[At-Large] News on the .health TLD allocation

Evan Leibovitch evan at telly.org
Tue Sep 2 07:57:38 UTC 2014

I think that the .HEALTH registry will have an uphill battle to gain, let
alone maintain, public trust. There are so many fuzzy obstacles. Consider:

   - There is a wide and deep marketplace of materials that are marketed as
   "health" related that may be not approved by national regulatory bodies,
   yet perfectly legal to sell. Or they may be legal in some countries,
   illegal in others, and regulated in others. Into this category I would put
   herbal remedies (consider Chinese medicine, which has very little reliance
   on western pharma), experimental drugs, dietary supplements, and
   non-medicinal health aids such as copper bracelets. In some cases, the sale
   of the materials may be legal everywhere but the marketing claims (and
   attached disclaimers) must vary from country to country. Is all THAT going
   to be policed?

   - Then we have the well-known-to-ICANN issues of intellectual property.
   While in most ICANN realms the main issue is trademark, in .HEALTH there
   will also be issues of patents to deal with. While many people lump them
   together, the legal regimes for patents are completely different from those
   of copyrights and trademarks.

   - The Internet has enabled intercontinental trade in a manner that laws
   and regulations strain to match. Assurances of checking for companies that
   "operate in" various countries only goes so far. DHL and UPS (not to
   mention Hongkong Post etc) don't act as customs regulators and will convey
   anything not dangerous to carry or globally illegal. A vendor of health
   remedies who will ship goods anywhere -- what body is going to police which
   countries are OK to ship to and which are not? Will the police of .HEALTH
   be able to track every link from its domains which go outside the HEALTH
   registry (ie, to eBay, Alibaba, etc) to actually complete sale at an
   e-commerce site? Is such policing within scope?

   - We have a very innovative marketplace when it comes to evading the
   letter of regulation. I potentially foresee an industry that will quickly
   find out how monitoring like LegitScript works, then invent ways to work
   around it. Then the monitors will no doubt come up with remedies, just as
   reliably new subversion methods emerge, and the cycle starts anew. (Think
   of how online casinos "discovered" how to use .net...)

   - If (as I suspect) .HEALTH becomes dominated by (a)
   legal-but-untested/unregulated products/services and (b) companies that
   find ways around the registry rules, big pharma will be in no rush to
   abandon its existing (and trusted) space in .com (or ccTLDs) to be there
   too. Would a company that has invested huge R&D and testing budgets want to
   have its products share the same namespace as "alternative medicine"?

Maybe there are ways around all this. But it won't be easy. While, as in
other new gTLDs, there will be speculators and defensive registries and
maybe an interesting use or two, I don't really see much public-interest
benefit of .HEALTH (or, for that matter, most of the new TLDs either). The
rejection (so far) of Policy Advisory Councils by ICANN -- as ALAC has
proposed -- has not helped matters from a public-interest PoV.

Evan Leibovitch
Toronto Canada

Em: evan at telly dot org
Sk: evanleibovitch
Tw: el56

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