Additional IRT Comments by Leap of Faith Financial Services Inc. (May 6, 2009)
- To: irtp-draft-report@xxxxxxxxx
- Subject: Additional IRT Comments by Leap of Faith Financial Services Inc. (May 6, 2009)
- From: George Kirikos <gkirikos@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 6 May 2009 00:00:21 -0700 (PDT)
Additional IRT Comments by Leap of Faith Financial Services Inc. (May 6, 2009)
Ascended TLDs: A more elegant approach to new gTLDs than the DAG or IRT
Submitted By: George Kirikos
Company: Leap of Faith Financial Services Inc.
Company URL: http://www.leap.com/
Date: May 6, 2009
We reiterate our previously submitted comments, including the separate
submission of today. We oppose the introduction of new gTLDs, for the reasons
If new gTLDs are to proceed, they should be consistent with ICANN's mission of
stability, and need to be introduced in an orderly manner. We believe our
approach as described below for "Ascended TLDs" (or aTLDs for short) is more
elegant, more economically efficent, less prone to gaming, and would have less
opposition than the current DAG. It would still not be a wise move, but would
be a lesser evil than ICANN's current plan.
II. History and Motivation
1. A top level domain, for nearly all intents and purposes, has no special
advantages over 2nd level domains or 3rd level domains. They are equally
functional as serving as unique identifiers. An organization that owns:
example.com (2nd level)
can do the same things as one that owns:
example.co.uk (3rd level)
or one that owns:
.example (top level domain)
Thus, those folks who speak of "innovative business models", etc. that can only
be accomplished through a top-level domain are really not telling the truth.
They can do everything they dreamed of with gjhjkhjkhgkjh.qt.a.org
(non-existent but "ugly" fourth-level domain) that they can with .sports or
.shop or .movie or .xxx
2. There are very serious reasons why new gTLDs are a bad thing, as noted by
"The value of each domain name such as example.com also drops because of brand
dilution and public confusion. Even though most people largely ignore the last
segment of the name, when it is actually used to distinguish between different
owners, this increases the mental effort required to remember which company has
which top level domain. This makes the whole name space less usable."
The entire document by Tim Berners-Lee should be required reading by the IRT,
to understand that TM rights need to be considered along with many other kinds
3. So, why do folks want top-level domains? Firstly, they are shorter.
Secondly, they would allow covetous organizations to attempt to leapfrog
successful owners of elite 2nd-level domains, trying to encroach on their turf.
These successful organizations have already "won" in the competitive
marketplace for domains since the first domains were registered in 1985. In a
very real sense, the organizations and individuals who've built up an internet
identity over the past quarter century can be grouped as either winners or
losers. The winners don't see a need for new gTLDs, as they've already won. The
losers wish to keep playing new games, to change the rules to their advantage,
instead of competing in the level playing field that exists in today's stable
4. Is it possible to turn the tables on the "losers" and make the playing field
reflective of the current reality, but still allow for new gTLDs in a fair
manner? We think it might be under our approach, which does not reward the
losers' attempts to game the system.
III. The cases of Canada and Mexico
1. In Canada, 3rd-level domains were popular at one time, allowing
organizations in different provinces to have identical names at the 3rd level,
but different at the 2nd level. For instance, a company in British Columbia
(BC) might own:
example.bc.ca (3rd level domain)
while a totally separate organization in Ontario (ON) might own:
example.on.ca (3rd level domain)
with no company owning the 2nd level domain:
If one attempted to register example.ca, it would be considered a "Conflicting
Name", see section 3.4 of:
and special rules would apply requiring the approval and consent of the other
registrant(s). See also:
2. In Mexico, all domains used to be 3rd level domains, for instance
example.com.mx, example.org.mx, example.edu.mx (just like .uk currently is).
Starting in March 2009, though, they are opening up the 2nd level (so
example.mx could be registered). They have decided upon certain rules, in
English one can find them at:
and in particular holders of 3rd-level domains have the ability to rise (or
"ascend") to the 2nd-level, with highly simplistic tie-breaking rules (older
domain name wins).
3. Can we find a model that takes the best from the Canadian and Mexican
examples, and allow 2nd-level domain name registrants to "rise" to the
top-level? I think we can. We call this "rise" an "ascension" and thus leading
to the name "ascended TLDs" or aTLDs for sure.
4. As an aside, it's important to call these TLDs something other than regular
gTLDs (like .com, .net, .org) in order to not trigger the "equitable treatment"
clauses of existing gTLDs! (that clause will truly cause a lot of problems in
all approaches) That's one reason to call these aTLDs.
IV. Right of Light and Easements
1. Following the line of thinking of Tim Berners-Lee, we really need to
consider that TM issues alone are not the only "rights" that people have that
can be infringed. What we really are in favour of is strong property rights for
all domain name registrants, and we can learn lessons from the "real property"
world, not just the intellectual property world (that dominates the IRT
worldview and thinking).
