Issues and disputes relevant to the new gTLD .music

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By Mark W. Datysgeld

In May 2011, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has established significant changes in the way the Generic Top-Level Domains are operated (gTLDs), expanding the options of the 22 domains available so far (such as .com and popular NET) to an almost unlimited range of choices. According to the introductory section of the gTLD Applicant Guidebook, signed by former ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom, would mark a “new phase of diversity in languages, participants and business models on the Internet.”

The areas known as “New gTLDs” are targeted to more specific activities, and expand the identification possibilities of a website from your address. While the use of the .org gTLD states that the website belongs to a general organization, the new gTLD .church states that this organization is specifically is related to a church, which enables new ways to categorize a website while increasing competitiveness prices over the older areas due to the introduction of more alternatives.

A point to note, however, is that the administration of these domains will not be done centrally, but driven by businesses and various institutions unaffiliated with ICANN, selected one by one through an evaluation process for granting domain. As there is a possibility of objections by any third party in such proceedings, disputes between different stakeholders in some areas has been raised.

One of the cases is the .music, one of the most contentious of the new domains. The gTLD associated with music was requested by 8 different actors, including giants such as Google, but also collective initiatives such as the one from Far Further. There are some divergencies between multiple applications, but the most important is the discussion about IF the names within that domain should or should not be granted only to those websites that comply with the laws relating to intellectual property. Also it is discussed how much emphasis should be given in this regard.

An institution with such a commitment to the global music community would constitute a remarkable event because ICANN principal role is to just related with names and numbers, without dealing directly with content issues. However, even indirectly, domain names would then deal with issues that go far beyond the scope of ICANN as the administration of the “logical layer” of the Internet.

These intentions are expressed through a document entitled Public Interest Commitments (PIC). As na option, this document may be submitted by the applicant to express to the community what their intentions towards that gTLD are. For example, owners of a fictitious .medic new gTLD, could say that it only allows registrations from individuals or institutions belonging to the health sector, this could be seen as an attempt to generate reliability for gTLD.

In the case of .music three candidates, the Top Level Domain Holdings Ltd., the Famous Four Media, and Donuts, presented PICs and others expressed through open letters their intention to have varying levels of commitment to combating the spread of websites that violate intellectual property laws. Interestingly, this issue that initially would would not apply to old gTLDs, is becoming central in this case.

However, we need to question the foundation behind this defense. It is the case that actors interested in making distribution of pirated files actually would use the .music in a significant way? There is no apparent evidence for this, and the action has a largely preventive sense by candidates to the domain. The imposition of such restriction in that gTLD in particular would not change the rules of any other, making it only unattractive to potential violators of Intellectual Property laws.

It is possible to understand that such concerns are more like a smoke screen for the real interests of the applicants, who in the case of getting a gTLD that carries a powerful word of high value, which can be applied to a lot of situations. Even if there is genuine interest in the protection of rights, it is hard to imagine that the question of profit is not important, which is natural in any business.

For now, the new gtld .music remains out of operation, pending further deliberations to decide who will be its legitimate operator. It is time to say whether he will actually return envisioned by applicants, it is still uncertain whether the new gTLDs will be accepted from the general public since they are being used in a frank manner. It is also interesting to continue watching as content issues over time will approach ICANN, and the institution wanting this to happen or not.

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