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Advertising Community Continues to Oppose New Generic Top Level Domain Program; Nevertheless gTLD Program is Set to Launch This Month

With the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) rolling out its new generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) program this month, a new coalition – Coalition for Responsible Domain Oversight (CRIDO) – continues efforts to try to force ICANN to delay or abandon the gTLD program. Despite recent hearings in the Senate Commerce and House Energy and Commerce Committees, there is little Congress can do to stop the program which will allow entities to apply for any string (.anything) as new top level domains.

ICANN, which oversees the global domain name system, was established by the Department of Commerce in 1998. Since then ICANN has evolved into an independent nonprofit with an international board. There are currently 18 domain names, with the last introduced in 2011 (though it was initially approved in 2003). The plan to allow new domains was first proposed in 2008, but the extent of the domain expansion program was not spelled out until June 2011.

In addition to encouraging Congress to hold hearings, the industry groups participating in CRIDO, including MPA, sent a letter to the Department of Commerce, seeking their intervention with ICANN. The letter expressed industry concerns with the new domain program, including the considerable cost it will impose on brand owners, not only to apply for new domain names themselves, but to protect their brands and their customers from cybersquatting, typosquatting, and phishing.Given ICANN’s international stature and autonomy, there is a low likelihood of success in delaying the start of the application process – which will run through April. It is possible the coalition’s next steps could include consideration of legal remedies to enjoin roll-out of the gTLD program.