Critics to ICANN: Top-level domain sale dangerous, costly

Many groups urge ICANN to cancel or postpone plans to add new gTLDs to the Internet

Poliak said trademark owners will need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to establish a gTLD for each of its trademarks or risk that another party will purchase the domain to divert its customers.

"All of these efforts will be directed toward enforcing and protecting new gTLDs that are costly and unnecessary for most brand owners, who currently conduct most of their business under the .com regime," Poliak said.

Corporations are worried that so many new domains will cause cybersquatting, counterfeiting, fraud and phishing scams to increase, as opportunists and criminals snap up domains related to their brands.

"The potential for fraud is unlimited," wrote Robert Raines, manager of interactive communications for Chevron, in a December 4 letter to ICANN. "It will create an unprecedented confusion in the consumer market where a consumer will be unable to distinguish which is the valid domain: or sales.IBM."

Companies are asking ICANN to require applicants for new gTLDs to prove ownership of a trademark before they buy it, and they are seeking notification of trademark owners when third parties submit an application for gTLDs that includes their trademarks. They also want a less expensive mechanism for legally challenging gTLD awards.

The other big concern about ICANN's gTLD plan is cost. ICANN has proposed charging US$185,000 for a company to apply for a new gTLD and another US$75,000 a year to retain that gTLD in the DNS root zone. Companies say the costs are prohibitive for them to be able to buy all the domains related to their company and product names.

Even community groups and governments that favor new gTLDs, such as New York City and Paris, say the fees are way too high.

One commentator questioned why ICANN, which is a non-profit organization, needs to raise what could be US$100 million or more if the new gTLD program should attract 500-plus applications.

Many commentators also questioned ICANN's variable pricing scheme, which would allow the registrars of the new domains to charge different prices depending on the popularity of a particular domain name instead of the uniform, regulated prices available today in .com or .net.

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Carolyn Duffy Marsan

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