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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.

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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.