11 November 2008

Cyberspace December 2008

Feeling flush?

Disgruntled that you can't get the .com or .com.au domain name you want? There are only 21 non-country top level domains, so ICANN (http://www.icann.org) has released an explanatory memorandum on a global top level domain (gTLD) program that could see me registering .calvin for a mere USD$185,000 plus extensive annual costs. So, let's say I was an apparel and cologne manufacturer I could then have web sites at cologne.calvin, shirts.calvin, briefs.calvin and so on.

ICANN thinks that there might initially be 500 applications - I imagine many of these would be from global organisations keen to protect their branding. However, setting up and maintaining a gTLD is a very complex and expensive task, so the business case for an application to protect intellectual property alone would be a tough call. So are there other reasons for having your own gTLD?

Let's say you are a member of a world-wide organisation such as Rotary International with 1.2 million members... If the .rotary domain existed you, as a proud member, might be happy to pay $50 a year to be sally@au.rotary (assuming Sally lives in Australia) and have a permanent email address for life. If 50,000 members signed up, and Rotary partnered with Google to host the mail (http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/business/), Rotary might see a gross income of $2,500,000 pa. Now it starts to look a bit more interesting...

Obviously there is potentially a lot of money at stake, and so the domain squatters/entrepreneurs will be watching closely. The opportunities for disputes abound (the late Felix Wankel, inventor of the rotary engine, might otherwise have been in competition with Rotary International), so a draft dispute policy exists for public comment. It seems that if you want to object to an application you must pay a filing fee - that seems a bit much if someone else is going to be infringing your IP rights!

Another possibility is a geographical name - imagine if someone registered .australia, and then set up state or regional subdomains, such as .nsw.australia, theShire.australia or sports-based sites, such as mariners.australia. Again, Bill the soccer fan would be happy with bill@mariners.australia! It appears that ICANN will require the applicant to provide some sort of government approval before such an application will be successful.

Some names will be ruled out, such as those consisting only of numbers (bad luck for the mobile operator 3) or reserved words (no .test for the cricket fans) but names with non-english characters will be permitted.

Yeah, right

The European Court of Justice has held that companies' web sites must provide for a way for consumers to contact them. They must "allow him to be contacted rapidly and communicated with in a direct and effective manner." (Article 5(1) of the E-Commerce Directive). The actual method of communication is not prescribed, so it could be telephone or it could be a web form inquiry where answers are supplied within 60 minutes. Of course this would be hilarious in Australia if it applied to most banks or telecommunication companies...


Some people want to post their own material on the Internet, but don't want anyone to be able to find it. Gordon Parker sued Yahoo! and Microsoft (he had previously sued Google) in the USA (07-2757 Eastern District of Pennsylvania) for copyright infringement by indexing and caching copies of his content. The court followed the Google case and held that by not using usual webmaster opt-out techniques, Parker gave search engines an implied licence to index and cache the content.