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Afternic sues ICANN over domain-name status

Microsofteurope.co.uk? Who, us?

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ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (the US-based outfit that accredits domain name registrars), is being sued by privately-held NYC-based Afternic.com because ICANN will not grant it domain-name registrar status.

ICANN says that when Afternic applied, it looked at its web site and found that the company was auctioning domain names similar to those of existing companies. Afternic said it was not responsible for the names, but it could hardly pretend it was unaware of what was going on. We had a glance, and found 37 names including "Microsoft", with microsofteurope.co.uk for $25,000 minimum (which is a bit useless because Microsoft Europe is headquartered in France) and microsoft-mcse.com for just $50, which throws an interesting light on someone's valuation of MCSE. It was gratifying to find that CheapRegister.com was on offer for $650, and Cash-Register.org for $500.

Afternic makes no secret of its criticism of ICANN, and has an active discussion forum devoted to such issues as the Universal Dispute Resolution Policy that was established to resolve disputes over cybersquatting. The company claims that Network Solutions and Register.com (no relation) were both auctioning domain names in cases where there had been registration but no payment or renewal.

ICANN has put Afternic's accreditation on hold - but has not directly refused it - and asked Afternic to find a solution to the cybersquatting issue. At first, Afternic was going to use a different company name for the registration activity, but then decided for some undisclosed reason that this would not work and so filed the suit.

A Manhattan federal court refused to agree that Afternic should be immediately accredited, and allowed ICANN to request that the case be transferred to Los Angeles, where ICANN is headquartered and where the application for accreditation was made.

There is another dispute between ICANN and those who register two-character country codes, since the legal authority for ICANN to collect money for any activity associated with non-US codes is distinctly questionable. Sooner or later, ICANN will need to be transformed into a UN agency like WIPO, one of the suppliers of arbitrators for the dispute resolution process. ®

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