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Username: rarmstrong
Date/Time: Sun, November 5, 2000 at 10:19 PM GMT
Browser: Microsoft Internet Explorer V5.0 using Windows 95
Score: 5
Subject: The Moldovan Connection


To:    ICANN
Date:  November 5, 2000
Re:    Public Comment on application of dotLaw, Inc. to sponsor TLD ".law"

For the reasons which follow, I oppose the application of dotLaw, Inc. (hereinafter, "dotLaw") to sponsor the top-level domain ".law"

The Sponsoring Organization's Proposal (hereinafter, "dotLaw's Proposal"), reveals that the role of dotMD, Inc., a privately-held corporation based in Atlanta, Georgia (hereinafter, "dotMD"), is pervasive. DotMD has an ownership interest in dotLaw (Exhibit A to dotLaw's Proposal). DotMD has entered into a letter of intent to serve as dotLaw's registry operator (Exhibit D to dotLaw's Proposal; hereinafter, the "Letter of Intent"). DotLaw's estimates of revenues and expenses rely heavily upon the experience of dotMD (§ C12 of, and Exhibit A to, dotLaw's Proposal). DotLaw anticipates using the experience of dotMD to develop its marketing program (§ C12 of dotLaw's Proposal). DotMD even shows up in the formulation of the terms of dotLaw's Domain Name License Agreement and Domain Name Registration Agreement (Exhibits A and B to the Description of TLD Policies); examination of the HTML source of those documents as posted on the ICANN website reveals title - /title tagging of "DOT MD, LLC" and "dotMD, Inc."

In fact, dotMD's involvement is so all-encompassing that dotLaw refers to dotMD as a "partner":

We believe there is no better partner for us than dotMD. dotMd is the only registry operator that is currently operating a domain dedicated to another professional community. dotMD’s business culture, values and policies are consistent with ours and that of operating a domain for professionals. For example, dotMD operates the domain consistent with Continuing Medical Education requirements of the medical profession and has a goal to manage the domain with an appropriate stewardship expected by the community they serve. dotMD is a functioning professional registry that has the industry and technical expertise within their organization to ensure the highest level of uninterrupted service to our users.

(Next-to-last  in § C1 of dotLaw's Proposal).

Since it is the major player behind dotLaw's Proposal, just who is dotMD?

As quoted above, dotMD currently serves as the registry operator of a "domain dedicated to (a) professional community." In § C12 of dotLaw's Proposal, readers are directed to dotMD's website Reviewing that site reveals that dotMD is in the business of registering domain names with the suffix ".md" and producing website for members of the healthcare industry. The site's "Products and Services" page lists a "Physician Site Solution" website for $449 a year, a "Group Practice Solution" (coming soon) at $449 a year, and a "dotMD Domain Name Registration Package," the pricing of which is based on a "tiered pricing schedule," which was not available on that page on November 5, but which would "be available soon."

Inasmuch as ICANN has not yet approved the applications of any registry operators, how can dotMD be registering domain names with a ".md" suffix? As disclosed in the "Management" section of the Letter of Intent:

Through a February 2000 agreement with the country of Moldova and Domain Name Trust, Inc., dotMD, Inc. acquired the exclusive rights to market and manage the .md Top Level Domain for 25 years. The agreement calls for Moldova to receive a royalty payment based on the sales of domain names.  . . .

In other words, dotMD did not acquire the authority to register ".md" domain names from ICANN or any other internet governing body; instead, it entered into a contract with the nation of Moldova (and an entity called "Domain Name Trust, Inc.") and upon that basis, it is offering registration services.

Moldova is an eastern European nation that gained its independence from the U.S.S.R. in 1991. When the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority issued country codes for TLDs, it gave ".md" to Moldova. Somewhat later

" . . . the Moldovan government's Ministry of Communications granted Domain Name Trust exclusive rights to market the country code, called a top-level domain, in English-speaking countries for 25 years. In return, Moldova receives a commission of about $25."

American Medical News, March 15, 1999. (DotLaw's Proposal does not explain, nor have I been able to determine from other sources, how dotMD acquired the rights which appear to have been initially granted to Domain Name Trust.)

Although dotMD's Letter of Intent states that it has the exclusive rights to market and manage the .md domain, other companies currently offer such registration services. A search on "domain name trust" brings up where the user is invited to register a domain name ending in ".md." Others which offer domain registration for ".md" suffixes are - perhaps there are more.

But there are much darker clouds on dotMD's horizon.

A search on "Moldova" turns up This is not an official website; a disclaimer states that it is operated by The Rule of Law Foundation (USA) and Relsoft Communications (Moldova). Visiting the main page of that website on Sunday, November 5th reveals the following item as "Hot NEWS":


Chisinau, October 25 (INFOTAG). Deputy Ion Morei has addressed to the Constitutional Court asking to examine the legitimacy of the Parliament's October 5 decision to suspend the signature of the contract on commercializing the .md domain between the Government and DotMD company (U.S.A.). Mr Morei believes that the Parliament had no right to interfere into this issue as it is in the Government's competence, and that the Parliament has thus violated constitutional provisions guaranteeing the division of power in the country. He is absolutely sure the Parliament's actions will be recognized non-constitutional. The Court, however, has not yet included his application into the work agenda as, by law, this may be done within 6 months as from the paper submission date.

Pending verification as to authenticity (see below), which I have no reason to doubt, this story says that one month ago, on October 5, 2000, the Parliament of Moldova rescinded the contract pursuant to which dotMD has been offering registration services for the ".md" suffix. One of the members of the Parliament (Morei) disagrees with this decision by the Parliament and has asked the Constitutional Court to review that action.

(This comment is being prepared on Sunday afternoon, November 5 in order to be submitted by the deadline later today. I have searched extensively, but unsuccessfully, for some form of official news regarding the activities of the Parliament of Moldova in an attempt to confirm the above story. I would suggest that the Embassy of Moldova could provide confirmation, but the embassy is closed on Sunday.)

It is, of course, quite impossible to know what action the authorities in Moldova will take and whether or not dotMD will be able to continue to register domains with the ".md" suffix. It is entirely possible that the decision of the Moldovan Parliament to rescind the contract will remain in force. If that is the case, it is unclear whether those persons and entities who have utilized dotMD's services to register their domain names will still be able to use their domains. A search of dotMD's website discloses no advice to its clients as to their status.

Politics in post-1990 Eastern European countries is murky; power shifts.

What is clear, however, is that ICANN has the power (and the obligation to the Internet community) to demand that dotLaw provide a full and complete explanation of the status of its "partner's" rights to register domains with a ".md" suffix. Further, dotLaw should explain what steps dotMD will take to refund registration fees paid by its clients in the event the decision of the Parliament of Moldova is not withdrawn.


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