ICANN steps over mark – again

Registrar threatens to sue

Domain name registrar Regland.com has threatened to sue ICANN with regard to the new top level domains unless it apologies for damaging behaviour and makes a public statement of its official policies.

Regland offers a pre-registration service for the new TLDs, including the controversial ".web" domain names. It does not guarantee acquisition of the chosen URL but for $20 offers to keep individuals up to date with the situation and to let them apply for the URL as soon as it is possible.

However, on 29 September, ICANN posted an article on its Web site entitled "Names Council Warning: Pre-Registration of Speculative New Domain Names Is Premature". Contained in the article was the following statement: "The Names Council feels it is premature for companies to offer pre-registration services for domain names in speculative new TLDs... The registration of names in new TLDs will be done on a fair basis, and the practice of pre-registration should not be encouraged."

Needless to say, this angered Regland. However, it was not this but the direct intervention of ICANN's general counsel Louis Touton that caused Regland founder Scott Harris to send a letter to all ICANN board members asking for the apology and public statement.

According to Harris, he had arranged several meetings with big name registrars to discuss the new TLDs. In an act of goodwill, Regland linked to Register.com. However when Touton saw the link-up, he reportedly called Register.com's lawyers "screaming" and asking why it was linked to from Regland's site. Register.com then issued a cease and desist order on Regland to remove its link.

Both Harris and Regland lawyer Alan Greenspan confirmed that they had been informed of Touton's conversation by Register.com's lawyers, although the man named on the order, Scott Brown, said he appreciated our concern over the issue but was unable to comment.

Harris is furious at ICANN's "absolutely ridiculous" behaviour, calling it illegal. The letter, sent to ICANN on Thursday and cc'ed to The Register has yet to receive a response. He is not keen to go ahead with his threat however. "I don't want to sue ICANN, but if I have to I will," he told us. "I don't even expect an admission of guilt, just an apology." Harris also said that while, in a three-hour subsequent conversation with Touton, ICANN's counsel assured them the argument would not affect their accreditation, Harris feels a public statement of this sentiment would be advantageous.

Without such a statement, registrars are very unlikely to criticise ICANN - at least, not until the new TLDs are decided. There is a strong case to be answered in the accusation that ICANN is attempting to monopolise the Internet. This is despite the fact that its very formation was intended to open up the Internet domain market. ®

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