ADOTAS – The curtain rises on the new gTLDs (generic top-level domains) on Jan. 12, 2012, but key players are still singing different tunes. Let’s peek into their performance as they start taking center stage.
The Federal Trade Commission sent a letter to ICANN (International Association for Assigned Names and Numbers) on Dec.16, 2011, titled, “Re: Consumer Protection Concerns Regarding New gTLDs” The commission wrote: “We write now to highlight again the potential for significant consumer harm resulting from the unprecedented increase in new gTLDs.” The following paragraph clearly highlights the lack of information about the ICANN gTLD platform, as the letter continues:
“A rapid, exponential expansion of gTLDs has the potential to magnify both the abuse of the domain name system and the corresponding challenges we encounter in tracking down internet fraudsters. In particular, the proliferation of existing scams, such as phishing, is likely to become a serious challenge given the infinite opportunities that scam artists will now have at their fingertips. Fraudsters will be able to register misspellings of businesses, including financial institutions, in each of the new gTLDs, create copycat websites, and obtain sensitive consumer data with relative ease before shutting down the site and launching a new one.”
It’s about time to wake up and smell the coffee, as this mantra of “‘fraudsters’ and cyber-squatting” has become the theme of the dancing opposition troupe. A quick lyrical analysis will turn this fake opera into lost and off-base noise. The question is, why is this topic regurgitated by so many otherwise very smart teams? Either they really have no idea what a gTLD is, or they are simply being fed a biscuit. They continue and sing in unison, “Fraudsters will be able to register misspellings of businesses, including financial institutions.” The naive audience applauds.
Let’s analyze, in the first place, where those not-so-intelligent fraudsters are, so badly needed for TV reality shows, who will invest a minimum of $185,000, toil for months, disclose their IQ, file a ream-thick application, be subject to dozens of scrutiny and audits — yet still aggressively pursue some half-wittedly-proposed “misspelled” names in order to create fraudulent domain names — for example, “citybank” or “citybanq,” “cityloans,” “citycard” or “cityinvest.” Yes, yes yes, the opposition screams.
Two questions emerge. Would someone really enjoy a successful return on this? Not really. Such dumb ideas would die even before they happen. The general public is getting more mature by the day, and the trademark laws will clearly identify and stop such blatant “passing off” of established, banking name brand. Would ICANN allow such a name approval? Not really. The application process would simply kill such ideas in the diligent process.
Then where is all this out-of-tune noise still coming from? Basically, the fuss is coming from major brand holders and their advertising agencies from all over the world, spending hundreds of billions of dollars promoting their cherished names, while another, lesser amount is being spent by trademark lawyers to protect such names. But doesn’t trademark protection mean some layer of protection? There’s this fear-mongering that ICANN GTLD’s expensive and time-consuming processes will freely allow misspelled names, while many such misspelled names are already available as dot coms. Today, for example, the following domains are available instantly at $10 each: citiinvestplus.com, citiinvestplanner.com, citiinvestplan.com
and citybanq. Should we now shut down the entire domain name system?
To hit a real high note here, cyber-squatting fear-mongering is nothing but a smoke screen. If we accept the fact that domain name variations are freely available all over the world, then obviously there would be some cyber-squatting, and for those well-protected trademark holders, this is just another routine trademark defense exercise.
Change the backdrop of this noisy theater: If there are millions of registered logos all over the world, then there are billions of unregistered, nearly identical logos also. However, unique logos are always protected under trademark laws, and violators are routinely fined. So what do we do now — stop the usage of artwork supplies and graphic design software, and snatch away colored pencils? The world has already come to the realization that when you have something unique and worthy of protection, only than a well-defined protection plan would work.
The FTC further boldly lays out a real-life example: “The potential for consumer confusion in other variations of these types of scams is significant. As an example, ‘ABC bank’ could be registered in .com, but another entity could register “ABC” in a new .bank gTLD, and a different entity could register ‘ABC’ in a new .finance gTLD. Scam artists could easily take advantage of this potential for confusion to defraud consumers.”
Now, the supposed “ABC bank” could be registered as a dot com. Why not? Now this name identity applies to the holders of “.bank,” a consortium under American Bankers Association, which intends to file on behalf of the banks, where smaller banks would wish to use .bank as a suffix. Did the NTC committee and all the other related parties miss the most important reason why the ABA is pursuing .bank? It is to create a closed and restricted .bank registry only for the qualifying banks.
This .bank program alone proves that restricted and closed use of a suffix will protect consumers and create a certified domain name which, until now, was never available on the traditional hit-and-run, free-for-all, no-questions-asked, buy-one-get-two-free domain name system. Behold, the liberated registration that created thousands of cases of cyber-squatting and, in reality, is responsible for creating a vibrant cyber-squatting defense registration industry.
Most so-called famous brand names have already reached their peak and are not worthy of the global “one internet, one world” platform, where to dominate that space a “one name, one owner” capability is most desirable. Unfortunately, the largest group falls into “one name and a thousand owners” category. Hence the fake opera, and now the music begs for a crescendo.
Naseem Javed’s new book, which aims to clear up lingering confusion on this subject, is called Domination: The GTLD Name Game. It’ll be released worldwide on Feb. 12, 2012, through his website.