The registries behind .pro and .cat have agreed to new ICANN contracts with changes that, among other things, would bring the Uniform Rapid Suspension policy to the two gTLDs.
Both gTLD Registry Agreements expire this year. Proposed replacement contracts, based heavily on the base New gTLD Registry Agreement, have been published by ICANN for public comment.
They’re the second and third pre-2012 gTLDs to agree to use URS, which gives trademark owners a simpler, cheaper way to have infringing domains yanked.
Two weeks ago, .travel agreed to the same changes, which drew criticisms from the organization that represents big domain investors.
Phil Corwin of the Internet Commerce Association is worried that ICANN is trying to make URS a de facto consensus policy and thereby bring it to .com, which is still where most domainers have most of their assets.
Following DI’s report about .travel, Corwin wrote last week:
this proposed Registry Agreement (RA) contains a provision through which staff is trying to preempt community discussion and decide a major policy issue through a contract with a private party. And that very big issue is whether Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) should be a consensus policy applicable to all gTLDs, including incumbents like .Com and .Net.
ICANN needs to hear from the global Internet community, in significant volume, that imposing the URS on an incumbent gTLD is unacceptable because it would mean that ICANN staff, not the community, is determining that URS should be a consensus policy and thereby undermining the entire bottom-up policy process. Domain suspensions are serious business – in fact they were at the heart of the SOPA proposal that inspired millions of emails to the US Congress in opposition.
The concern about .com may be a bit over-stated.
Verisign’s current .com contract is presumptively renewed November 2018 provided that it adopts terms similar to those in place at the five next-largest gTLDs.
Given that .net is the second-largest gTLD, and that .net does not have URS, we’d have to either see .net’s volume plummet or at least five new gTLDs break through the 15 million domains mark in the next three years, both of which seem extraordinarily unlikely, for .com to be forced to adopt URS.
However, if URS has become an industry standard by then, political pressure could be brought to bear regardless.
Other changes to .pro and .cat contracts include a change in ICANN fees.
While .pro appears to have been on the standard new gTLD fee scheme since 2012, .cat is currently paying ICANN $1 per transaction.
Under the new contract, .cat would pay $0.25 per transaction instead, but its annual fixed fee would increase from $10,000 to $25,000.
The .travel gTLD, which was approved 10 years ago, will have to support the Uniform Rapid Suspension service, one of several significant changes proposed for its ICANN contract.
I believe it’s the first legacy gTLD to agree to use URS, which gives trademark owners a way to remove domain names that infringe their marks that is quicker and cheaper than UDRP.
Tralliance, the registry, saw its .travel Registry Agreement expire earlier this month. It’s been extended and the proposed new version, based on the New gTLD Registry Agreement, is now open for public comment.
While the adoption of URS may not have much of a direct impact — .travel is a restricted TLD with fewer than 20,000 names under management — it sets an interesting precedent.
IP interests have a keen interest in having URS cover more than just 2012-round gTLDs. They want it to cover .com, .org, .net and the rest too.
Domain investors, meanwhile, are usually cautious about any changes that tilt the balance of power in favor of big brands.
When .biz, .org and .info came up for renewal in 2013, the Intellectual Property Constituency filed comments asking for URS to be implemented in the new contracts, but the request was not heard.
I’m aware of two ccTLDs — .pw and .us — that voluntarily adopted URS in their zones.
Other changes include a requirement for all .travel registrars, with the exception of those already selling .travel domains, to be signatories of the stricter 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement.
That’s something Afilias and Neustar only agreed to put in their .info and .biz contracts if Verisign agrees to the same provisions for .com and .net.
The fees Tralliance pays ICANN have also changed.
It currently pays $10,000 in fixed fees every year and $2 per billable transaction. I estimate this works out at something like $40,000 to $50,000 a year.
The proposed new contract has the same fees as 2012-round new gTLDs — a $25,000 fixed fee and $0.25 per transaction. The transaction fee only kicks in after 50,000 names, however, and that’s volume .travel hasn’t seen in over five years.
Tralliance will probably save itself thousands under the new deal.
The contract public comment forum can be found here.
Neustar is to impose the Uniform Rapid Suspension policy on the .us ccTLD.
This means trademark owners are going to get a faster, cheaper way to get infringing .us domains taken down.
From July 1, all existing and new .us names will be subject to the policy.
Neustar’s calling it the usRS or .us Rapid Suspension service, but a blog post from the company confirms that it’s basically URS with a different name.
It will be administered by the National Arbitration Forum and cost mark owners from $375 per complaint, just like URS.
Neustar becomes the second ccTLD operator to support URS after PW Registry’s .pw, which implemented it from launch.
URS and usRS only permit domains to be suspended, not transferred to the mark owner, so there’s less chance of it being abused to reverse-hijack domains.
The burden of proof is also higher than UDRP — “clear and convincing evidence”.
What do Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, Jeff Bezos and the Saudi royal family have in common?
Their .ceo domain names all belong to the same guy, a registrant from Trinidad and Tobago who as of last night was responsible for 40% of hand-registered .ceo domains.
Andrew Davis has registered roughly 100 of the roughly 250 .ceo names sold since the new gTLD went into general availability on March 28, spending at least $10,000 to do so.
I hesitate to call him a cyberquatter, but I have a feeling that multiple UDRP panels will soon be rather less hesitant.
Oh, what the hell: the dude’s a cyberquatter.
Here’s why I think so.
