New York Times: Brokering Peace in the Domain Name World
New York Times article covers this week’s new TLD discussion in New York.
I don’t typically write about mainstream news articles about domain names. When I do, it’s usually because the articles are inaccurate. But today on the New York Times’ Bits blog, author Saul Hansell wrote a well balanced description of the current battle between trademark holders and domainers titled “Brokering Peace Between Brand Owners and Domainers“.
In the post, Hansell describes the warring sides: trademark holders that want added protection when new top level domains are launched, and domain owners that don’t want to be subject to frivolous trademark claims.
Most of the time was spent on a proposal to help manage disputes when a new domain name contains what some company considers its trademark. Like much that Icann does, it was a raucous affair, with people from big companies complaining about the evils of cybersquatting while those representing domain name owners railed against abusive trademark lawyers. The Icann officials tried to be polite to all sides while answering all manner of trivia questions, including one stumper about how the Treaty of Versailles applies to their new plan.
The question over the Treaty of Versailles wasn’t a joke. It underlines the complexity of what ICANN is trying to do. In effect, it is creating “super trademarks” and policy above and beyond what exists in today’s legal framework. That is fraught with land mines.
The article has one point that is negative to domainers:
The domain owner constituency, by the way, seems to be made up of two rather different groups. There are the democratic idealists who want to preserve the rights of the little guy to express opinions and do business on the Web. And there are organized “domainersâ€ who see buying portfolios of Web sites as a digital form of investing in real estate. (Much of the value of that real estate comes from exploiting typing errors.)
Don’t beat up Hansell for suggesting that much of the domain owner money is coming from typing errors. The article points to an example that is a typo of NYTimes.com, and I wouldn’t challenge Hansell to find other examples. It is a problem in the industry, and one that gives it a black eye. Argue all day about the semantics of “domainer” and “cybersquatter”, but the problem still exists.