Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

Big Content issues gTLD lock-down demands

Kevin Murphy, March 11, 2012, Domain Policy

Twenty members of the movie, music and games businesses have asked ICANN to impose strict anti-piracy rules on new top-level domains related to their industries.

In a position statement, “New gTLDs Targeting Creative Sectors: Enhanced Safeguards”, the groups say that such gTLDs are “fraught with serious risks” and should be controlled more rigorously than other gTLDs.

“If new gTLDs targeted to these sectors – e.g., .music, .movies, .games – are launched without adequate safeguards, they could become havens for continued and increased criminal and illegal activity,” the statement says.

It goes on to make seven demands for regulations covering Whois accuracy, enforced anti-piracy policies, and private requests for domain name take-downs.

The group also says that the content industries should be guaranteed “a seat at the table” when these new gTLD registries make their policies.

The statement is directed to ICANN, but it also appears to address the Governmental Advisory Committee, which has powers to object to new gTLD applications:

In evaluating applications for such content-focused gTLDs, ICANN must require registry operators (and the registrars with whom they contract) to implement enhanced safeguards to reduce these serious risks, while maximizing the potential benefits of such new domains.

Governments should use similar criteria in the exercise of their capability to issue Early Warnings, under the ICANN-approved process, with regard to new gTLD applications that are problematic from a public policy or security perspective.

The statement was sent to ICANN by the Coalition for Online Accountability, which counts the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America and Disney among its members.

It was separately signed by the many of the same groups that are supporting Far Further’s .music application, including the American Association for Independent Music and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

RIAA backs .music new gTLD bid

Kevin Murphy, February 7, 2012, Domain Registries

The Recording Industry Association of America has picked a side. It’s supporting Far Further’s application for the .music generic top-level domain, according to the company.

The RIAA is one of over a dozen music industry groups that are currently listed as supporters of the Far Further bid.

Among them is the influential International Federation of Phonographic Industries and The Recording Academy, which hands out the Grammys.

The support was hard won, according to Far Further president John Styll.

“The RIAA put together a loose coalition of organizations from sectors from around the world and ran a pretty intensive RFI process,” he said.

The company beat off competition from several other respondents and received word that the RIAA would support its .music application a few months ago, he said.

It’s been clear for some time that any .music applicant that does not have the backing of the RIAA will very likely get beaten up by the notoriously protective organization instead.

The RIAA wrote to the US Department of Commerce last August to demand that any music-themed gTLD should implement “heightened security measures” to prevent copyright infringement.

And that’s pretty much what Far Further has promised.

Its .music would be restricted, along the same lines as gTLDs such a .pro, to card-carrying members of what the company calls “accredited Global Music Community Members”.

“It’s not open to everyone,” Styll said. “You’d have to join an organization.”

Amateur bands would have to be members of an accredited songwriters association to get a .music address, for example.

In addition, the content of .music web sites would be policed in a similar way to .xxx or .cat, with regular spidering to ensure the content does not break the rules.

“We’re definitely looking at content, and besides the vetting process, in the registrant agreement there’ll be a warrant you’re not going to violate anyone’s intellectual property rights,” said Styll.

“We’re retaining the right to conduct searches,” he said. “If we find evidence of infringing activity we’ll give you the opportunity to correct that, or we can take down the site.”

Far Further is not the only known .music applicant, of course.

Constantine Roussos of Music.us and MyTLD has been passionately campaigning for the gTLD for years, and his enthusiasm has not waned even if his chances have.

“We’re still going after .music,” he confirmed yesterday. He added that he expects it to be a two-horse race, given these recent developments.

Make no mistake, with backing from the RIAA and other influential industry groups Far Further is now the runaway favorite in the battle for .music. Roussos has quite a fight on his hands.

DomainIncite PRO subscribers can read more about it here.

.xxx to tackle piracy, child abuse and censorship

Kevin Murphy, December 5, 2011, Domain Policy

The International Foundation For Online Responsibility, the policy oversight group for .xxx domains, says it wants to help fight piracy, child abuse material and internet censorship.

Those are the three priorities to emerge from IFFOR’s inaugural two-day meeting last month, according to the organization. It has set up three working groups to look at the issues.

On filtering, a pretty hot topic given the various pieces of copyright-related legislation currently under consideration in the US and elsewhere, IFFOR said:

The filtering working group will review the state of global filtering laws, regulations and plans with a view to educating legislators and others about the advantages and effectiveness of user-defined filtering as opposed to mandated filtering or blocking at the ISP or router-level.

While there’s yet to be a proven case of an entire nation blocking .xxx domains, some countries have said they are considering it and I’ve heard several anecdotal cases of companies blocking the TLD.

IFFOR also said wants to find a way to help combat piracy “that can work across the entire dot-xxx registry” and is looking at both technical and legal measures.

The child abuse imagery working group, headed by veteran cyber-cop Sharon Girling, plans to work with existing third-party organizations on reporting and policy-making.

All three goals are self-evidently noble. Whether IFFOR will be able to make a noticeable impact on any will of course depend on what policies its working groups come up with.

IFFOR’s Policy Council comprises nine members: five from the porn industry, a free speech advocate, a child protection advocate, a security expert and an ICM Registry representative.

Pirates set up domain seizure workaround

Kevin Murphy, October 6, 2011, Domain Tech

Movie and music pirates are setting up alternative DNS services to help users work around the government seizure of domain names.

A new service, BlockAid.me, launched an open beta at the end of September. It’s currently being promoted prominently on at least one major movie/music/games-sharing site.

