ICANN asks FTC and OCA to review .Sucks

ICANN asks government agencies for feedback on .sucks plan.

ICANN has sent a letter to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Canada’s Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA), asking them to consider if Vox Populi’s plans for the .sucks top level domain are violating any laws or regulations these agencies enforce.

.Sucks registry Vox Populi has an interesting pricing model that charges some brand owners — including those that have tried to protect their brands in new domain names — a higher fee.

The Intellectual Property Constituency wrote to ICANN last month asking it to take action to halt the rollout as it’s currently planned.

ICANN is deferring to the regulatory authorities as to if any rules or laws are being violated. If Vox Populi is not complying with all applicable laws, ICANN says it may be in breach of its registry agreement.

More details are available in an official ICANN blog post.

March’s Top 5 Stories on Domain Name Wire

A look back at March 2015 in the domain name business.

Was March a slow news month? Looking over the top stories from last month, there wasn’t a lot of breaking, hard-hitting news. But there were some interesting domain name sales and other developments.

Here’s a rundown of the top stories from last month:

1. 2 Things that could harm domain names – the value and importance of domain names is always under threat.

2. The most influential person in the domain name industry is… – this was apparently the most interesting question on the 2015 Domain Name Wire Survey.

3. Goldman Sachs and other end user domain name buys – Goldman Sachs was among the buyers of domain names at Sedo last month.

4. LuxeValet.com shortens domain name to Luxe.com – the company bought the shorter domain name through Heritage Auctions.

5. IPC asks ICANN to halt controversial .Sucks domain name roll out – sunrise has now begun for the controversial domain name.

IBM’s Softlayer hit with ICANN breach notice

Notice appears to be triggered by customer complaint.

ICANN has sent a breach notice (pdf) to Everyones Internet, Ltd. dba SoftLayer, citing multiple contract infractions. Softlayer was acquired by IBM in 2013.

According to the most recent .com registry report from November, Softlayer’s domain business is meaningful. It had about 90,000 .com registrations at the time.

The breach appears to be triggered from a dispute about the domain name southaustralianweddings.com and maintaining registration records for it. But it also cites a number of other areas of non-compliance: Click here to continue reading…

Chehadé : It was just a misunderstanding

ICANN CEO explains domain “hogging” comments made during the Davos Annual Meeting.

ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé has responded (pdf) to a letter from Internet Commerce Association (ICA) regarding domain “hogging” comments he made in a Huffington Post interview.

In a video interview with Huffington Post in January, Chehadé said:

“The reality is, the more there are names, the less people will actually be hogging names in order to charge a lot for them. Because if somebody took your name on dot-x, you can go get another name on dot-y now.” and “We went from twenty-something top-level domains … to hundreds now… We think it will actually reduce cybersquatting eventually.”

ICA and many domain name investors took issue with this. Click here to continue reading…

IPC asks ICANN to halt controversial .Sucks domain name roll out

Calls it “predatory, exploitative and coercive” and points out bizarre contract with ICANN.

The Intellectual Property Constituency (IPC) is asking (pdf) ICANN to halt Vox Populi’s roll out of the .sucks top level domain name, calling the registry’s unique pricing “predatory, exploitative and coercive”.

The group is upset that Vox Populi plans to charge $2,499 to trademark owners to register their domains while offering a much cheaper price to non-trademark holders. The registry has also placed a premium on a number of brands that have submitted their marks to the Trademark Clearinghouse. This, the IPC claims, will discourage trademark holders from using a key rights protection mechanism.

IPC believes Vox Populi has set this up to encourage bad faith registrations by third parties and increase the likelihood of TM infringement.

In a letter to ICANN, IPC notes:

…Vox Populi may well be liable under the Post Delegation Dispute Resolution Policy (PDDRP), may in fact be accountable under the various intermediary liability laws around the world, and may have breached its Registry Agreement with ICANN (as well as ICANN Consensus Policies) by adding additional elements (the subsidy and “sunrise premium” name schemes) which materially alters the mandatory RPM in a manner which renders them detrimental to brand owners, and a new registry service in the form of its everything.sucks platform.

Everything.sucks is a third party arrangement in which people can register domains for a much lower price if they host them on a third party platform (and if they aren’t the trademark holder).

IPC also points out a peculiar change to the standard new TLD contract that’s in the .Sucks agreement with ICANN. It includes an additional fee for Vox Populi with $100,000 upfront and $1 for each additional transaction for up to 900,000 transactions. It’s very odd that a registry would agree to pay this additional amount to ICANN.

Summarizing the issue, the IPC writes:

We understand that ICANN has previously taken the position that it does not regulate pricing and that compliance has refused to take action based on a pricing issue. However, Vox Populi’s entire business model, and in particular, the categorization of TMCH-registered and protected marks as “premium” and “sunrise premium” for the purposes of setting exorbitant pricing schemes and using “subsidized” domain names to maximize the likelihood that trademarks which are not registered during Sunrise will be registered by third parties, goes far beyond mere “pricing.” This scheme constitutes an abuse and a perversion of the mandatory RPMs approved by the ICANN community, solely to make money off the backs of brand owners, and appears to violate the Registry Agreement as well as numerous Consensus Policies. It creates a mockery of the new TLD process and calls into question the very ability of ICANN as an organization to be able to administer the new gTLD program. This issue is particularly timely, given the accountability debate in which ICANN is embroiled.