Commerce Department Responds to Concerns over Expansion of Internet Domain Names

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Public criticism prompts Commerce Department to address risks associated with domain name expansion.

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After receiving public criticism from over 160 major associations and companies about the planned top-level internet domain expansion, the U.S. Department of Commerce recently issued a statement commending the expansion while clarifying its challenges.

The non-profit organization that oversees the internet’s 19 familiar top-level domains, including .com, .org, and .edu, had previously announced that  it would dramatically expand available top-level domains to potentially any word or phrase proposed by “any organization” for a fee of $185,000.

Assistant Secretary of Commerce Lawrence Strickling urged the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which works under several contracts with the Commerce Department, to address concerns of potential costs to brand owners and “predatory cyber crime to consumers.”  He suggested a phased implementation and stronger accreditation requirements to prevent the need for defensive registrations of trademarks.

At the same time, Strickling did highlight several advantages to the expansion – inclusion of local languages and platforms for entrepreneurs.  Moreover, any .music or .movie domain can be designed to ensure consumers that the content is not pirated.

Asserting that the public criticisms can be adequately addressed through the existing ICANN “open and inclusive” multistakeholder process, Strickling rejected any proposals for regulating the Internet through renegotiations of the 1988 International Telecommunications Regulations (ITR) at the upcoming World Conference on International Communications.  According to Strickling, the proposals would “shoehorn the Internet into a supranational regulatory body. . . . The Internet does not operate under the anachronistic model of monopoly telephone providers that control all aspects of their networks within their countries.”

Strickling concluded by encouraging stakeholders to oppose “enshrining the Internet in an international treaty” and support the openness and innovativeness of the Internet.

Meanwhile, ICANN proudly revealed that in the week since its application system for new top-level domains opened, there have already been 25 successful registrants.  The first new domains are expected to be online in early 2013.