The site encourages internet users to reconfigure their computers to use BlockAid’s DNS servers. That way, if a domain name used by a piracy web site is seized by law enforcement, BlockAid will be able to direct surfers to the original owner’s IP address more or less transparently.

This is exactly what the experts predicted would happen.

Ever since the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency started seizing domain names associated with pirated content and US politicians have been discussing legislation to streamline the process, workarounds have been expected.

In May, DNS experts including Paul Vixie, Dan Kaminsky and now-ICANN chair Steve Crocker said that the Protect-IP Act in the US would persuade many users to switch to offshore DNS servers.

They warned that this would lead to a rise in cybercrime against consumers, as disreputable or insecure DNS providers send surfers to spoofs of banks and other sensitive sites.

While there’s no reason to believe the BlockAid project has this kind of nefarious activity in mind, if the idea catches on it’s probably inevitable that a similar service operated by crooks will emerge eventually.

Amusingly, BlockAid’s web site says that it may financially support itself in future by showing ad-laden web pages instead of returning NXDOMAIN errors, a much-criticized money-making tactic many ISPs already use.

Note also that the .me registry is managed by Afilias, a heavily US-based company, which likely makes BlockAid.me just as vulnerable to seizure as any .com address.

Big Content calls for government new gTLD oversight

Kevin Murphy, August 1, 2011, Domain Policy

The music, movie and advertising industries have backed a US move that could see governments getting more control over the approval of new top-level domains.

They’ve urged the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to keep a proposed rule that would force ICANN to show a new gTLD is in the “global public interest” before giving it the nod.

But they are opposed by many other stakeholders who responded to the NTIA’s Further Notice Of Inquiry on the renewal of ICANN’s IANA contract.

The FNOI resulted in about 35 responses, from companies and organizations on five continents.

The most controversial question posed by the NTIA was whether the IANA contract should include this provision:

For delegation requests for new generic TLDS (gTLDs), the Contractor [ICANN] shall include documentation to demonstrate how the proposed string has received consensus support from relevant stakeholders and is supported by the global public interest.

This was broadly interpreted as a way for governments to have a de facto veto over new gTLD applications, via ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee.

The proposed measure has now been supported by the Recording Industry Association of America, the Association of National Advertisers, and the Coalition for Online Accountability, which represents the music and movie industries.

Brand owners want another bite

In his strongly worded response, ANA president Robert Liodice wrote that the new gTLD program “is likely to cause irreparable injury to brand owners”, adding that it supported the NTIA’s proposal.

[It] provides a layer, however thin, of contractual protection that gTLDs will not be deposited to the authoritative root zone without appropriate justification. While the ANA believes that these protections are marginal at best, and that a more secure, safe and permanent solution must be found to prevent the harms to brand owners and consumers described above; nonetheless, “something is better than nothing”

Special interests

The RIAA said in its filing that it “strongly supports” the proposal, on the basis that it thinks .music, if approved as a gTLD, could lead to more online music piracy.

there are no concrete obligations in the latest application guidebook to implement heightened security measures for these types of gTLDs that are focused on particular industries such as record music. Given the the risk that such a gTLD application could pass through the ICANN process without committing to such measures, it should be incumbent on the IANA contractor to document how its entry into the root would meet the “global public interest” standard.

It’s a drum the RIAA, never afraid of making special-interest arguments on matters of internet governance, has been beating for some time.

It stopped short of asking for all existing TLDs (and IP addresses, in the case of peer-to-peer applications) to be banned outright, which would presumably do much more to prevent piracy.

Oh no you ditn’t!

The COA, which includes the RIAA among its members, has the honor of being the first of ICANN’s critics to raise the Peter Dengate Thrush Situation to officially bash the organization.

PDT, as you’ll recall, joined Minds + Machines, likely to be a volume gTLD applicant next year, just a few weeks after he helped push through ICANN’s approval of the gTLD program.

COA counsel Steve Metalitz wrote:

This development tends to confirm COA’s view that “the new gTLD process, like so much of ICANN’s agenda, has been ‘led’ by only a small slice of the private sector, chiefly the registrars and registries who stand to profit from the introduction of new gTLDs.”

If a “check and balance” on addition of these new gTLDs to the root was advisable prior to this announcement, it now appears to be indispensable.

Plenty of ICANN stakeholders on both sides of the new gTLD debate have been calling for a review of ICANN’s ethics policies recently, so the COA is far from alone in highlighting the perception problem PDT’s move, and others, may have created.

It looked dodgy, and people noticed.

But on the other hand…

Many responses to the FNOI take the opposing view – saying that the “global public interest” requirements appear to run contrary to IANA’s technical coordination mandate.

IANA’s statement of work, which mandates IANA staff independence from ICANN policy-making, seems like a very odd place to introduce a vague and highly policy-driven oversight check.

Opposition came from the gTLD registry community and likely applicants, as you might expect, as well as from a number of ccTLD operators, which was perhaps less predictable.

A typical response, from the ccNSO, was:

While recognising and supporting the need for ensuring that new gTLDs have consensus support and are consistent with the global public interest, the ccNSO suggests that the IANA contractor’s role should simply be to verify that ICANN has followed the Guidebook process and that all the evaluation criteria (not just the two referred to) have been met.

A number of responses also call for the strict separation of IANA staff from ICANN’s policy-making functions to be relaxed. The way the NTIA’s proposal is currently worded, it’s not clear if IANA’s experts would be able to provide their input to important work.