[NA-Discuss] IMPORTANT: US Senate hearings on new gTLDs

Joly MacFie joly at punkcast.com
Mon Dec 12 18:21:09 UTC 2011

Op-Ed in the Washington Post yesterday:


What’s the .rush?

By Editorial Board, Published: December 11

FOR TWO decades, .com, .org and some 20 other “generic top-level domain
names” have served as calling cards for the vast majority of Web sites.
That may change dramatically — and not for the better — if the obscure but
powerful organization that manages domain names gets its way.

Starting next month, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and
Numbers (ICANN) plans to take applications from individuals and groups
interested in plunking down $185,000 a pop to buy the rights to new domain
names — the words to the right of the dot. Some of these could focus on a
community of businesses or services, such as .bank or .news. Others may be
used to market specific brands or products, as in .Coke or .Chevy. ICANN
officials say that they expect up to 500 applications to be filed between
January and April when the organization opens the process; those approved
would go live in 2013. ICANN believes these changes will lead to
innovations that build on the already explosive growth and inventiveness of
the Internet age.

Businesses, nonprofits and law enforcement officials take a dimmer view. “A
potential disaster,” declared Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon
Leibowitz during a congressional hearing last week. An invitation to
extortion, cried a coalition of businesses. A crippling blow, warned a
group of nonprofits.

Mr. Leibowitz worries that the proliferation of names will increase the
incidence of fraud; ICANN’s error-riddled database of Web site and domain
name owners, he testified, already makes it difficult to track down
scammers. Businesses say that they will be forced to spend millions in
“defensive registrations” to prevent interlopers from claiming their brand
or product names; the new addresses, they say, will duplicate existing
sites and cause confusion. Nonprofits say that they cannot afford the stiff
fees. Representatives from these groups aired their complaints during a
Senate hearing Thursday — not that lawmakers have any power to resolve the

ICANN reports to no one — a decision made when the group was created during
the Clinton administration to protect Internet independence. The group has
made some adjustments in response to concerns, including creation of a
trademark clearinghouse and a “rapid response” process to allow legitimate
rights holders to quickly knock out imposters. Officials have said that
some nonprofits may be permitted to pay lower fees.

Although the plan has been six years in the making, it is not ready for
prime time. ICANN officials acknowledge that they are still working out
some details, including certain protections for trademark holders. The
Justice Department and other law enforcement agencies have expressed
concerns about enforcement.

ICANN should not approve new names until enforcement and protection issues
are resolved. Even then, it should approve at most a few, to allow the
marketplace to absorb and weigh the changes. ICANN would be wise to move
slowly; its legitimacy and Internet efficacy are at stake.

Joly MacFie  218 565 9365 Skype:punkcast
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