2. Imagine that domains are like buildings, and there exists the domains
abc.com, abc.net and abc.org situated on a landscape. This can be represented
visually (apologies for the poor drawings, my background is finance, not art)
Note that the sun is shining, and everyone is happy. This represents the world
Now, suppose that "hovering platforms" due to antigravity machines are
invented, and suddenly it's possible to have floating buildings. This can be
represented visually by the following picture:
The floating platform itself is .abc (representing a new gTLD), and the little
buildings on top of it are representative of new 2nd-level domains under the
.abc TLD, such as sex.abc, casino.abc, and games.abc.
Note in the second image, the sunlight that was formerly beaming down upon the
abc.com, abc.net and abc.org buildings is blocked, and those buildings are now
in the shade, or in darkness. Sure, the buildings are still there, but in a
real sense their property rights have been encroached upon. They have been
diminished. In the trademark world, they might call this "confusion" or
What would happen in the real world if such a technology (the floating
platforms) existed? Certainly planners would not allow anyone to build a
plaform anywhere. That would simply be chaos. The owners of buildings would be
up in arms if just anyone put a platform 100 feet above their building and
started erecting new buildings directly above them. It would violate their air
space. It would violate their "right to light" and other basic rights.
3. The right to light is a form of easement that gives a long-standing owner of
a building with windows a right to maintain the level of illumination:
There are other kinds of easements, too, see:
4. In short, just like the Canadian example for .ca, when conflicts exist, we
turn to rules to sort them out. Thus, if we think of these interests as ones
that are attached to existing domain names, forms of property rights, then we
have a natural way forward if we want to allow "ascension" up a level like in
the Mexico example, with multiple conflicting parties but more sophisticated
V. Proposed Solution for Allocating Ascended TLDs (aTLDs)
1. Our basic approach, then, would be to recognize that each and every owner of
abc.com, abc.net and abc.org should have a veto to disallow anyone to have
.abc. The only way for .abc to be allocated is for the prospective TLD owner to
buy an easement from each of abc.com, abc.net and abc.org. Think of it as a
right of way, or a license, or an approval, etc. It's only abusers and "losers"
who think they should be able to build for free directly over someone else's
2. Using this approach, if a single organization owned all three of
.com/net/org (e.g. eBay.com/net/org, Disney.com/net/org,
Microsoft.com/net/org), they are already in possession of all the relevant
easements, and don't need to consult with anyone else.
3. If Polo.org (Polo association) wanted to run .polo, they would need the
consent of Ralph Lauren (which owns Polo.com) and another company (that owns
polo.net) by acquiring the easements.
4. How does one obtain the easements? One way would be to buy the other domains
outright. The other way would be to create a simple registry recording the
owners of the easements. This would be relatively easy to accomplish through,
create a shadow for each domain that shows who owns the easement.
5. By default, domain registrants automatically own the easements associated
with their domains. They can later assign or transfer them to others for
Note I intentionally exclude .biz, .info, other gTLDs and all ccTLDs. .biz and
.info are essentially failed TLDs. Strictly speaking, .biz is also a
"generic-restricted" TLD, while .info is a generic TLD like .com/net/org. See
the "gTLDs" tab at:
But, even NTIA/DOC/DOJ considered .info a failed TLD, see:
"In this regard, we discovered that .info often seems to have little value as a
stand alone gTLD." (footnote 2, page 5 of the PDF)
In the terms of II.3, .com/net/org registrants are the "winners" (and everyone
else really are the losers).
6. Using this approach, we do away completely with things like Global Famous
Marks Lists, or huge databases of worldwide trademarks, etc. Any important
trademark already owns their .com, .net or .org. If they don't, they're not as
important as they think they are. And if someone else already owns the
.com/net/org, they have the UDRP as a tool to acquire those domains (in
addition to lawsuits), if and only if the current registrants are
cybersquatting. If the terms are generic and domains are being used in a
non-infringing manner, tough luck.
7. Less monitoring is needed. If you own the .com, .net or .org (or 2 of the 3,
or all 3) and don't want that term to appear as a new TLD, you don't have to do
anything (you don't have to transfer your easement, you just keep the right to
8. No money flows to ICANN from TLD auctions or other boondoggles. Instead,
private individuals in the marketplace can determine which TLDs, if any, are
allocated. The cost of obtaining a TLD is not related to how much money one
throws at ICANN, but instead is determined by what it would cost to acquire the
easements (or optionally the entire domains) from existing domain name
registrants. This is an economic solution. TLDs that cause more collateral
damage to existing registrants would be fewer because they would simply be more
costly to acquire. TLDs that would cause less collateral damage because they're
more obscure would cost less.
9. Registrants would directly take into account how much confusion would be
caused by the creation of the TLD, how much "sunlight is blocked" using the
"right of air" analogy, in determining how much it would cost to acquire an
easement from them. For example, suppose someone owns music.org and calculates
that they would lose $50,000 if .music was owned by someone other than
themselves, due to the "loss of sunlight", confusion, etc. If someone
approached them offering $25,000 to acquire that easement, they would logically
say no, as the cost-benefit analysis just wouldn't work out for them. The
damage from the new TLD ($50,000) would not be outweighed by the $25,000 offer.
