NeuLevel drops lottery for .biz domain names

NeuLevel Inc., the company holding the registry for the .biz domain names, said it will use a new method to award .biz domain names sought by more than one applicant.

Instead of its originally planned lottery, the Sterling, Va.-based company will now use a "round robin" method to distribute contested domain names in a more random fashion.

Some 39,000 .biz name applications have been on hold since the fall because the same names are being sought by multiple applicants. More than 500,000 other .biz names have also been registered by the company with many of those names already in use.

NeuLevel announced the changes Friday in a message posted on its Web site.

The lottery was stalled because of a lawsuit filed in August by plaintiffs who charged that it was illegal and unfair. NeuLevel asked applicants to pay a US$2 nonrefundable fee to submit an application for one of the contested domain names with no guarantee of getting anything in return.

In October, the company successfully averted a court injunction after the two plaintiffs who had sued NeuLevel failed to post a $1.6 million bond in the case.

Although it escaped the injunction, the lawsuit and potentially years of litigation remained.

Jeff Neuman, director of policy and intellectual property at NeuLevel, said the company will now drop the lottery, refund the $2 fees it had collected and start early next year with a new round robin system of randomly choosing which applicants will ultimately get the contested .biz domain names.

The changes are being made to end the legal challenges, he said. "We do not feel these businesses should be denied these names just because of the litigation between the plaintiffs and us," Neuman said. "We still believe our original system was most fair."

Under the new system, NeuLevel will again begin accepting applications for the affected .biz domain names in the first week of February from accredited companies that accept .biz registrations on behalf of the registry. Those registrations will continue for 30 days.

In early March, those applications will be checked against lists of existing domain names to ensure there are no duplications. When multiple requests are found for the same domain names, those applications will be randomly queued by each registrar company in preparation for a round robin selection process that will choose a winner at random through a series of selection rounds.

The attorney for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit couldn't be reached for comment early today. The lawsuit was filed against NeuLevel; the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a nonprofit group that oversees domain name registration and administration; .biz registrars; and other related groups.

The .biz domain was one of several being added this year to the original seven domains established on the Internet.

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