New Zealand’s system of allocating domain names is being revamped.
Internet Society (ISOCNZ) chair Roger Hicks says the group, which took over the administration of domain names from Waikato and Victoria universities earlier this year, is looking at ways of restricting the system so there are multiple commercial domains instead of the single “restructuring” domain.
“If there is a variety of commercial domains, based, for example, on occupations, goods and services, there will be much less significance associated with each entry, which will therefore reduce their commercial value,” says Hicks.
The study was already under way before the current court case involving Cadburys, Sanyo and Fuji/Xerox in litigation against the Domain Name Company, which has registered domains containing the names of those companies.
At least one of those companies, Cadbury, has been publicly critical of ISOCNZ’s policy of simply registering the names on a “first come, first served” basis.
However, Hicks says that to expect the society to do otherwise asks it to take on a role that in other spheres is left to the courts, and that the society simply doesn’t have the resources. “If there’s a dispute about the use of someone’s name in trade it is sorted out by the Courts,” says Hicks. “Why should the Internet be any different?
“While we may sympathise with companies which feel that someone has misappropriated their trade mark by registering it as a domain name, the society can not police applications to prevent this.
“If we were to check every name against possible objections such as registered trade marks, trade names, surnames, company, street and place names, every domain name registration would cost applicants a lot more and take a very long time to allocate. And we would still risk being sued by every company which thought it had a case.”
Similar bodies are grappling with the issue around the world. One of the reasons it has become such a hot topic, apart from the trademark issue, is that people have come to expect such names to perform a “directory” function that was never intended--typing a company name and then adding .co.
Having an easily recognisable domain name registration “has taken on a cachet, a significance far beyond what anyone wanted”, says Don Heath, president of the US Internet Society.
The current local case is only likely to be the first. Whichever way the decision goes, the Domain Name Company is unlikely to have the resources to fight an appeal.