Lawyers for VeriSign
, registry for the .com and .net
top-level domains (TLDs) and the largest registrar in the world, filed an
anti-trust lawsuit against the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and
Numbers (ICANN) Thursday.
The lawsuit contends ICANN broke its contract with VeriSign when it
prohibited and delayed the registrar from providing valuable Internet
services like its SiteFinder and waiting-list service (WLS), according to
the suit filed at the U.S. District Court, Central District Court of
California, Los Angeles.
Tom Galvin, VeriSign vice president of government relations, said the heart
of the lawsuit is a contract dispute: ICANN as a technical body doesn’t
have the right to dictate policy or prevent companies that introduce
value-added benefits to customers.
“ICANN’s ambition has exceeded its authority,” he told
internetnews.com. “It has, over time, attempted to become the de
facto regulator of the Internet when it’s mission is to be the technical
ICANN was formed in 1998 at the behest of the U.S. Department of Commerce
(DOC), to act as a technical body for the U.S. root server, which holds the
.com, .net and .org top-level domains (TLDs). The DOC was not named in the
VeriSign was the original registry for the three TLDs, the service that
transforms unwieldy IP addresses like “188.8.131.52” into the
easier-to-read “www.internetnews.com.” In time, the registry became the
largest registrar — the company that sells domain names — in the world
after its $21 billion
acquisition of Network Solutions in 2000.
Since then, many competitors
have been worried about any programs instituted by the registrar arm of the
registry, which gives itself an unfair advantage.
One of those is the WLS, which lets users sign up on a
waiting list for domain names that are about to expire. ICANN signed off on
the service in August 2002, despite vocal resistance by competing
registrars, only to pull it off the shelves after a coalition of
those registrars filed a lawsuit against the organization.
SiteFinder was a marketing program instituted by VeriSign late last year.
Normally, when an Internet surfer types in the wrong Web address, like
“www.googel.com,” they’d get a 404 error message, or a preset error page
rendered by the Web browser.
With SiteFinder, after typing in an incorrect
Web address, users would be sent to a VeriSign-created Web page, giving the
errant surfer a chance to buy the domain name and links to paid advertisers.
Launched quietly in November, it created a firestorm with competing
registrars and Internet citizens concerned over the ramifications of
introducing “wildcards” into the .com and .net domain space.
ICANN again had VeriSign take down the service, while its committees
gathered information and issued its recommendations.
For Galvin, however, the time for talking has passed. While he emphasized
his company’s commitment and support for ICANN, something needs to be done
about the organization’s decision-making processes. Since stopping the WLS
service, the issue has sat in committee, while the report over the
SiteFinder service that was promised in January has yet to surface.
“This really became a culmination of efforts that frankly we have exhausted
over the last several months of trying to reach some kind of understanding
with ICANN about what their jurisdiction is and what the process is when
they have jurisdiction,” he said.
Both issues, WLS and SiteFinder, will be discussed at next week’s tri-annual
ICANN meetings in Rome, ICANN officials said at a press conference Thursday.