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Closed Generics Debate Rages On

Stéphane Van Gelder

The new gTLD program continues to throw up last-minute debates on what is acceptable as a TLDs and what is not.

The latest such verbal joust centers around closed generics. These are generic terms being applied for by applicants whom, should they be successful, will not open the TLD up to everyone on an equal access basis.

As an example, think .book being run by Amazon and only available to Amazon customers.

In order to understand the arguments for and against closed generics, ICANN has opened a public comment period. That period ends on March 7 and ICANN has so far received 80 emails/opinions on the matter.

Closed generics are striking fear into some people's hearts mainly because of Google and Amazon's bids to secure generic terms like "cloud", "book" or "blog". No one had ever expected the two Net giants to take such an interest in the new gTLD program in the first place. Let alone show the foresight they have displayed in going for a bevy of generic terms. Many of those operating in the industries those terms describe have been taken by complete surprise.

To them, having a generic term managed according to one entity's rules is heresy. As an example, consider comments drafted by the Federation of European Publishers (FEP) on March 4. "Similarly to the case of trade marks (where generic terms may not be registered), reserving the use of generic terms as gTLDs for individual companies is not desirable," says the FEP, which represents 28 national publishers associations in Europe. "From the point of view of consumer choice, locating a class of goods and a choice of suppliers with the help of the gTLD is by far preferable to its leading to a single producer or retailer."

"At the very least, the winning applicant (for .book) must be obliged to make the gTLD available without discrimination for registrations by all eligible parties, including all commercial entities within the book industry," the FEP goes on to say in its statement which was handed to Nigel Hickson, ICANN VP of Stakeholder Engagement for Europe on March 4, and also posted as a reply to ICANN's call for public comment.

But not everyone is against closed generics. "ICANN should not be dictating business models," wrote a selection of members of ICANN's Non Commercial Stakeholder Group (NCSG) also on March 4. "There should be no intervention until and unless there is a well-documented problem related to monopoly power."

Once the current comment period has closed, ICANN staff will analyse them and provide a summary to the ICANN Board's New gTLD Program Committee. It will be up to this committee to determine whether closed generics should be shut down.

By Stéphane Van Gelder, Chairman, MILATHAN

Related topics: Domain Names, ICANN, Internet Governance, Top-Level Domains

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