Registrar warns cybersquatters to keep clear of .biz

Signs warning off cybersquatters are being hung out by new top-level internet domain name registrars for the .biz domain as they open their doors for business. But companies rushing to stake out their claims for the new domain are deluding themselves if they think they are entering a hassle-free zone.

          Signs warning off cybersquatters are being hung out by new top-level internet domain name registrars for the .biz domain as they open their doors for business. But companies rushing to stake out their claims for the new domain are deluding themselves if they think they are entering a hassle-free zone.

          More than 2 million address requests have been processed since .biz opened for pre-registration in May, according to .biz registrar NeuLevel. The company's CEO, Doug Armentrout, believes the queue could stretch to 8 million by the time .biz domain names go live on October 1.

          NeuLevel, a joint venture between US communication database company NeuStar and Australian domain name registrar Melbourne IT, is gambling .biz will become the web's prestige address for commercial entities.

          To ward off cybersquatters, the joint venture has built several new layers of protection into its domain name registration process.

          Companies can opt to file a pre-registration intellectual property form which spells out their claims to any trademark or service mark.

          NeuLevel monitors subsequent IP claim forms and issues what Armentrout calls "automated cease and desist orders" to companies filing similar names. They aren't legally binding orders so companies can proceed with requests to register the same name but at least "they go into it aware there are others," Armentrout says.

          Once a contested name is registered, the registration is put on hold for 30 days while other claimants are notified.

          Under .biz domain name dispute resolution rules, it will only be necessary to prove bad faith registration or bad faith use to reverse an approval. That makes it easier to dislodge cybersquatters than the current .com system which demands both must be proved, Armentrout says.

          Even so, "it is definitely not cybersquatter-proof," says digital entrepreneur and former cybersquatter Brendan Yell.

          "The only way to do that is with a dispute resolution process that kicks in before names are registered, not afterward," he says. "What .biz has done is more a warning system that checks for conflicts and sends out a warning but doesn't stop the registration."

          Companies with common names or service marks won't face a costly auction process in the .biz domain. But neither will they have any guarantee of obtaining the address they want because NeuLevel will use a lottery process to determine who gets what name.

          Once all domain name applications are in, NeuLevel plans to randomly shuffle the list and allocate registration rights from the reshuffled stack.

          "It's the best way to give every registrant a fair and equal chance," Armentrout says.

          Those who want to rig the odds in their favour for generic names like business.biz or sex.biz could still do so by filing thousands or hundreds of thousands of applications. But they will have to pay a $US2 pre-registration fee for each one, making it a costly exercise.

          As the wholesaler issuing .biz web addresses to 80-plus retail registrars around the globe, NeuLevel is charging a basic annual fee of $5.30 for its services. Once retail charges are added, end users will end up paying $15 to $35, which is consistent with .com pricing.

          But taking advantage of all the extra levels of protection offered by NeuLevel could tack as much as $85 onto the basic charge.

          The .biz registry will provide real-time registrations and for an additional fee will lock the domain name at the registry level so it can't be cancelled because its owner forgot to pay his fee on time.

          Australian demand is significantly higher for .info (another of the four new global top level domains) than for .biz names at the moment, according to reseller NetRegistry.

          The lottery approach adopted by .biz will work in favour of companies with unique names, says Net Registry CEO Larry Bloch. He believes many .com companies will register .biz equivalents, but argues the amount of investment already poured into the .com space will prevent a mass migration.

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