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Username: SJMetalitz
Date/Time: Fri, April 14, 2000 at 6:34 PM GMT
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Subject: CCDN Comments on the Working Group C Report


Filed by the
April 13, 2000

These comments on the report of Working Group C are filed on behalf of the Copyright Coalition on Domain Names, a coalition of copyright industry groups (listed below).  

CCDN takes no position on whether new gTLDs are needed; clearly there are good arguments on both sides of that proposition.  Nor do we necessarily disagree with the concept of an initial rollout of six to ten new gTLDs, followed by an evaluation period.  In our view, neither of these "consensus positions" reflected in the report addresses the critical questions of the preconditions for initiating new gTLDs, and how those new gTLDs should operate.  If the preconditions do not exist, and the operating guidelines are wrong, then six to ten new gTLDs is far too many.  If, on the other hand, the preconditions are met and sound operating guidelines are in place, then the well-planned rollout of new gTLDs could potentially be carried out with a greater number than six to ten.

The following ground rules should be incorporated in the operating principles of every new gTLD:
(a)     Registrant contact data

All registrants of Second Level Domains (SLDs) should be required to provide complete and accurate contact data, and to keep it current.  Failure to fulfill this obligation should result in termination or cancellation of the SLD.
(b)     Whois

Managers of each gTLD must provide free, real-time access, via the World Wide Web, to a current database of contact data on its registrants.  This data should be fully searchable and should be available to the public without substantial restrictions on use (other than those restrictions required to protect the integrity and availability of the database or its exploitation for purposes such as inappropriate mass commercial solicitations).

[c]  Effective dispute resolution policy

An effective dispute resolution policy for the new gTLD must be in place before it begins taking any registrations.  CCDN welcomes the new Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy and looks forward to the evaluation of its operations.  It is far too soon to tell how effective the UDRP has been, since it has been in operation for just a few months and has resolved few contested cases.  The dispute resolution policy for a new gTLD need not necessarily be the same one that has been adopted for the existing gTLDs, but however it is structured it should be capable of delivering resolution of disputes over the registration and use of domain names swiftly, in a transparent manner, at low cost, and as efficiently as possible.

(d)  Protection for famous marks

This is the bailiwick of Working Group B, so we mention it here simply as one of the essential prerequisites for a successful new gTLD.  

(e)     Compliance Review

There must be an effective mechanism whereby ICANN or a comparable body can verify gTLD compliance with these policies, including a mechanism for receiving and resolving complaints that a specific gTLD manager is not complying with these policies.
If these preconditions are in place and new gTLDs are bound to operate in accordance with these criteria, there is no reason why new gTLDs should not be inaugurated, at a reasonable and controlled pace, so that their success may be evaluated.  However, if new gTLDs are allowed to commence operations before these criteria have been satisfied, there is a real risk of serious harm to consumers, intellectual property owners, and all legitimate participants in the domain name system. 

The Working Group C report appears to denigrate some of these concerns by characterizing them as "the argument that ICANN should impose substantial delays on the initial deployment of new gTLDs in the interest of adopting or perfecting trademark-protective mechanisms."   That misses the point and understates what is at stake.  This issue does not affect only trademark owners.  Consumers have a vital interest in a strong and transparent Whois system, so that they can determine whom they are dealing with online.  All domain name registrants have an interest in a fair, efficient dispute resolution process.  Basic principles of accountability and fairness require that domain name registrants should not be allowed to do business - legitimate or otherwise - under the cover of clearly false contact details provided during the registration process. 

CCDN submits that the criteria listed above are not as controversial as they used to be.  The basic contact data and Whois rules are already firmly established in the current gTLD environment, and are gaining wider acceptance within the ccTLD universe as well.  ICANN has recognized the need for a compliance capability (point (e) above) and is working to develop it.  The existing UDRP, while subject to legitimate criticism for its shortcomings, is a step in the right direction; and, as noted above, other dispute resolution mechanisms may also be applicable in the new gTLDs.  And substantial progress is being made on the famous marks issue.  CCDN and its members believe that the status quo could and should be improved in all these areas, but the progress toward a satisfactory environment for the rollout of new gTLDs is quite remarkable and should not be belittled as an effort to "impose substantial delays." 

Finally, CCDN wishes to call attention to the emerging issue of chartered gTLDS.  When the ability to register a domain name is limited to entities engaged in a certain kind of business or other activity, or meeting other qualifications, very significant questions are raised which must be carefully resolved.  Any chartered gTLD that is approved should promulgate clear and specific rules about who is and is not entitled to register Second Level Domains in that space, and about what activities are and are not appropriate or acceptable on the corresponding sites.  Who decides these questions, and how disputes about them may be expeditiously resolved, are also questions that must be decided.  All this must be done before the chartered gTLD opens its doors, not afterwards, when disputes and conflicts have already arisen.  Rather than prolonging the now-familiar debate about whether to open new gTLDs and how many, ICANN and the DNSO should devote more attention to the process of setting guidelines for the establishment and operation of potential new gTLDs, especially chartered gTLDs. 

Respectfully submitted,

Steven J. Metalitz
Counsel to CCDN
c/o Smith & Metalitz, L.L.P.
Suite 825
1747 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC  20006-4604
Tel:  (202) 833-4198; Fax:  (202) 872-0546

American Film Marketing Association
American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers
Association of American Publishers
Broadcast Music, Inc.
Business Software Alliance
Interactive Digital Software Association
Motion Picture Association of America
National Music Publishers' Association
Recording Industry Association of America
Software and Information Industry Association

April 13, 2000


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