Policy

‘I Can’t’ Chorus Swells

1/09/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

Washington — The Internet Corp. for Assigned Names
and Numbers (ICANN) plans to open the window on new
top-level Internet domain names on Jan. 12, despite pushback
from top Democrats and Republicans, advertisers and
media companies, cable operators, nonprofi ts and even some
federal agencies.

Those new domain names
won’t be available for another year,
but marketers and others with
brands to defend are already
counting the millions it could
cost to protect themselves.

Critics of the plan, and there
are many, have argued that
ICANN has not demonstrated
the pressing need to expand the
number of such domains from 22
to as many as 300 in the first window
alone (there could be more).
The downside to such a domainname
expansion, they have argued,
is the millions of dollars it
will cost companies to defend their brands — like Nickelodeon
or CBS — from domain cybersquatters, as well as the potential
for scamming and fraud.

As the National Cable & Telecommunications Association
said in its comments on the plan to expand generic top-level
domains (gTLDs), “[T]he problems encountered by trademark
owners will likely grow exponentially because they will
need to either engage in numerous defensive registrations or
pursue claims against those who register and/or use domain
names that trade off the goodwill of established trademarks
in each of the new domains.”

MARKETING SPEND THREAT

Dan Jaffee, executive vice president of the Association of National
Advertisers and the lead executive representing the Coalition
for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight (CRIDO)
called the expansion “dangerous and misguided,” and said it
is a threat to the $700 billion in marketing spending from the
152 companies in CRIDO, which include major advertisers,
as well as ad associations.

ICANN countered that it came up with the plan in consultation
with stakeholders, noting that there are built-in safeguards
against scamming and to discourage squatters.

Over the past several weeks, House and Senate Republicans
and Democrats, joined by the chairman of the Federal
Trade Commission, have all suggested that ICANN scale back
its rollout or delay it altogether.

“Although we believe expanding the gTLDs is a worthy
goal that may lead to increased competition on the Internet,”
a bipartisan group of 16 House Energy & Commerce
Committee members wrote in a letter to ICANN, “we are
very concerned that there is a
significant uncertainty in this
process for businesses, nonprofit organizations, and consumers.”

And while the National
Telecommunications & Information
Administration — the
White house’s chief telecom
policy adviser — has backed
the rollout, an NTIA source
said officials there are tuned
into industry complaints.

“We will closely monitor
the execution of the program
and are committed to working
with stakeholders, including
U.S. industry, to mitigate any unintended consequences,”
said NTIA chief Larry Strickling in a speech to a telecom policy
group in Washington last month. In the same speech,
Strickling also warned that trying to block the ICANN decision
could send the wrong signal to other countries.

FOREIGN CONCERNS

“When parties ask us to overturn the outcomes of these
processes, no matter how well-intentioned the request,
they are providing ‘ammunition’ to other countries who
attempt to justify their unilateral actions to deny their citizens
the free flow of information on the Internet,” he said.

“Assistant Secretary Strickling has a good understanding
of ICANN’s multi-stakeholder model and as recently
as 10 days ago endorsed it in a speech,” ICANN director of
global media affairs Brad White told Multichannel News,
pointing to that specific passage.

“The business community is an important stakeholder
in this process,” said the NTIA source, ”and we have
been in conversations with some companies about the
introduction of new gTLDs to better understand their
concerns.” The source said Commerce Department officials met with some business leaders just before the
holidays.

THE ICANN ‘YOU SHOULDN’T’ CHORUS

Often-divergent voices have joined to sound a cautionary note on expanding general top-level domain (gTLD) names starting next week:

House Energy & Commerce chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and committee member Ed Markey (D-Mass.):
“We urge you to delay the planned Jan. 12 for the acceptance of applications for new gTLDs.”

Senate Commerce Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.): “I’m concerned that this expansion of
generic, top-level domains, if it proceeds as planned, will have adverse consequences for the millions of
American consumers, companies, and non-profit organizations that use the Internet on a daily basis.”

Federal Trade Commission letter to ICANN: “A rapid, exponential expansion of gTLDs has the potential to
magnify both the abuse of the domain name system and the corresponding challenges we encounter in
tracking down Internet fraudsters.”

Angela Williams, general counsel, YMCA, representing a nonprofit coalition that includes the Red Cross and
Goodwill Industries: The new gTLD Program compromises use of the Internet by increasing the risk of fraud,
cybersquatting and trademark infringement and by significantly escalating the cost to protect against such
unlawful activities.”

SOURCE: Multichannel News reseaarch

September