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ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom Talks about Domainers

Beckstrom gives initial comments about domainers.

In an article about new top level domains and trademarks in today’s Financial Times, ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom is quoted saying:

“You can look at domainers in many ways. Some see them as cybersquatters, some look at them as entrepreneurs. I think there is a rich and healthy debate to be had.”

Most domainers will view this as a positive statement. I e-mailed Beckstrom to make sure he was quoted in context and get some clarification. He responded verifying the quote and his view on the role of domainers in the domain ecosystem:

I think there are always multiple perspectives on any issue. Not unlike hedge funds. Some countries see them as villains while other market participants see them adding great liquidity to markets. I’m not sure but am open to both perspectives.

Here’s hoping that, under Beckstrom, ICANN will pay more attention to the views of domainers.

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  1. Domain Investor

    Quote –
    “Sounds like a nice politically correct answer.”
    I agree. He is trying to please everyone by letting them hear what they want to hear.

    To demostrate that his sentence doesn’t really say anything.
    Lets rewrite it –

    “You can look at bank robbers in many ways. Some see them as robbers, some look at them as entrepreneurs. I think there is a rich and healthy debate to be had.”

    🙂

  2. Johnny

    You got to admit he has to walk the tightrope between domain owners and trademark concerns, both of which have justified concerns.

    It’s hard for anyone to answer any other way being so new to the job.

  3. Steve Smith

    There needs to be some serious clarification here in defining the word- ‘domainer’. Domain investors or domainers, who invest in generic, brandable and/or geo-domains that are non-trademarked terms are Internet entrepreneurs and professional domainers. The dark side of trademark infringement is not how domain pros define the term domainer. The term for trademark infringement regarding domain names is ‘cybersquatter’ not ‘domainer’ in the domain industry. Domaining is a professional practice that is understood by few. Also, certain trademarks that include a generic word or words do not necessarily have the right to a domain name if the domain name is used in good faith in an area not related to the trademark. If this domainer definition mis-understanding continues regarding the loose definition of domainer then all legitimate domain investors are being mis-interpreted and mis-represented as cybersquatters which is absurd and ridiculous. Domainers are domain name investors NOT cybersquattters. Domainers are Internet entrepreneurs NOT cybersquatters. Domainers are Internet real estate investors NOT cybersquatters. Domain investing is like being an inventor. Inventors are entrepreneurs in the same way a domain investor is and by law an inventor or domain investor has to be wary of not violating trademark law. Investing in domain names of non-trademarked generic words or numbers is clearly not cybersquatting. Domaining is a $2 billion+ professional industry and should be treated as such!

    • Andrew Allemann

      Steve – Beckstrom’s comment is that many people view domainers as cybersquatters, not that he thinks that.

      Let’s face it, “Domainer” is a term the industry pushed forward as a PR move. Before the anti-cybersquatting act, there was no other term for buying and selling domain names for profit. Not that we have a law against “cybersquatting”, we need to differentiate. But it’s all PR.

  4. Domain Investor

    As Mike Berkins has stated a number of times, every generic word has a registered TM somewhere.

    And, the IP industry is trying to push the envelope further into their favor.

    I really want to give Beckstrom the benefit of the doubt.

    But I’m positive he will have to lean towards the IP industry because he will eventually need the IP influence in Washington so Icann can away from the U.S. gov’t oversight responsibility.

  5. .cm

    Hopefully some of the industry titans that have made millions off typos and trademark redirects are giving ICA major cash. We have them in large part to thank for this mess.
    Yes many generic words are trademarked but for very specific uses, so the generic definition is usually not trademarked. Keep your generics displaying what they mean.

    Best Regards. Hopefully Mr. Beckstrom can give generic investors some protection. Please.

  6. Steve Smith

    Andrew, if the domain industry “pushed forward the term domainer” as a PR move then it better defend the term properly. Domainers and the domain industry needs to defend who we are. Domainers are NOT cybersquatters. We need to clarify the difference because our industry jargon which has now been falsely defined as cybersquatting is being mis-interpreted. If you search domainer in Wikipedia you get an unjustifiable re-direct to cybersquatting. Domainers as a whole are being construed as cybersquatters which is a joke. A cybersquatter is not a domainer. A cybersquatter is a cybersquatter. Perhaps we should change the jargon we use in the industry because unless we defend our industry then there will always be an inaccuarate mis-perception. Perception becomes reality and not always in a fair way.

    • Andrew Allemann

      Steve, I think we do a good job getting domainer out in the public. I’m just pointing out that Rod is saying some people think domainers are cybersquatters.

      As for the redirect at Wikipedia, some internet purist/domainer hater must have done that. Wonder who to contact there.

