A preview with links to testimony for Wednesday’s hearing.
Wednesday morning, the House Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing on the expansion of top level domain names. Four witnesses will testify: Doug Brent, Chief Operating Officer of ICANN, Richard Heath
President of International Trademark Association, Paul Stahura, Chief Executive Officer/President
eNOM, Inc., and Steve DelBianco, Executive Director of NetChoice.
Here’s a preview of their testimony:
Doug Brent (ICANN): …any resultant delay of the launch of the New gTLD Program will inhibit competition in the use of generic, nonâ€trademarked terms, and runs counter to the generally accepted view that market entry benefits consumers by expanding output and lowering price. The potential innovations and uses for the new gTLD namespace will be stifled if limitations to entry are imposed.
…Similarly, delaying the introduction of new gTLDs for unsubstantiated fears of price gouging by way of forcing defensive registrations – based upon the omission of price caps in registry contracts – is not a sufficient reason to delay the benefits of introducing competition into the DNS. GTLDs without price caps exist today, yet the registry operators of those gTLDs have not been the subjects of complaints of opportunistic behavior.
While the New gTLD Program already included several protections for intellectual property concerns, and even more protections are under consideration right now, those requesting additional economic studies to take into account the costs to trademark holders fail to provide any specific evidence to support why entry into an entire market should be delayed.
Heath (INTA): The correct time for the introduction of new gTLDs is when it can be clearly demonstrated that the introduction will not cause instability to the domain name system, and will produce improvements in consumer welfare that outweight the cost and harm that will affect Internet users and other stakeholders, including owners of intellectual property. INTA believes ICANN’s new gTLD program has not yet made this showing.
Stahura (eNOM): …despite the fact that as the introduction of competition through new gTLDs is part of ICANN’s charter and is called for in the Joint Project Agreement between ICANN and the U.S. Department of Commerce, true competition in top level domains has not occurred. Yes, there are some more TLDs then there were 10 years ago, but the doors have essentially remained closed for entrepreneurs like me who have ideas for generic top level domains and are willing to risk significant capital and time in starting new businesses that cannot only create jobs, but benefit consumers in many ways…
…For generic names, a wireless company cannot get clear.com except by paying hundreds of thousands of dollars on the “after marketâ€ (the non-Registry market) but they may be able to get clear.phones, clear.wire or clear.web for $50 or less when new gTLDs launch. That is a 10,000 fold price reduction, and for a better, more meaningful, name.
DelBianco (NetChoice): While we are grateful for your attention to this issue, we regret that Congress has been drawn into this contentious debate. If ICANN were properly accountable to users and other stakeholders, we would have been able to address our concerns and resolve our differences. As it happened, however, we need Congress and the Commerce Department to focus ICANN on its core mission and hold it accountable to stakeholders.
…ICANN’s planned expansion of top-level domains would make it even less efficient to guess at domains. As the goliath in search, Google will be the big winner form an expansion of TLDs, along with the companies earning fees for defensive registrations. Likely losers in the planned TLD expansion would be website owners who would buy defensive registrations to reduce the risks and costs to fight cybersquatting and attempts to defraud their customers. These concerns have not yet been adequately addressed by ICANN…
In advance of the hearing, Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse released a call for a full scale audit of ICANN, citing ten major problems.