Nat Cohen: Why I Support the ICA
The Lord Giveth and the Lord taketh away.
For the domain industry, the part of the Lord is played by the U.S. Government and ICANN.
In the early days of the Internet, the U.S. Government policy allowed billions of dollars of domains to be registered on a first-come first-served basis for a registration fee per domain of $100 or less.
Those of us who benefited from this “landrush” know how fortunate we’ve been. Even those domainers who weren’t involved in the early days, benefit from the tremendous value inherent in domain names that is still not fully recognized.
But it is a mistake to confuse being lucky with being smart.
Being smart is taking full advantage of the good luck that comes your way and not taking it for granted. That is why I consider it smart to support the Internet Commerce Association (ICA). The ICA is the only group that is focused on protecting the rights of domain name owners.
Domains provide my family’s livelihood. I’d be an idiot not to do what I could to protect our livelihood.
“But what’s the problem?” you might say. “I’m making good money from domains. Somebody else will watch my back. What could go wrong? Why do we need the ICA?”
Ever since the beginning of the commercial internet there has been a continuous effort to separate domain owners from the value in their domains. Powerful players consider the domain landrush to be a mistake. They see domains containing their trademarks owned by others. They consider these domains rightfully theirs, even if their trademarks are on common word or acronym terms.
Ownership rights in domains have been weakened so that domains can be transferred away from their owners on the basis of a vague, poorly defined “bad faith” standard. The .biz and .info registries tried to gain the power to premium price renewals so that owners of premium .biz and .info domains would have to pay a surcharge to renew their domains.. If the .biz and .info registries had succeeded, the .com registry would have demanded the same power, in the interests of “fairness”.
An ever growing number of UDRP providers cater to trademark holders who are looking for like-minded panelists to order the transfer of domains these trademark holders covet away from the current domain registrants. These pro-trademark panelists are not hard to find as many panelists are pulled from the ranks of active trademark lawyers who concurrently with serving as UDRP panelists earn their living aggressively advancing the interests of trademark owners.
Domain parking is under attack and considered illegitimate by some UDRP panelists. The same ads that Google displays on its search pages, if they appear on a parked page can result in the loss of a valuable generic domain (see flamingo.com).
Attempts to steal your domain through abuse of the UDRP, called Reverse Domain Name Hijacking, are on the rise (see RDNH.com). Why shouldn’t RDNH cases be on the rise? While an auto-generated ad on a parked page can result in the loss of a valuable domain, the penalty for intentional abuse of the UDRP through an attempt at Reverse Domain Name Hijacking is — nothing.
Now ICANN is finalizing details for the URS (Uniform Rapid Suspension) system. This offers a cheaper, faster way to take down your domains. It is being rolled out on new gTLDs first with the expectation that it will soon be required for dot-com and all other gTLDs. The URS is being sole sourced to the National Arbitration Forum (NAF), the same group that was found to be not trustworthy enough to handle credit card arbitrations. The NAF assigns nearly half their case load of UDRP disputes to only seven panelists out of 136 total (see dnattorney.com), and relies on cut and paste decisions.
The ICA has been busy fighting these and many other battles on behalf of domain owners. The ICA only exists because some domainers and companies in the domain space have stepped up to give it their financial support. With more resources it could do more to fight on your behalf, particularly in countering the negative image the public has of the domain industry and in pursuing UDRP reform. The ICA needs – and deserves – your support.