According to Whois records, Davis has registered dozens of common given and family names in .ceo — stuff like smith.ceo, patel.ceo, john.ceo, wang.ceo and wolfgang.ceo.
So far, that seems like fair game to me. There are enough CEOs with those names out there that to register matching domains in .ceo, or in any TLD, could easily be seen as honest speculation.
Then there are domains that start setting off alarm bells.
zuckerberg.ceo? zuck.ceo? oprah.ceo? trump.ceo? bezos.ceo?
Sure, those are names presumably shared by many people, but in the context of .ceo could they really refer to anyone other than Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump and Jeff Bezos?
I doubt it.
Then there are a class of names that seem to have been registered by Davis purely because they show up on lists of the world’s wealthiest families and individuals.
The domains slim.ceo, walton.ceo, and adelson.ceo match the last names of three of the top ten wealthiest people on the planet; arnault.ceo matches the name of France’s second-richest businessman.
getty.ceo, rockefeller.ceo, hearst.ceo, rothschild.ceo… all family names of American business royalty.
Then there’s the names of members of actual royalty, the magnificently wealthy Saudi royal family: alsaud.ceo, saud.ceo and alwaleed.ceo.
Still, if Davis had registered any single one of these names he could make a case that it was a good faith registration (if his name was Walton or Al Saud).
Collectively, the registration strategy looks very dodgy.
But where any chance of a good-faith defense falls apart is where Davis has registered the names of famous family-owned businesses where the name is also a well-defended trademark.
bacardi.ceo… prada.ceo… beretta.ceo… mars.ceo… sennheiser.ceo… shimano.ceo… swarovski.ceo… versace.ceo… ferrero.ceo… mahindra.ceo… olayan.ceo…
There’s very little chance of these surviving a UDRP if you ask me.
Overall, I estimate that at least half of Davis’ 100 registrations seem to deliberately target specific high net worth individuals or famous brands that are named after their company’s founder.
The remainder are generic enough that it’s difficult to guess what was going through his mind.
On his under construction web site at andrewdavis.ceo, Davis says:
I am the owner of Hundreds of the Best .CEO Domains available on the web.
My collection comprises of the Top Premium .CEO Domains (in my opinion).
My list of domains contains the First or Last names of well over 1 Billion people around the world.
I offer Email and Web Link Services on each of these sites, so that these Domains can be shared with many people around the world, particularly CEOs, Business Owners and Leaders, or those aspiring to become one.
On each of Davis’ .ceo sites, he offers to sell email addresses (eg firstname.lastname@example.org) for $10 a month and third-level domain names (eg blog.walton.ceo) for $5 a month.
A UDRP panelist is going to take this as evidence of bad faith, despite Davis’ disclaimer, which appears on each of his web sites. Here’s an example from bacardi.ceo:
This Website (Bacardi.CEO) is NOT Affiliated with, nor refers to, any Trademark or Company named “Bacardi”, that may or may not exist.
This Website does NOT refer to any Specific Individual Person(s) named “Bacardi”.
This Website aims to provide Services for ANY Person named “Bacardi”, particularly: CEOs, Business Owners and Leaders.
Bacardi.CEO is an Independent and Personal Project/Service of Andrew Davis.
I must admit I admire his entrepreneurship, but I fear he has stepped over the line into cybersquatting that a UDRP panelist will have no difficulty at all recognizing.
Davis has already been hit with a Uniform Rapid Suspension complaint on mittal.ceo, presumably filed on behalf of billionaire Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal and/or his company ArcelorMittal.
It’s not clear from the name alone whether mittal.ceo is a losing domain under URS’ higher standard of evidence, but I reckon the pattern of registrations described in this blog post would help make for a pretty convincing case that would put it over the line.
I should add, in fairness to .ceo registry PeopleBrowsr, that the other 60% of its zone, judging by Whois records, looks pretty clean. Small, but clean.
The first controversial Uniform Rapid Suspension decision? Probably not.
An self-described “entrepreneur” from Texas has lost control of the domain dana.holdings after a URS complaint filed by Dana Holding, a vehicle component supplier. The domain has been suspended.
It’s the first URS case where the second-level string, in this case “dana”, has a hypothetical multitude of uses not related to the trademark holder’s brand.
The respondent, one Farris Nawas, said in his URS response:
Dana is a common Middle Eastern female name. My family is of Middle Eastern descent. My intention is to establish a holding company in my native country and not in the United States. Upon my registration of the domain name www.Dana.Holdings, I discovered that Dana Holdings is nationally registered in the United states. Out of Courtesy, I approached Dana Limited corporation myself to let them know that I have registered the domain name with the intention of starting my own holding company.
The National Arbitration Forum URS examiner, Darryl Wilson, didn’t buy it
While Nawas was not wrong about Dana being a common first name, I feel I’m on pretty safe ground saying the excuse about starting his own holding company was utter nonsense.
Nawas owns over 200 domains, most of which were registered during the first days of new gTLDs general availability and many of which appear to be cut-and-dried cases of outright cybersquatting.
He was called out by Forbes for registering tommyhilfiger.clothing. I’ve discovered he also owns such as names 4san.ventures and akfen.holdings, among others, which also seem to match company names.
Evidence of a pattern of cybersquatting can be used by URS panels to find bad faith, but that doesn’t seem to have happened in this case.
Rather, Wilson seems to have taken Nawas’ offer to sell the domain to Dana for “an unspecified amount” as evidence that he’s a wrong ‘un. Wilson found his explanation “dubious at best”.