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ICANN Denies Registrar's Complaint

The Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers is being charged with treating a registrant unfairly in handling its application for accreditation.

Afternic.com recently filed a lawsuit in White Plains, N.Y., accusing ICANN of violating its own bylaws in refusing to approve Afternic's application to become an accredited primary registrar.

Afternic.com runs a Web site where people who already own domain names can resell them.

According to Afternic, ICANN is misusing its monopoly on the accreditation process and suppressing competition in the domain industry. By not accrediting Afternic.com eight months ago, according to the company, ICANN has eradicated the first mover advantage necessary for its Web startup company to compete shoulder-to-shoulder-with the industry giants as well as imperiled Afternic's future.

In a statement, ICANN affirmed that it handled Afternic's applications in an appropriate manner, according to its policies and legal requirements, and consistently with the manner in which other applications have been handled.

The statement noted that in August 1999, ICANN adopted a dispute-resolution policy to address the practice of registering another company's or person's name with the intent to demand a ransom from the company or person.

In November 1999, the U.S. Congress passed the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act outlawing such abusive practices.

In investigating Afternic's application for accreditation, ICANN said it discovered that Afternic's web site presented many offers to sell domain names based on other company's names, some with remarks reflecting the abusive nature of the offers. One company name, for example, was offered with the remark that it would be an "Excellent domain for a reseller, owner, or competitor of" the company. This example was offered at a starting bid of $125,000.

According to the statement, ICANN alerted Afternic to the situation. However, Afternic denied any responsibility for these offers on its Web site. Several months later, Afternic's site is still offering the example name mentioned above, though the starting bid has now been reduced to $50.

Currently, the statement says, Afternic's site is offering many other domains incorporating well-known business, celebrity, and government agency names, such as:

  • mircosotf.com
  • TheOlympics2000.com (Section 220506 of title 36 of the United States Code prohibits use of the word "Olympic" to falsely suggest authorization by the International or United States Olympic Committees; Section 3002(a) of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act prohibits bad-faith registration of domain names covered by Section 220506).
  • FBICrimeLab.com
  • MichaelJackson.ws
  • iBMW.com (with the remark "sell it to BMW for use as their premiere webcar!")

Afternic.com takes exception to these references. According to a written statement released by the company, the URL references used in the ICANN statement regarding the violation of trademarks "appears to be a specious attempt to use trademark holders as a shield to defend a hidden policy agenda to destroy or marginalize the domain aftermarket."

Further, the company insists there are two particularly refutable issues regarding the ICANN statement: the first is that ICANN has treated Afternic.com fairly, the second is that Afternic.com engages in or encourages the practice of 'cybersquatting'.

For the past year, the statement says, ICANN's lack of democratic process and its habit of overreaching its mandate of 'technical management' without informing the affected parties have been a continual source of criticism by leading legal experts and consumer watchdog groups. In each controversy, ICANN has steadfastly dismissed the criticism and has repeatedly stated that ICANN is an organization concerned with the 'techni