ICANN Takes Credit, Criticism On New Internet Domains 13/07/2005 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Luxembourg City—The organisation responsible for the Internet name and address system this week hailed completion of a contract signed over the weekend with a new .mobi Internet domain, but heard criticism of its handling of the new .xxx domain for adult websites. The comments came in the first days of a weeklong meeting of the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a private, non-profit organisation based near Los Angeles, California. Much of the discussion of the new domains, which also includes .jobs and .travel, is focused on the content that will appear there. The new domains are “sponsored,” meaning they are limited to those fitting a certain description. ICANN also was criticized for the recently concluded process of renewing the contract to manage the .net domain to U.S. registry VeriSign, and fielded questions about its future governance of the Internet domain name system. Since its inception in 1998, ICANN has been under pressure to allow a proliferation of new domains on the Internet, but has haltingly doled out a handful like .biz, .name and .museum. Intellectual property rights owners, meanwhile, have sought to minimize new Internet domains. On .mobi, ICANN officials and industry representatives said an agreement was reached over the weekend to establish a domain to better enable services on mobile telephones. On the industry side, a coalition formed of 11 telecommunications and technology companies and associations including the GSM Association, Ericsson, Hutchison, Microsoft, Nokia, T-Mobile, Telefonica Moviles, and Vodafone. Rick Fant of Microsoft said in an interview that there are 1.8 billion mobile subscribers not worldwide, a figure growing at double digit rates. By comparison, he said, usage of mobile Internet is growing in single digits, and even then mostly in Japan and Korea. Fant said the problem is a lack of predictability and bad experiences for users. The idea for a mobile services domain originated with Nokia, who along with Microsoft and Vodafone applied to ICANN in March 2004 before being joined by the other investors. The proposal was approved by ICANN in December 2004, and negotiations followed until early June. The agreement was signed at the start of the board meeting. Subscribers to .mobi will be required to implement a basic set of features like “best practices,” such as ensuring devices are finding websites, and have formatting to fit websites to a mobile phone. Fant said the initiative does not require new regulations or standards, or the removal of existing ones. He said it is being pitched as a “business solution” not a “technology solution.” Another consortium member said that if successful, it will provide a “very major expansion” of mobile technology for developing countries to access the Internet, as the presence of mobile phones is rising quickly in all parts of the world where fixed line growth remains stagnant. The group supports the progress of internationalized domain names, those accessible in the non-western languages of the original Internet, he said. The consortium will continue to work with ICANN on implementation of .mobi until the expected launch in 2006. On .xxx, ICANN leaders were criticised by government representatives for their handling of the approval of the domain. For instance, Jose Marcos Noguiera Viana, an official from the Brazilian mission in Geneva, said his government’s executive branch has been questioned by elected officials in Brazil for allowing this to be approved. Officials from other governments charged that ICANN had not followed its bylaws, which require consultation with the ICANN Government Advisory Committee. Some government officials called for an improvement in those communication channels. ICANN leaders defended their approach, arguing that the approval process was conducted publicly during the course of more than a year. ICANN President Paul Twomey noted that 63 comments were received on the application, and none were from governments. Stuart Lawley of ICM Registry, the .xxx manager, told the ICANN Intellectual Property Constituency that his group has been seeking approval of the domain since 2000, and that ICANN has given its approval as long as a contract can be agreed upon. To improve the chances of that, ICM has hired the lawyer who successfully negotiated the .mobi contract, John Berryhill. Lawley said the domain helps clarify where sex-related websites are found on the Internet. “You know what you’re getting with a .xxx suffix,” he said. “You’re not going to get there by accident.” The registry promotes good business practices, such as age verification for users, he said. It also has taken steps to work with groups focused on online responsibility and against child pornography. It has proposed to model its structure on ICANN, with supporting organisations of various constituencies contributing to decisions. “Dot xxx has really provided the framework to sit around the table and find solutions that may bring benefits to all parties,” Lawley said. The group will not operate a “sunrise” period where existing trademark holders can get first crack at their domains because in the United States it is not possible to register trademarks on “salacious” material, and because the .info sunrise period experienced so many problems of fraud, he said. The group will offer a procedure to allow potential IP holders to register their interests in names, and notify potential registrants of that interest, which permits resolution of disputes before the names are made active. From the intellectual property standpoint, the biggest criticism came not for the content of the sites, but for a policy of requiring that legitimate businesses not engaged in the adult content trade would have to “defensively” register their names in order to protect them from use by others. For instance, in order to prevent anyone from using its name under the .xxx suffix, Disney would have to pay to register Disney.xxx and then set it up so it does not resolve to a website. Suggestions were made that a discount be offered to companies or others defensively registering their names, and that the proceeds go toward a non-profit cause related to pornography. Another suggestion was the creation of a list for these registrants to show that they did not wish to register such a site. Lawley and Berryhill said a discount and separate list are being considered. They also said that every person or group registering a website has to be verified as a bona fide member of the adult entertainment community. This will be done through automatic and manual methods. Partner organisations will determine verification and registrants will sign an affidavit swearing they are who they say they are, meaning they commit perjury if they lie. Legal challenges will be possible to sort out disputes in the event that an adult entertainment provider has the same name as a well-known trademark. Johannes Christian Wichard, a deputy director at the World Intellectual Property Organisation, suggested an exclusion process at the outset of registration to prevent famous marks from being registered anywhere. He also cited an extensive WIPO report on new generic Top-Level Domains (such as .com or .org) requested by ICANN and released this spring. The other new domain is being discussed at the ICANN meeting is .jobs. The domain is aimed at pulling together the “literally millions” of employer websites, according to Ray Fassett, who spoke for the .jobs registry at the Intellectual Property Constituency. Fassett said subscribing websites will be required to “abide by” a recognised international organisation that sets standards for human resources. The result would be a code of ethics guiding use of the .jobs websites, such as forbidding unsolicited commercial email (spam), or adult content. The registry will monitor sites to ensure they meet the requirements, but Fassett said trying to control the use of websites is a “slippery slope” for a registry because of the inherent difficulties and legal issues. Yet it is in the registry’s interest to monitor use because it wants .jobs to be recognised for a certain standard. The group has developed a way to intervene if content on a .jobs site does not meet the ethics code. None of the new domains has been added to the Internet root server yet and so are not “live.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related "ICANN Takes Credit, Criticism On New Internet Domains" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.