Many issues concerning the domain string applications have sparked controversy.
"Sensitivity" is a word being used frequently many applied-for terms concern concepts like religion, nationality, children, charity, medicine and the like. These are obviously delicate subjects and there is no surprise that they have drawn close attention. Naturally, various interest groups are going to try to protect the rights of the stakeholders in the interests of fairness and justice.
Another key issue involves the risk of huge monopolies being created which may well happen if applications for closed generic domain registries are permitted. That is, some applications are for closed gTLDs in which just one company will own the entire domain inventory under a name extension, with none made available for registration to the public.
Here is a non-comprehensive summary of the main controversies:
In addition to the dot brand applications, which being based on trademark principles will be closed registries operated by the respective brands, a large number of applications for closed gTLDs were also received by ICANN. Under this model, a single corporation such as Amazon will own a string like .shop without reselling any dot shop domains to any other entities. Thus, they would themselves own every dot shop domain in existence like Book.shop, Sport.shop, Shoe.shop, Parts.shop, Swimwear.shop, Surf.shop, Cycle.shop, Camera.shop, Bargain.shop, Online.shop the list goes on without limit.
Naturally, this proposal is attracting strong criticism.
The GAC's advice about closed registries, which it refers to as "exclusive access" is that they should serve the public interest. It remains to be seen if any of the companies involved can demonstrate that their "walled garden" domain registries serve the public interest.
This important issue is discussed in depth by SuperMonopolies.com.
Human Rights And The Developing World
The GAC has made a clear statement that human rights, including but not exclusively those expressed by the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, should be respected in all facets of the domain name system. The registries should also be operated in an open and non-discriminatory fashion.
In an ICANN discussion forum about the proposed closed generic domain names, one objector cites the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as grounds to disallow them:
Salanieta Tamanikaiwaimaro. ICANN Closed Generics Forum.
An opinion from India highlights how words themselves are the heritage of all people, and the current program of potentially allowing closed domain strings by wealthy corporations is detrimental to the developing world:
Madabhushi Sridhar, Front Page India Monopolizing 'words' as gTLD on Internet
Circumvention Of Trademarks
Domain names are like virtual or de facto trademarks. You do not need to acquire a mark for your domain, yet ownership automatically confers exclusivity to you. This is a powerful asset and it reinforces the value of having a memorable, intuitive domain. However, in the case of closed registries, many objectors believe this benefit is unfair. That is, the closed gTLDs would confer on their registry an anti-competitive advantage by giving it world-wide, exclusive "ownership" of the word to the right of the dot. This creates a risk of creating huge global monopolies, because the registry won't just own one name but many a number without limit, in exclusivity. In this context, controversy has arisen against many domain applications, such as the L'Oréal application for a closed registry for .beauty. Imagine just one company owning every single .beauty domain in the world.
This possibility is analysed in a case study by Super Monopolies.
Jeffrey I.D. Lewis. American Intellectual Property Law Association. Comments on Closed Generic gTLD Applications
Moral And Legal Sensitivities
Registries in sectors such as children, health, finance, charity, intellectual property, gambling, education, corporate identifiers (like .inc) and the like in other words, fields where factors such as integrity, accreditation and trust are particularly relevant may need to be officially regulated. That is, the GAC advises that such categories should typically operate under some kind of supervision by a global committee of national oversight bodies. So the .bank string for example would be tightly restricted and operate under the jurisdiction of an organization comprised of relevant banking authorities from around the world.
Geographical And Cultural Sensitivities
The GAC and others have raised a concern that geographical regions in the form of domain extensions should not be permitted unless they have the clear support of the governments and people of those regions. Hence, the GAC has recommended that about a dozen applications for domains such as .guangzhou (Chinese IDN), .thai and .zulu should not proceed. (Similarly with .amazon and .patagonia as discussed at left.) This advice respects the human rights of the citizens of those regions.
String Similarity And Confusion
One of the problems with the new domain rollout is the potential for confusion by consumers between various strings. This issue is primarily concerned with visual similarities between pairs of domain extensions. An example of this is possible confusion between the proposed .hotels string and .hoteis (hotéis is Portuguese for "hotels").
Another example is VeriSign's objection to .cam (claiming it is too similar to .com, a registry it operates, and .network (claiming it is too similar, this time in meaning, to .net).
Singular V. Plural
Some of the domain applications are for singular and plural versions of the same term, such as .game & .games and .home & .homes. There is a risk that this will be confusing to the public. On the other hand, words such as .new and .news are distinctly different, and prohibiting one or the other would reduce the available domain spectrum. It will also be difficult to find a fair solution that won't harm one of the applicants.
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