I book, I care, I think, I can

In the past several days, I have been confronted with a quirky issue. Let me explain the background with a hypothetical example, because I don’t want to name any specific details of the actual case.

Last year, ICANN (the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers) published the list of new top-level domains (TLDs) that are expected to launch in the coming years. Some of these new top-level domains are oversubscribed — for example, 9 groups are listed in ICANN’s applicant listing for “dot book“:

Search By:

Number    String [1]    Applicant    Location [2]    Community? [3]    Geographic? [4]    Primary
Contact    Email    Application
ID    Application Status    IE Result    Application
Updates    Objections    GAC EW    String
Similarity    PICs
291    BOOK    Top Level Domain Holdings Limited    VG    -    -    Mr. Antony Van Couvering    Tas.Minds.Machines.6@gmail.com    1-1038-7319    In IE    -    Yes    -    -    Yes    Yes
357    BOOK    NU DOT CO LLC    US    -    -    Jose Ignacio Rasco    r@straat.co    1-1296-97422    In IE    -    -    -    -    Yes    -
769    BOOK    Charleston Road Registry Inc.    US    -    -    Sarah Falvey    tas-contact@google.com    1-1099-17603    In IE    -    -    -    -    Yes    -
890    BOOK    Amazon EU S.à r.l.    LU    -    -    Ms. Lorna Jean Gradden    lorna.gradden.am@valideus.com    1-1315-44051    In IE    -    -    -    Yes    Yes    -
996    BOOK    R.R. Bowker LLC    US    -    -    Ms. Sharon L Lubrano    Sharon.Lubrano@bowker.com    1-1020-75316    In IE    -    -    -    -    Yes    -
1464    BOOK    Global Domain Registry Pty Ltd    AU    -    -    Mr. Jeremy Ebbels    jeremy.ebbels@ariservices.com    1-1132-20461    In IE    -    -    -    -    Yes    -
1546    BOOK    Double Bloom, LLC    US    -    -    Daniel Schindler    doublebloom@donuts.co    1-1361-60591    In IE    -    Yes    -    -    Yes    Yes
1758    BOOK    DotBook, LLC    US    -    -    Ms. Annie Callanan    anniecallanan.book@gmail.com    1-2029-6966    In IE    -    -    -    -    Yes    -
1878    BOOK    Bronze Registry Limited    GI    -    -    Mr. Geir Andreas Rasmussen    icanntas33@famousfourmedia.com    1-1217-96477    In IE    -    Yes    -    -    Yes    Yes

I actually know some of the applicants for “dot book” personally; R.R. Bowker, LLC is a well-known player in the publishing industry; and almost everyone on Earth is familiar with 2 of the applicants — Google and Amazon. But one company is not listed: Facebook.

Why do I find this surprising? Well, in fact I don’t. But just several days ago, I became informed of a court case in which one well-known company is actually claiming that the top-level domain is in fact part of its brand name — in other words: that would be analogous to Facebook (i.e., Facebook, Inc.) claiming something like “we have the right to use face.book — and no one else may use that domain name”.

I find this rather odd. Likewise, a company that goes by the name of “NewsCorp” could claim that it has the exclusive right to the domain news.corp; perhaps a company by the name “Meine Maus” could even claim the right to use the domain name meine.ma.us? (note that presently www.state.ma.us is administered by the State of Massachusetts, and other departments of the government of Massachusetts administer other subdomains of ma.us)

Personally, I would find this absolutely ridiculous. In my opinion, any country that has a somewhat functioning legal system needs to become aware of repercussions of granting private companies the right to “take control” of the country’s top-level domain that way. Beyond the simple and straightforward abdication of the country’s sovereignty, such an act would also undermine the entire trust a country’s population has built up in the legal system of that country. Millions of Germans visit “dot de” addresses every day, trusting that a “dot de” address is a sign that German law applies to “dot de” domain names.

If any country were to abdicate control of the country’s namespace online, wouldn’t that undermine the trustworthiness of that country? Or at least of that country’s top level domain? Who would do business with any business online, if they do not know whether the domain name in question has any rule of law behind it?

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