  7. M. Menius

    I am very disappointed in Beckstrom’s choice of words, and I can assure you he is no novice when it comes to the issue of legitimate domainers vs. cybersquatters. What we just witnessed was an intentional avoidance of acknowledging the legitimacy of domain investors by the new head of ICANN.

    Do not make excuses for his deliberate side-stepping. The way he worded his response, particularly in light of Andrew’s request for clarity, tells us that he has already made a decision to define domaining in such a way as to undermine its authenticity and legitimacy.

    There is no “debate” or lack of clarity distinguishing domainer investors/developers from cybersquatters. Beckstron knows it. Any intelligent, fair-minded person knows this & appreciates the obvious distinction.

    DO NOT let others define you and subtly insinuate that your choices and behaviors are indistinguishable from trademark infringers. That’s b*llshit and a lie.

    There are serious abuses and exploitation of global trademarks occurring which are crippling companies. It is wrong. And it’s not our fault! It deserves to be confronted and stopped, and it has nothing to do with the lawful, respectful decisions & investments we have made as domainers, domain investors, developers, speculators, whatever term you choose.

    If Beckstrom is principled, honest, and truly a person of integrity, then he will state the obvious – that domainers are registrants & entrepreneurs who are well within their rights to invest in domains, develop them, sell them. We are stakeholders, have rights, and should be acknowledged and properly supported as principal funders of the domain name system.

    Don’t give this man a pass. DO NOT give anyone heading ICANN “the benefit of the doubt”. The ICANN President represents us, our interests. Do not allow political self-preservists to misdefine our activities, or lump you in with criminals, jackasses, and infringers who actively exploit and damage trademark owners’ years of hard work.

    To reiterate Steve Smith’s comments above. Steve nailed it! –>

    “If this domainer definition mis-understanding continues regarding the loose definition of domainer then all legitimate domain investors are being mis-interpreted and mis-represented as cybersquatters which is absurd and ridiculous. Domainers are domain name investors NOT cybersquattters. Domainers are Internet entrepreneurs NOT cybersquatters. Domainers are Internet real estate investors NOT cybersquatters.”

    Well said, Steve.

  8. Winterwind

    Give me a break, this whole debate about domaining is pointless. If a domain is left open, it can be bought, by anyone. There’s no limit to how many houses someone can buy, so why can someone not own many domains? What is the difference between the two different real estates anyway? A real estate investor does not intend to live in every house either.

    Second of all, I’m sick of companies like ‘Guess’ saying no one can own the domain Guess in any TLD. Guess was a very common word in the English language long before it was the name of overpriced jeans.

  9. Bertrand

    Interesting to see M. Menius saying “The ICANN President represents us, our interests.” Sorry, but he does not.

    ICANN is not a trade association for domainers (or registries and registrars for that matter); it is the global regulator of a common resource, the Domain Name Space. And one of the roles of ICANN’s President is to ensure that this resource is managed in the best global public interest, maximizing the social and economic value of the space, through appropriate policies. This includes, like a zoning board in a city, enabling the lawful and commercially viable exploitation of the “semantic real estate”.

    On the the distinction between domainers and cybersquatters, the situation is simple : domainers are legitimate actors, even if some of them may act as cybersquatters. Just like entrepreneurship is a fundamentally legitimate activity, even though some entrepreneurs are crooks. The general category is distinct from a specific illegal behavior.

    That said, the industry could develop more stringent rules (and propose them to ICANN) to address the issue of cybersquatting and policing its own crowd, instead of leaving the job to IP lawyers who, in reaction, may be tilting the balance too far in the other direction. Ultimately, failure by the domainer community to better police its own crowd is hurting it directly, beyond merely harming its reputation.

    As an ICANN participant, I do not hear much the voice of the domainers in that respect. Domaining has become too big an industry – and once again a valuable one – not to pay more attention to its responsibility in setting up appropriate policy.

  10. M. Menius

    @Bertrand – You misinterpret. Let me clarify. Domain registrants are as much the core business constituency of ICANN (and should be) as all the other special interests and concerns receiving special consideration -> trademark holders, registrars, registries, etc.

    Domain registrants fund, to a huge degree, every function of ICANN. So whether ICANN acknowledge it or not, they do represent our interests (and had better do so) as much as any other entity they have catered to. They are OBLIGATED to consider the interests of users who are affected by their policy developments and implementations. ICANN do not exist to serve themselves. They exist to serve the larger internet community of which domainers are an integral part.

    No, ICANN do not exist to represent domainers exclusively like a trade association. That’s your insinuation, not mine.

