The dot-music row

Source: Saturday, April 6th, 2013

Two firms battle for domain at ICANN meet

The dot-com monopoly could be nearing the end.

ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, kicks off its annual meeting in Beijing today as it moves closer to freeing up potentially hundreds of new top-level domains to the public.

Competition to land some of the more popular domains is fast and furious. In all, there are 1,930 applicants vying for a wide variety of domains that will eventually augment the .com, .net and .org. that are the most common endings for Internet addresses. The process will add hundreds more with what are called generic top-level domains (gTLDs).

"It's never been done before," said Ben Crawford, chief of London-based CentralNic, which has been a consultant for more than 60 applicants. "It's breaking totally new ground."

One of the more hard-fought gTLD names up for grabs is the one for .music, which has attracted much attention.

Two of the rivals are striving to short-circuit a full-blown auction by showing that they represent the wider community in the music world: a Nashville, Tenn.-based company called Far Further, which has the backing of the Recording Industry Association of America and close to 40 other trade groups; and a Cyprus businessman, Constantine Roussos, whose company has been doing business as dotMusic Ltd. since 2005, and has backing from a number of agencies across the globe.

If either can prove to ICANN that it legitimately represents the community of musicians worldwide, it can avoid the domain going to the highest bidder at auction.

"If you can prove you have community status, it gives you kind of a trump card," said Crawford, who will be in Beijing this week jockeying for his clients. "You have to be able to demonstrate that you do represent the community."

Amazon and Google have been particularly active in applying for domain names. Amazon is reportedly seeking 76 gTLDs, including one for .music. Google is also in the hunt for .music; it has applied for 101 names altogether.

In a bid to strengthen his hand, Roussos has filed a legal-rights objection against all other .music applications with the World Intellectual Property Organization. "It is clear that if ICANN grants the applied-for .music gTLD to any of these applicants, it will create intended material harm to us [and] take unfair advantage of and unjustifiably impair the distinctive character and goodwill reputation of our .music-related trademarks," he claimed.

By April 15, ICANN will publicly notify participants if there are any objections to their requests; parties will have 30 days to respond.