per cent of the UK’s top 50 most valuable brands under the .ONLINE domain name, 72 per cent under .APP, 70 per cent under .SHOP and 68 per cent under .BLOG.

It doesn’t seem to be a problem peculiar to new gTLDs, however. The TMCH also said that 54% of these brands have holes in their defensive registration portfolio across existing TLDs such as .biz, .net and .co.

There were roughly 23,000 marks in the TMCH database as of January 21.

UPDATE: 1&1 has asked me to clarify that the company took no part in this research. TMCH says it obtained the numbers through searches on the 1&1 web site.

Track new gTLD growth on DI PRO

Kevin Murphy, February 6, 2014, Domain Services

DI PRO subscribers from today can track daily changes in new gTLD registration volumes.

The New gTLD Zone File Report is a simple, sortable table showing how each new gTLD has performed over the last 24 hours.

It’s the database I’ve been using for DI’s analysis of Donuts’ landrush numbers over the last week, but I’ve received a few requests to make the data available in a more structured way.

DI PRO

The data is also being incorporated into the next TLD Health Check update too, enabling longer-term views and interactive charts. More on that in due course.

DI PRO subscribers also receive access to the New gTLD Application Tracker, a calendar of crucial new gTLD launch dates, the New gTLD Collisions Database and many more useful services.

Yes, there is cybersquatting in new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, February 6, 2014, Domain Policy

With new TLDs, comes cybersquatting. It’s inevitable. And it’s also true of the new gTLDs that hit general availability this week.

The question of what is or is not cybersquatting is best left to a judge or UDRP panel, of course, but I’ve already come across plenty of newly registered domains that I do not believe would pass the UDRP test.

Sifting through select Whois records of domains that were registered in Donuts’ first seven gTLDs over the last few days, and without leaving the A’s, I’ve found the likes of: adidas.clothing, americanapparel.clothing, akamai.guru, americanexpress.guru. appleservice.guru and accenture.ventures.

Delving a little deeper into .clothing, I see the likes of kanyewest.clothing, ralphlauren.clothing, kardashiankollection.clothing, lauraashley.clothin, michaeljordan.clothing and more.

One Los Angeles clothing store appears to have registered several .clothing domains matching brands it does not own, possibly unaware that such behavior is frowned upon.

While there could be legitimate uses of the names I’ve highlighted here, possibly, they all appear to me to be registered to people unaffiliated with the referenced brands or celebrities.

I found more that are registered behind Whois privacy services, where it’s not possible to tell whether the domain belongs to the brand or not. Domains such as ibm.guru and ibm.ventures use Whois privacy, yet resolve to the IBM web site.

Cases of obvious UDRP losses seem to be few and far between, however. The vast majority of domains registered in these new gTLDs this week seem to be straightforward generic terms.

While I’m using the UDRP sniff test to highlight domains I feel may be cybersquatting, there’s a new process in town when it comes to disputes: the faster, cheaper Uniform Rapid Suspension policy.

URS has a higher burden of proof — “clear and convincing evidence” of bad faith registration and use — and it’s not yet clear how panelists will handle these cases.

There’s only been one URS case to date, that of facebok.pw, in which the domain was suspended following a complaint by Facebook.

In that case, Facebook was able to show bad faith by presenting the panelist with a list of other typo domains the respondent had registered.