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Comment for Submission on behalf of Barnes & Noble, Inc

  • To: "comments-closed-generic-05feb13@xxxxxxxxx" <comments-closed-generic-05feb13@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: Comment for Submission on behalf of Barnes & Noble, Inc
  • From: Allison Liberto <ALiberto@xxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2013 17:14:26 -0500

Dear Mr. Chehadé and Dr. Crocker:

Barnes & Noble, Inc. submits this letter to urge ICANN to deny Amazon.com's 
application to purchase several top level domains (TLDs), most notably .book, 
.read and .author (collectively the "Book TLDs").[1]  Amazon, the dominant 
player in the book industry, should not be allowed to control the Book TLDs, 
which would enable them to control generic industry terms in a closed fashion 
with disastrous consequences not only for bookselling but for the American 
public. If Amazon, which controls approximately 60% of the market for eBooks 
and 25% of the physical book market[2], were granted the exclusive use of 
.book, .read and .author, Amazon would use the control of these TLDs to stifle 
competition in the bookselling and publishing industries, which are critical to 
the future of copyrighted expression in the United States.

Amazon's ownership would also threaten the openness and freedom of the internet 
and would have harmful consequences for internet users worldwide.  When ICANN 
announced its plan to increase the number of TLDs available on the Domain Name 
System, one of its stated goals was to enhance competition and consumer choice. 
However, if the Book TLDs applications are granted to Amazon, no bookseller or 
publisher other than Amazon will be able to register second-level domain names 
in .book, .read and .author without Amazon's approval, leaving Amazon free to 
exclude competitors and exploit the generic Book TLDs for its sole benefit.


Anticompetitive Threat and Harm to the Public


ICANN states that "[o]ne of its key responsibilities is introducing and 
promoting competition in the registration of domain names."[3]  Indeed, when 
announcing its plan to increase the number of TLDs available on the Domain Name 
System, one of ICANN's stated goals was to enhance competition and consumer 
choice.[4] As a result of ICANN's decision to expand the number of TLDs, over 
1900 applications were filed.[5] A majority of these applications conformed 
with ICANN's goals and fell into two groups: (1) closed brand name TLDs, and 
(2) open generic TLDs.

However, Amazon disregarded the guidance of ICANN and instead filed new TLD 
applications for generic terms in the very industries in which it holds 
significant market share, with the stated goal of controlling those TLDs - 
including .book, .read and .author - as closed registries. The concerns are 
especially acute in the bookselling industry, where Amazon already maintains a 
dominant position. As the Financial Times recently reported:

            For though technological innovation has made it easier than ever 
before for readers to          buy books, there is a catch: a single retailer - 
Amazon<http://markets.ft.com/tearsheets/performance.asp?s=us:AMZN> - dominates 
the digital      distribution channels. Its power is set to become stronger as 
eBooks eat into print book sales.

            Financial Times "Publishers Task to Unlock eBook Market", November 
12, 2012

By controlling the Book TLDs, Amazon will be positioned to gain unfair 
advantage in direct navigation and online search; will become associated with 
the very genus of books; and will likely control the generic Book TLDs in 
perpetuity as the registry agreements permit unlimited automatic renewal in 
ten-year terms. Additionally, Amazon will likely be able to prevent 
substantially similar TLDs from registering in the future, such as .books. 
Needless to say, this will result in steep barriers to entry for would-be 
competitors. As the governments of Australia and Germany noted during the GAC 
Early Warning Process with regard to generic TLDs, there will be a significant 
"negative impact on competition" by barring other entities, especially 
competitors, from using those generic TLDs.[6] The Government of Australia also 
specifically objected to Amazon's applications for closed generic TLDs, 
including objecting to Amazon's application for the .book TLD.[7]

Ownership of common industry terms as closed generic TLDs by industry players 
would be
anticompetitive and limit consumer choice across the Internet.  This is 
especially true with regard to Amazon, which has a history of anticompetitive 
activity. Additionally, Amazon's anticompetitive activities would not only 
affect its competitors in the bookselling industry but would also impact the 
future of copyrighted expression. See e.g. Barry C. Lynn, Killing the 
Competition: How the New Monopolies Are Destroying Open Markets, Harper's 
Magazine, February 2012, at 33 ("Amazon "has long since accumulated sufficient 
influence over their [publishing] business to ensure that these most dedicated 
defenders of the book - and of the First Amendment - dear not speak openly of 
the company's predations.")

Part of what has contributed to the vibrant growth of the internet is the 
ability of consumers to transcend physical boundaries to share information and 
find economic opportunity worldwide. People and companies have freely 
registered domain names in TLDs of their choice, whether the traditional .com 
TLDs, or more specific TLDs such as .mobi and .org. This has been critical to 
the success of the internet. The potential acquisition by Amazon of the Book 
TLDs threatens this balance.

If ICANN allows Amazon's closed generic TLDs to proceed however, consumers 
freedom of expression will be limited. Consumers who are searching for books 
and associated digital content want choice, not the product or service of a 
specific company. Unfortunately, the undoubted consequence of Amazon's 
controlling the Book TLDs is to hand the power to Amazon to exclude competitors 
and exploit the generic Book TLDs for its sole benefit.

Conclusion

Amazon's clear goal is to dominate the bookselling and publishing markets. 
Their drive to further consolidate these markets will be greatly aided by their 
control of the .book, .read and .author TLDs.  By having Amazon control these 
TLDs, creativity will be limited and content diversity threatened. The solution 
is to deny Amazon's closed TLD applications or in the alternative to require 
that Amazon operate such TLDs as open registries, allowing free access to 
competitors.

Please contact Mr. DeFelice at 212-352-3888 or Mr. Feuer at 212-633-3245 should 
you have any questions or comments.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Sincerely yours,


Eugene V. DeFelice
Vice President, General Counsel & Corporate Secretary


Bradley A. Feuer
Vice President, Assistant General Counsel


[1] Amazon has applied for numerous other generic TLDs in both English and in 
foreign languages, which applications include such blatantly generic TLDs as 
.mobile, .music, .shop and .store.

2 See e.g. Financial Times "Publishers Task to Unlock eBook Market", November 
12, 2012, 
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/a8f285ee-2370-11e2-bb86-00144feabdc0.html.

3 http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/about/program
4 Ibid.

5  http://www.icann.org/en/news/announcements/announcement-13jun12-en.htm

6 See e.g. 
https://gacweb.icann.org/download/attachments/22938690/Search-AU-13549.pdf?version+1&modificationDate+1353432052000
7 Ibid. See also Book and Publishing, Australia Objects to Amazon's Application 
for .book, December 7, 2012, 
http://www.booksellerandpublisher.com.au/DetailPage.aspx?type=worlditem&id=25783



________________________________

[1] Amazon has applied for numerous other generic TLDs in both English and in 
foreign languages, which applications include such blatantly generic TLDs as 
.mobile, .music, .shop and .store.

[2] See e.g. Financial Times "Publishers Task to Unlock eBook Market", November 
12, 2012, 
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/a8f285ee-2370-11e2-bb86-00144feabdc0.html.

[3] http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/about/program

[4] Ibid.

[5]  http://www.icann.org/en/news/announcements/announcement-13jun12-en.htm

[6] See e.g. 
https://gacweb.icann.org/download/attachments/22938690/Search-AU-13549.pdf?version+1&modificationDate+1353432052000

[7] Ibid. See also Book and Publishing, Australia Objects to Amazon's 
Application for .book, December 7, 2012, 
http://www.booksellerandpublisher.com.au/DetailPage.aspx?type=worlditem&id=25783

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