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RegLand Sues ICANN for Defamation

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Internet's controversial technical coordination body, has come under fire by RegLand Inc., a company that offers customers the chance to pre-register names in the coming new top-level domains (TLDs).

RegLand filed a lawsuit against ICANN and Louis Touton, ICANN's in-house counsel, in the District Court of Bexar County, Texas on Friday, Oct. 27. The company alleged that ICANN and Touton engaged in defamation, business disparagement and contract interference in relation to RegLand.

"Specific accusations against ICANN include scaring away customers with notices posted by ICANN on its Web site and strong-arming some of the domain name registrars with which RegLand.com does business," the company said in a press release Thursday.

RegLand alleged that ICANN scared away registrars, who otherwise would have partnered with the company, by telling potential partners that it was strongly against the type of service offered by RegLand and implied that a contract with the company would jeopardize registrars' ability to register names in new TLDs and their accreditation.

"...RegLand learned from other registrars with whom RegLand had prospective contractual agreements that Touton was advising registrars that affiliation with RegLand would have a negative impact on such registrar's application and accreditation with ICANN," the lawsuit said. "These comments by Touton had the effect of icing the potential market for RegLand with Registrars."

"Basically they've scared a lot of registrars off from doing business with us," said Scott Harris, co-founder of RegLand.

Harris said the company contacted ICANN before it launched its site to check if the service would be a problem.

"They said pre-registration is not our concern and therefore we're not going to do anything about that," Harris said. "We just figured that ICANN was out of the picture."

But that wasn't the case, Harris said. He explained that on Sept. 18, 19, and 20 a hotline at ICANN was calling the RegLand service "fraudulent" and a "scam." He also said that Touton contacted several potential partners -- including Register.com -- and implied that they would face trouble with ICANN if they partnered with RegLand.

ICANN Spokesman Andrew McLaughlin said Friday that the non-profit organization was not prepared to comment because it had not yet been served with papers.

However, in September, ICANN posted an announcement warning that pre-registration of new domain names is premature because no new TLDs have been selected to date and "no one is authorized to pre-register names."

The Names Council of the Domain Name Supporting Organization, one of ICANN's supporting organizations, said, "The Names Council feels it is premature for companies to offer pre-registration services for domain names in speculative new TLDs. To date, no new TLDs have been selected and there is no guarantee that any particular organization will be authorized to take registrations for any particular TLD. The registration of names in new TLDs will be done on a fair basis, and the practice of pre-registration should not be encouraged."

RegLand's service is a little bit like paying someone to stand in line for concert tickets. The company charges $20 for a "pre-registered" name. Through its automated solution, the company said it will push a customer's registration through the system as fast as possible when new domains open up. But ICANN has not yet selected which new TLDs will be offered, nor which registrars will run them. The company acknowledges this on its Web site and says there is no guarantee that a particular TLD will become available or that RegLand will be able to register a particular domain name first.

If the company does successfully register a name the