|Remember when the dash for|
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Morse code ...?
gTLDs: I Can … or I Can’t
When the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced, as early as 2007 or 2008, plans to create a system for the registration of generic top level domain names (gTLDs), say .food or .movie, concern abounded. Chief among the issues were concerns from brand owners imagining a nightmare world in which they could never truly keep up with the vigilance needed to police a seemingly infinite number of new gTLDs that might host infringing sites or content.Now years later, and despite continuing concerns among brand owners, ICANN is nearly set to award gTLD registrations to applicants who have been approved through ICANN’s application process. However, another issue has also come to the forefront. Authors and publishers have expressed outrage at Amazon’s application to register, among dozens of other gTLDs, .book and .author. Citing antitrust concerns, they claim that allowing Amazon to own these gTLDs creates an online monopoly for Amazon to direct consumers shopping for books to Amazon’s retail pages and to charge authors and publishers a fee to register branded secondary domain names (for example, randomhouse.book).
“Placing such generic domains in private hands is plainly anticompetitive, allowing already dominant, well-capitalized companies to expand and entrench their market power,” Scott Turow, a partner at SNR Denton, novelist and president of the Authors Guild, wrote in a letter to ICANN. “The potential for abuse seems limitless.”
It is true that major retailers, brands, sports teams, service providers and the like will be the biggest beneficiaries of the gTLD application system. Registering a new generic top level domain, alas, is not as simple as visiting whois or godaddy and paying a reasonably minor fee to register a generic secondary level .com domain. I recall “American Dream” themed stories from the early days of the internet in which a John Doe had the good sense to register a generic site like shoe.com and then sell it to a shoe retailer for huge sums of money. On the other hand, in the case of top level domains, ICANN’s registration process is sufficiently burdensome to make it appealing only to those possessing three traits with which I’m sure Scott Turow is quite familiar: motive, means and opportunity.
What do readers think, we wonder?Despite this potential bias towards the deep pocketed, someone is ultimately going to own generic top level domains offered for registration by ICANN. If not Amazon, who? In that vein, Amazon’s counterargument seems most intuitive to me:"Why should a company be able to own 'widget.com' and not '.widget?"…. "Currently, .com may be considered more 'valuable' space, but that does not create a competition issue for the owner of the generic second level domain."Is there any fairer way to assign gTLDs than a first-to-apply process, provided that the applicant meets ICANN’s registration requirements? I can’t imagine what point there is to the creation of gTLDs if it were decided that private ownership was tantamount to anticompetitive behavior. Are authors and publishers creating a work of fiction or highlighting a legitimate concern for monopolistic trends on the web?