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RIAA threatens ICANN over new TLDs

Kevin Murphy, January 18, 2011, Domain Registries

The Recording Industry Association of America has added itself to the list of organizations making vague legal threats over ICANN’s new top-level domains program.

The RIAA, no stranger to playing the bogeyman when it comes to technological change, is concerned that .music, for example, could be used to encourage copyright infringement.

It wants ICANN to “ensure best practices are developed” to prevent musical TLDs being used to enable music piracy. In a letter, RIAA deputy general counsel Victoria Sheckler wrote:

We are concerned that a music themed gTLD will be used to enable wide scale copyright and trademark infringement.

We would like to work with ICANN and others to ensure that best practices are developed and used to ensure this type of malicious behavior does not occur.

She signs off with a barely veiled threat:

We strongly urge you to take these concerns seriously… we prefer a practical solution to these issues, and hope to avoid the need to escalate the issue further.

One of the RIAA’s objections to the current Applicant Guidebook for new TLDs is the “community objection” procedure, which the RIAA doesn’t think gives it a good enough chance of blocking a .music TLD application.

I wonder if the RIAA is planning its own .music bid.

There is already one very public .music initiative, championed for the last couple of years by Constantine Roussos, an active and vocal ICANN community member.

But the string is valuable, is likely to be contested, and there’s a not insignificant chance that Roussos will be beaten to it by an applicant with deeper pockets.

Regardless, the RIAA’s argument that .music equals piracy is pretty poor, possibly disingenuous, and unlikely to influence the Guidebook.

ICANN constantly walks the tightrope between technical coordination and content regulation; getting into the business of fighting piracy is not going to make it onto the agenda any time soon.