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

cal management’ of the Internet
and it is governed by a ‘consensus driven, bottom up’ decision making
process.

Afternic.noted that it can only address the situation its accreditation
application and not the various other controversies that have confronted
ICANN, but in this specific instance, Afternic.com has found the criticism
of ICANN to be accurate.
“We have been the recipient of unfair treatment at
the hands of ICANN, with no recourse but to litigate in our pursuit of fair
treatment,” the statement reads. “In order to refute ICANN’s claims that we have been treated
fairly, Afternic.com is making available the complaint, including an exhibit that details the emails exchanged between Afternic.com and ICANN representatives regarding
Afternic.com’s registrar application.

Afternic.com strongly affirms it does not encourage ‘cybersquatting’ nor does it speculate on names or sell the names.

“Afternic.com members buy, develop,
appraise and sell names,” according to the statement. “The site provides a neutral, third-party
appraisal and trading platform and community forum for domain name owners.
Every domain listed at has already been registered at an
ICANN-accredited registrar, and Afternic.com can no more police, let alone
provide expert legal judgment on, trademark infringing domain names than
can an ICANN-accredited registrar.”

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