Fears Greet ICANN’s New Plans

NEW YORK — As ICANN prepares to unleash a wave of new Top-Level Domains
(TLDs) on the world, it is seeking comment from Internet stakeholders. A series of meetings to be held around the world kicked off today in New York.

The new TLDs are generic TLDs, known as gTLDs.
According to reports, some have celebrity endorsements, with chef Wolfgang Puck endorsing a .food TLD and Shaquille O’Neal endorsing a .basketball TLD.

But if today’s events are a valid sample of world opinion, stakeholders are not pleased. Some expressed concerns involving trademarks — both in their defense and in their abuse.

A lawyer speaking for several U.S. major league sports and the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) asked ICANN to consider the burden of new domains on the major league sports clubs and also the proportionally heavier burden of these domains on those colleges that may have several teams, each with valuable logos and properties.

Another lawyer said he had defended such Web sites as decals.com, elephants.com, and pigs.com from trademark abuse. He said that he’s currently defending an ISP in South Florida that has been using the same domain since 1996 but which was sued on the basis of a snapshot taken of the site during its one week of downtime during the past thirteen years.

He added that he has also defended arbitrary abuse claims in which the petitioner was able to use the Google ads system to cause ads to appear on the pages of sites unrelated to a trademark but whose owners were sued on the basis of the ads.

A representative of Turner Broadcasting warned that past abuse, such as fake CNN stories, would only be made easier by the proliferation of TLDs. “Turner Broadcasting does not favor new gTLDs,” he said.

Malicious behavior

Others were worried about new opportunities for fraud, malware, phishing, and other Internet crimes.

Peter Cassidy, secretary and co-founder of the Anti-Phishing Working Group (ASWG) and a panelist in the session on malicious behavior, said, “We see crime every day, and it’s getting worse.

“Could a criminal group gain control of a registry? Yes. It’s happened to financial institutions and grocery stores. It happened to savings and loans organizations,” he said.

He added that a few esoteric rule changes in the financial industry caused a crisis of epic proportions. “They got banks with deposits an looted them,” he said. “The details matter. As soon as they see an opportunity, the bad actors will move.”

He noted that ICANN is taking measures to ensure that the new gTLDs are very secure — possibly more secure than existing TLDs, in some areas. For example, the new gTLDs will be required to implement DNS SEC, to prohibit “glue records” because they enable some relatively simple attacks in existing TLDs, and to use a detailed WHOIS entry on those who register domain names.

“Security organizations see DNS as a resource that’s abused and as a resource to thwart crime and catch criminals,” Cassidy said.

One person questioned whether ICANN may be putting trademark issues first and security second.

“Is it fair to say that the malicious behavior process is at a more preliminary stage than the trademark process,” asked one attendee.

“That’s a fair statement,” admitted Greg Rattray, ICANN chief Internet security adviser.

Marilyn Cade, who has worked at ICANN and advises companies like AT&T and Overstock.com on ICANN issues, asked that security be built into gTLD processes rather than bolted on later.

Leigh Williams, a panelist representing the financial industry, agreed.
“Let’s be proactive. Let’s have prevention rather than response,” he said.

The next meeting on the gTLDs will be held in London on July 15th, followed by meetings in Hong Kong (July 24th) and Abu-Dhabi (August 4th).

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