ICANN should not agree to monopolistic price increases; ICANN is right to block adoption of the URS
- To: com-renewal@xxxxxxxxx
- Subject: ICANN should not agree to monopolistic price increases; ICANN is right to block adoption of the URS
- From: Nat Cohen <ncohen@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2012 17:21:48 +0800
There is little point to commenting, as the terms of this renewal are not
the result of a negotiated, competitive bid process. ICANN has tied its
hands, and has made itself powerless to change the most egregious aspects
of this contract.
Several years ago ICANN failed in its duty to protect the interests of the
Internet community at large by awarding Verisign a monopolistic,
presumptive renewal contract that allows Verisign to charge wildly inflated
prices on the services it provides. This amounts to a tax on many Internet
users. A tax imposed without the democratic participation of those
A brief review of that sorry history is here:
The contract is monopolistic because although there are many different
domain extensions dot-com is qualitatively different from any of the
others. It is by far the most popular extension, with more domains
registered than any other. It is also the extension of choice for most
businesses, certainly most businesses that consumers interact with on a
daily basis. From Google.com, Apple.com, eBay.com, MSN.com, CNN.com,
Facebook.com, etc. etc., most internet activity occurs in the .com name
space. It was already this way before Verisign came along.
ICANN ceded the most valuable, and the only essential, name space on the
Internet to Verisign through a no bid, presumptive renewal contract. Many
people in the industry believe the actual cost of running the dot-com
registry is $1 per domain or less. With dot-com prices reaching over $10
per domain during the life of this contract, this reflects a profit margin
of over 1,000%.
ICANN should be doing everything in its power to force Verisign to lower
its prices, rather than meekly acquiescing to Verisign taking billions of
dollar of excess profits out of the wallets of Internet users.
I support George Kirikos' comment that a way be found to put the .com
renewal contract out for competitive tender.
Yet ICANN is to be commended for recognizing that the .com-renewal contract
is not the place to impose experimental and deeply flawed rights protection
mechanisms such as the URS.
The URS is a cure that is worse than the problem it is attempting to
solve. Trademark interest groups make wild claims about the harms
inflicted by misdirected typo traffic. There is a readily available,
inexpensive, and heavily biased in favor of the Complainant remedy already
in existence in the form of the UDRP. Yet in a typical day, the number of
UDRP cases that WIPO (the primary UDRP provider) decides on dot-com domains
number in the single digits. Out of over 100 million dot-com domains, on
average less than 10 a day rise to the level of seriousness that a UDRP
action is requested to transfer the domain.
That is a level of rule breaking equivalent to there being 30 misdemeanor
offenses each day across the entire United States. Less than one
misdemeanor per day in each state. That isn't a crime wave, that's the
safest place on earth.
To solve this discrete and apparently very limited problem of typosquatting
to which an adequate solution already exists, trademark interests propose
weakening the registration rights of the 100 million dot-com domains held
by individuals and businesses around the world. Domain name owners are
already at the mercy of a biased UDRP process, tilted in favor of
Complainants through a forum shopping process that provides incentives for
UDRP providers to be as Complainant friendly as possible. There are an
increasing number of frivolous UDRP filings, and ever more findings of
attempted Reverse Domain Name Hijacking. There is no penalty for Reverse
Domain Name Hijacking, which is the name given to attempted theft of a
domain name through abuse of the administrative process. But very valuable
domain names are routinely lost through the UDRP because of a stray ad
displayed by a third party ad provider without the knowledge of the domain
ICANN is right to block attempts to further weaken registrants' rights in
the dot-com name space through the introduction of untested, unneeded, and
poorly conceived administrative proceedings such as the URS.