Sales of the controversial .sucks domain should be halted after concerns that the company selling the domain is acting in a “predatory” manner by running a ‘get-rich-quick scheme’ that exploits brand owners.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was sent a report by its own Intellectual Property Constituency (IPC) warning that brands are being taken advantage of by Vox Populi, the firm selling the domain.
Specifically the problem concerns the fact that brands wishing to buy the .sucks domain, which went on sale on 30 March for a three-month ‘clearing house’ period, will have to pay $2,500 to register it for their brand.
This is far in excess of the price that will be offered to the general public and the price of other top-level domains.
“Vox Populi’s incredibly high fees will prevent many trademark owners from being able to take advantage of the TMCH [trademark clearing house] sunrise period,” the IPC report said.
“This makes it more likely that trademark owners’ marks will be registered by cyber squatters for much lower (potentially subsidised) fees at the launch of general availability.”
The IPC report also notes that firms attempting to beat the system by waiting to register their domain until after the sunrise period, and therefore nab it for a 10th of the price at $249, will still be charged the full $2,499.
“This is because Vox Populi has now introduced its ‘Sunrise Premium’ list. If a trademark is on the Sunrise Premium list, it will always be at least $2,499 per year,” the report said.
“Vox Populi’s strategy is obvious: to ensure that those trademark owners who have invested in protecting those trademarks by registering in the TMCH and registering domain names in other sunrise periods, and who are most likely to want to protect their trademarks by registering in .sucks, cannot avoid paying at least $2,499 per year, no matter when they register.”
The IPC report also contains an interesting footnote revealing that ICANN stands to make an additional $1m from Vox Populi if the .sucks domain sales well, owing to an agreement in place that does not exist with any other domain registry.
This requires Vox Populi to pay a one-time fixed “registry access fee” of $100,000 and a “registry administration fee” of $1 for each of the first 900,000 transactions for the domain.
The IPC called the provision “peculiar” and questioned its purpose. “The IPC is at a loss to understand why ICANN stands to receive this unique payout from .sucks,” the report said.
V3 contacted ICANN for comment on the report but had received no reply at the time of publication.
Despite the strong wording, Nick Wenban-Smith, Nominet’s senior legal counsel, told V3 that ICANN is unlikely to take action on the domain as it has now gone on sale.
The report comes as several new domains start to go on sale. Microsoft and Taylor Swift are both reported to have registered for the .adult and .porn domains before they go on general sale.