The group that manages the Internet’s address system could be facing a major legal battle over its plan to allow the introduction of hundreds or even thousands of new Internet addresses.
The Association of National Advertisers, representing companies ranging from Apple to Bank of America to Exxon Mobil, called on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to abandon its proposal for unlimited registration of new Internet domain names. The group wants ICANN, a California-based nonprofit, to work with trademark owners to come up with a more acceptable plan.
ANA General Counsel Doug Wood said in an interview that if ICANN fails to respond to the group’s concerns, it may be forced to sue to block the proposal. “If they choose to ignore us, which I hope they don’t, then we will have no choice but to litigate,” he said, adding that this would only be a last resort.
The association argues that the domain name proposal will force trademark owners to register numerous new Internet addresses and, in some cases, to operate new domains bearing the trademark to prevent someone else from claiming it. Wood said this could cost as much as $2 million a year per trademark. Those seeking to operate a new domain name must pay $185,000 and go through a lengthy application process.
“The program violates simple common sense. There are no material or obvious benefits from the program that provide true, measurable advantage to major parts of the constituency ICANN is charged to protect,” ANA President and CEO Robert Liodice said in a letter to ICANN President and CEO Rod Beckstrom on Tuesday. “Importantly, material gains are sorely lacking for commerce, competition, and innovation. While no doubt some industry sectors will make some money, most will suffer enormous costs that far outweigh the gains.”
Wood said that while ICANN spent several years studying the proposal, it ignored its own economic analysis that found it could be costly for trademark owners. Wood also said ICANN did not follow its own mandate to enact policies based on bottom-up consensus from the Internet community. Dan Jaffe, ANA’s executive vice president for government relations, said his group filed numerous comments with ICANN, but the nonprofit ignored them. “They are not listening,” he said.
ICANN did not have an immediate comment on ANA's concerns. But when it approved the new domain-name proposal at its Singapore meeting in June, ICANN said the proposal would “change the way people find information on the Internet and how businesses plan and structure their online presence.”
“Strong efforts were made to address the concerns of all interested parties and to ensure that the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet are not compromised,” ICANN said at the time.
ICANN is currently set to begin accepting applications for the new domain names in January.
ICANN was chosen by the U.S. government in 1998 to take over management of the Internet’s domain-name system. The United States has loosened its grip over the group in recent years in response to international pressure, but the Commerce Department still maintains a technical contract with ICANN that will be up for renewal in March 2012.
“We are committed to ICANN's multi-stakeholder process,” a spokeswoman for the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration said.