    Additionally, your proprosal that the domain community “police its own crowd” is awkward and off target. We are no more repsonsible for cybersquatting than you are. We condemn it, and are harmed by it as much as all internet users. And we will not tolerate ignorant individuals drawing an artificial & inaccurate connection between our interest/activities and what cybersquatters do. At the very least, you and others must acknowledge this if you’re concerned with having honest dialogue about these issues. Domainers are NOT the problem.

  11. .cm

    .cm – appears to have reverted to cybersquatting

    i changed it back. please add a better definition with more content. more of us must insist on the redirect change or people will visit wikipedia and believe the cybersquatting lies.

  12. .cm

    Didn’t Mr. Beckstrom have fake whois information on his domain(s). I have never put fake whois information on any generic domain I own. Private whois is fine but fake, misleading information?? and now he is in charge of keeping trademark thieves off of our generics. Give me a break.

    – wiki say they need a new discussion started before they redirect domainer and domaining away from cybersquatting. everyone should setup an account and help make the change.
    cheers, thanks again for the great discussions!

  13. Dave Zan

    Domain registrants fund, to a huge degree, every function of ICANN.

    Well, some of those registrants are trademark holders themselves, some of whom grouped at ICANN.

    I for one don’t really envy Mr. Beckstrom’s job, or ICANN’s job, of having to juggle diverse and even conflicting interests. But that’s assuming ICANN’s truly interested in balancing them.

    Only time will tell how things will turn out.

  14. Steve Cheatham

    Here is the current line from the people who control the redir of domainers to cybersquatters:
    Quoted from Wikipedia Dimainers Talk Pae on the article Domainers. “I protected the page for the time being because there is a clear AfD redirect and merge decision that should not be circumvented without a new consensus. If there is a consensus to unprotect the page or create a separate article on Domaining, I’ll unprotect it immediately. (I have no opinion whatsoever on the outcome of the AFD and this is neither an attempt at censorship nor an attempt to impose a one-sided view. Build a new consensus, and the article will be unprotected.) –[[User:RegentsPark|RegentsPark]] ([[User talk:RegentsPark|sticks and stones]]) 17:22, 30 July 2009 (UTC)”

    Here is my reply as a domainer or 12 years:

    Domainers do not need to justify rselves. We are legitimate business people driving a multi billion dollar industry. It will be much easier for us to discredit Wikipedia by using this blatant attempt to censor our industry as an example of how unreliable Wikipedia is as controlled by whomever built a consensus and decided to redir Domainers to Cybersquatters therefore harming our industry with slander.

    We are not quite so stupid as to get involved in this ego contest. I had hours and hours of editing thrown out that thoroughly described our industry and how cyber squatters were criminals, not domainers.

    Good luck restoring your reputation. I do not intend to waste any more time on it at such a trivial level.

    Steve C aka trotline on Wikipedia

  15. M. Menius

    I second your position Steve, and am grateful to you and any motviated domainers who are willing to invest time in protecting our hard-earned reputations. I google searched “domaining” and “domainers” and the Wiki cybersquatting page came up at top of the results.

    Think about how many people will search these terms in the months ahead and find cybersquatting at the top of the list. Wikipedia is considered by many people an authoritative resource, so the power to contaminate people’s perceptions of domaining is dangerous.

  16. 14 year Domainer SteveC

    I agreewith the fundamentals of the discussion. But here is another perspective.

    1. Why are we having this discussion? Domainers is a term that describes legitimate people in the domainjhe business.

    2. Cybersquatter describes people usually involved in trademark issues. The so called cybersquatter has a right to have his day in court.

    3. You can look up the definition of Domainer on Wikipedia. It is an article contributed to by many domainers in an attempt to explain their new business. Oh I remember, it has been hijacked by a so called “group” that had an official Wikipedia working group that voted that Domainers are Cybersquatters so they redirected the Domainer page to the Cybersquatter page. The only way to fix is have another group and redir it back.

    4. The Domainer article was redired to cybersquater about the time the ICANN group issued the finding on how there needs to be a trademark registery to control who ownes which domains.

    5. The domain/trademark registery will add a layer of burreracy to the Internet Domaine business as to stifflle it and redirect its value to people who did not work many years to build the value of the Internet.

    If you insist that all these points have to be in the discussion then the picture become clear. They is a movement to discredit domainers at the same time there is an effort to take their domains. Boy, those attorneys will do anything to get business.

    The UDRP process workes fine. It is NOT broke so don’t fix it. At leaest fix it instead of add a new layer of burreracy.

    Just an opinion. Please address all the points if you want to discuss it directly with me. Thanks.

  17. Steve

    I quickly apologige for using an attorney as an example.It was a tounge in cheek remark. Attorneys are fine updstanding citizens that contribut a lot to business and the world. It use several in my business.

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