ABA Opposes Closed Generic Domains

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With new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) set to start rolling out later this year, and perhaps as soon as next month, the American Booksellers Association has joined other trade groups in opposing the selling of closed generic TLDs, which would allow companies to secure exclusive rights to domains such as .read or .author. Amazon.com recently applied with the Web governing body, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), to purchase exclusive rights to .book.

A domain name is made up of a series of character strings (or “labels”), which are separated by dots (e.g., www.BookWeb.org). The right-most label in a domain name is referred to as its “top-level domain” (TLD), such as .com or .org.

In comments submitted to ICANN, ABA CEO Oren Teicher stressed that “allowing a single company to have exclusive rights to a particular string is not in the best interest of the public. The Generic Names Supporting Organization stated that a key benefit to introducing new top-level domains was that these domains had the potential to ‘promote competition in the provision of registry services, to add consumer choice, [and] market differentiation….’”

Teicher noted that closed generic TLDs are “at odds with the potential benefits of market differentiation, consumer choice, and fostering competition” and  that to achieve these benefits, the domain should be open to the entire industry. (Read ABA’s public comment to ICANN in full.)

In AAP’s public comment, Allan Robert Adler, general counsel and vice president for government affairs for AAP, noted that “allowing a single private company to secure exclusive use of a string like .book —a gTLD of vast potential application and scope — would defeat the purposes for which new gTLDs are being authorized and is, therefore, not in the public interest.”

Adler added that “Amazon makes clear that it seeks exclusive control of the .book string solely for its own business purposes, notwithstanding the broad range of other companies, organizations, and individuals that have diverse interests in the use of this gTLD.”

Barnes & Noble also issued a public comment with ICANN in strong opposition to Amazon.com’s attempt to purchase the .book gTLD. “Amazon, the dominant player in the book industry, should not be allowed to control the Book TLDs, which would enable them to control generic industry terms in a closed fashion with disastrous consequences not only for bookselling but for the American public. If Amazon, which controls approximately 60 percent of the market for eBooks and 25 percent of the physical book market, were granted the exclusive use of .book, .read, and .author, Amazon would use the control of these TLDs to stifle competition in the bookselling and publishing industries, which are critical to  the future of copyrighted expression in the United States.”

At present, there are 22 gTLDs, including .com, .org, and .net, according to PCMag.com.