Congress to Debate Domain Names; ICANN Seeks Help

A subcomittee of the House Judiciary Committee is set to debate the privitization of domain name registration and the role Network Solutions Inc. should play in that process during a hearing Wednesday.

One issue that is likely to generate heated debate is Network Solutions’ control of the “whois” database, a registry containing some 5 million .com., .org and .net domains. The group is also expected to debate whether IP addresses are subject to intellectual property rights.

On Thursday, the group is set to examine the issue of “cybersquatting,” or registering trademarked domain names with the intention of selling them to the trademark holders at a much higher price than the registration fee.

A Congressional hearing last week to examine the role of the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers quickly heated up as Network Solutions was hit with a series of tough questions over its domain registration businesss.

Although many of the same experts who spoke last week are on the latest witness list, NSI Chairman Michael Daniels will represent that firm instead of Chief Executive Jim Rutt. Others set to testify include Andrew Pincus, general counsel for the Commerce Department and Francis Gurry, assistant director of the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Separately, ICANN this week began asking all of its accredited domain name registrars to contribute $1 for each domain name they register through next year. Of the more than 50 companies that have been approved to register domains, 13 have pledged their financial support.

Since being formed, ICANN has run into a number of financial hurdles and is currently more than $700,000 in the red.

NSI has made no funding commitment since it has yet to sign an agreement with ICANN outlying how it will handle domain registrations.

Of the 13 that have agreed to help, only five have been approved by ICANN to start registering domain names immediately and only a portion of those have actually started operating.

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