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WIPO tries to place itself above the law

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ICANN-approved domain dispute registrar WIPO has got ideas above its station (again) with its review of the current system of resolution. It has come up with some recommendations for the future "misuse of certain names and identifiers in the Internet domain name system".

These recommendations ride roughshod over international law, and if adopted will make WIPO an autonomous legal body when dealing with the Internet.

WIPO is one of four arbitration bodies entitled to rule in cases where an individual or organisation feels it ought to have possession of a particular Web address. A complainant goes to the arbitrator, both sides state their case and a one or three-person panel rules for or against handing the domain name over.

However, ever since the system was created, it has been subject to heavy criticism for favouring big companies and famous people over and above ordinary Internet users. WIPO, and fellow arbitrator NAF, have also been accused of twisting the set of rules for handing over domains - the uniform dispute resolution policy (UDRP) - to fit their own agendas.

A re-hash of these rules has been due for months but WIPO has consistently delayed publication. Now, however, rather than simply strengthen the existing system, it is attempting to extend its powers to different sorts of domain name disputes.

Studiously ignoring the fact that the current UDRP rules were set up with the explicit intention of avoiding certain disputed words (the idea was that they would only allow for trademark holders to take domains from non-trademark holders cheaply and efficiency), WIPO says it has "noted that certain issues relating to intellectual property still remained unresolved".

These are: pharmaceutical substances (drug names); intergovernmental organisations (quangoes etc); personal names; geographical identifiers (cities etc); and trade names.

WIPO has decided it ought to have jurisdiction over countries, geographical areas, ethnic groups and pharmaceutical substances. The ones it doesn't feel so comfortable with overseeing are international organisations and non-trademark names of drugs. Famous people, it points out, have already been covered under its parallel universe of case law.

The old argument - and one we adhere to entirely - is that most of these cases can be run through the law courts as has always been the case. In terms of organisations, especially governmental, what is wrong with the current system of allowing them exclusive access to certain TLDs like .gov? Plus who exactly has the right to London.com? Does that also give them the right to every TLD for London?

Plus, with trade names, there are millions of companies working with the same name, but they work either in different areas or in different trades - isn't allowing someone like WIPO to decide on them contrary to the free market and capitalism?

WIPO points out that current legal systems are incapable of dealing with the global aspect of the Internet; the truth is that there isn't a legal system capable of controlling what WIPO wants to make itself.
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