If someone else offered $75,000, they might say "yes" (they would not be
compelled to say yes, it's their easement and they could negotiate or choose
any number they wish to sell it for, or keep it for themselves).
10. What is the value of .music, then? To someone who doesn't own
music.com/net/org, it would be the sum of the costs of acquiring the easement
from all three current registrants. Note that this is LESS than the value of
each individual domain, because the easement can be assigned/transferred
without transferring the domain name itself --- the two are separable.
11. Gaming is less of a problem, because of the fact that the easements are
required, and those cost money at "market" prices. For a company like IBM, they
might price their easements at $100 billion if approached, and not have to
worry about the International Brotherhood of Magicians or others trying to get
.ibm. This is a broader solution than anything proposed in the IRT to date ---
this gives everyone for which there is a conflict property rights and a veto,
just like the Canadian model.
12. In order to solve certain issues (e.g. parties not negotiating, holdouts,
etc.), we can add an additional wrinkle, namely a challenge-response system to
ensure that non-responsive registrants are compelled to assert their easement
rights in an efficient manner. For example, suppose I own abc.com, abc.net but
don't own abc.org. I decide I really want to launch .abc, but am prevented from
doing so because the owner of abc.org never responds to inquiries about their
easement, or doesn't negotiate in good faith. I enter an offer into the
centrally run Easement Database of $100,000 for the abc.org easement (not for
the domain name itself, but just for the easement). Then, the owner of abc.org
is contacted by the central database (or ICANN, or whoever) and is given a
choice. If they do nothing, they automatically receive the $100,000, but lose
the easement. In the alternative, they must pay 1% of the offer ($1,000) to
positively assert their veto rights.
(this 100:1 ratio is chosen intentionally, as it reflects things like real
levels of interest rates, etc.) If the "loss of sunlight" and negative
externalities of the .abc TLD are really above $100,000, the abc.org registrant
would gladly pay $1,000 to prevent its launch (asserting positively their
rights). If the loss was really only $50,000, it would be crazy to not only
reject the $100,000 offer, but then be compelled to put up $1,000 of one's
money to boot (buying one protection for a year or two, before one could be
challenged again). This system would be a lot cleaner and more efficient than
the courts, and would lead to the correct outcome as to whether the TLD should
go forward (and how much it cost to buy out the other interests from
conflicting 2nd-level domains).
13. Of course, this does nothing to stop cybersquatting at the 2nd level in new
TLDs (e.g. someone could register microsoft.abc, verizon.abc, cocacola.abc), so
one would need additional rules besides this aTLD approach using easements.
However, any guidebook using this approach as a foundation would be a lot
simpler, smaller and fairer than the current one. It would also promote
stability, as existing registrants could decide for themselves whether the
costs of a new TLD that conflicts with their domain are less or greater than
the benefits to them.
14. This proposal would also quickly expose wannabe TLD speculators instantly.
Someone who has been in favour of new TLDs because they covet high-value
generic terms that they have no rights to (but hope to get at low cost from
ICANN in order to flip/speculate/cause defensive registrations) would oppose
our proposal, because they know they could not obtain easements for terms like
.shop, .store, .chat, .sex, .casino, etc. for free. They're exposed as wanting
to twist the ICANN rules in their favour to essentially encroach other people's
"right to light" (like building a floating platform over your house to put you
in the shade). People that have legitimate desires to run a new TLD (e.g. maybe
eBay or Disney want .ebay or .disney or Microsoft might want .xbox) would be in
favour, as this proposal protects them, and promotes stability. It's like the
owner of a building deciding to build that floating platform over their own
house --- they're enhancing
their own property. Other people that legitimately want to run a .store or
.shop or .pets would not hesitate to pay a fair price for the relevant
easements, prices determined in the open market through competition with others
and through negotiations. In other words, the howling will come from the
"losers" who wanted to use the ICANN lobbying to take and encroach upon
something of value from others for free. Their howls should be ignored.
15. In a phased approach, public announcements (and advertising via newspapers
of record like the Wall Street Journal, or global publications like The
Economist) would be made once a company acquired all the relevant easements and
wanted to apply for a new TLD. TM holders who might be affected (and who didn't
own the relevant domain names) could still file a UDRP within say a year or two
(i.e. there would be other rules besides just the ones documented above, albeit
much simpler than the DAG), and acquire the relevant easements if they won the
UDRPs. This would prevent the TLD from ever launching if it violated other
In conclusion, we continue to oppose new gTLDs. If Ascended TLDs were
permitted, using property rights systems like easements to allow the
marketplace to resolve conflicts using economic principles would be a far
superior system than anything proposed via ICANN's convoluted and self-serving
DAG, or the IRT's current draft proposals which are unworkable and rewrite laws
to the detriment of registrants. Our approach, in contrast, works WITH
TM-holders and domain registrants alike, strengthening both their rights
simultaneously. Of course, much more would need to be done to combat abuse at
the 2nd level, and to combat other top-level issues such as "morality", etc.
We would be happy to answer any questions the IRT might have on our submission
(feel free to contact us via email from our website).