Alert: October 4, 2012

Untitled Document

AAF Alert, ICANN Proposal on Top Level Domains

To: AAF Board of Directors, AAF Club Presidents, Executive Directors and Government Relations Chairs

This past spring, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), accepted over 1,900 applications for the creation of more than 1,400 new generic top level domains (gTLD). You will recall that top level domains are the part of an Internet address to the right of the dot (.com, .org, .edu, etc.). 

AAF, along with much of the business community, is concerned that ICANN still has not created adequate safeguards for copyright and brand owners in the face of the creation these hundreds of new gTLDs.  The difficulties are particularly severe for small businesses that lack adequate resources to protect their interests.

This issue will be raised when ICANN meets in Toronto October 14-18.  Representatives from the U.S. Department of Commerce sit on ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee.  We would like to send the attached letter – signed by as many ad clubs and small businesses as possible – to the Department asking their representatives to urge ICANN to create adequate safeguards for copyright and brand owners.

Please distribute this letter to your board and member companies and let me know if your ad club or any of your members would like to sign on.  In order to get the letter to the Department prior to the meeting, the deadline for signatures is noon Eastern time on Thursday, October 11.

Thank you for your help, and do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.

Clark Rector
Executive Vice President-Government Affairs
American Advertising Federation
crector@aaf.org
202-898-0089
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The Honorable Lawrence E. Strickling
Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information
United States Department of Commerce
Washington, D.C.  20230

Dear Assistant Secretary Strickling:

We are writing to express some of our concerns regarding the current status of the proposed expansion of domain names by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).  For small business entities with relatively limited resources, ICANN’s proposals are especially troubling.

ICANN received a large number of applications (more than 1,900) for more than 1,400-plus unique gTLD strings.  This represents a vast expansion over the current number of names, and many gTLD applications will implicate small business interests.  We are facing a name space that is dramatically increasing, with expanding burdens being placed on all businesses – especially small businesses – to monitor and protect their brand investments.   

To date, ICANN has not suggested adequate solutions to small business cost, workload and fraudulent/illegal activity concerns.    Many small businesses will confront registration fees that are prohibitive.  In addition, they will have to monitor each open TLD registry during its start-up as well as during its open sunrise periods, in order to protect their brand interests.  Small businesses simply do not have the staffing or funding to support these requirements.  Because we have already seen many instances of Internet misbehavior and illegalities (because cybersquatting and fraud are constant problems in the current name space); it is only reasonable to anticipate that the oncoming expansion will exacerbate the dangers for small businesses and consumers.  We note also that additional opportunities for misbehavior may already be occurring, as allegations have been made involving cybersquatting and filing of shell names in the applications process.  While we do not know if these allegations are true, ICANN must investigate and correct them (as necessary).   

While ICANN’s failures will impact businesses generally, small businesses will be disproportionately affected.  Therefore, we request that the Department, as the U.S representative to ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee, urge ICANN to increase protections for businesses and consumers so as not to leave brands, and the consumers who rely on those brands, at risk during their activities on the Web.  For example, the Trademark Clearinghouse time period should be extended well beyond 60 days, and the Clearinghouse should apply to more than just exact trademark matches.   Further, we understand that some entities endorse a TLD block list whereby entities could register a name and block prospective registrations.  We believe that is appropriate, and – due to cost and burdensome workload impacts -- will be most effective if it is a comprehensive blocking mechanism, rather than one that requires small businesses to take action on a per-TLD basis.

Thank you for your consideration of our concerns.

Sincerely,