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Music fans not welcome in RIAA-backed .music

Piracy prohibited in proposed industry-only domain

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The Recording Industry Association of America and other music industry groups are backing a proposal for a highly regulated ".music" top-level domain.

If its .music is approved by ICANN, the domains will be limited to members of accredited music industry associations and will be regularly patrolled for copyright infringement.

Far Further, a Nashville, Tennessee firm founded in 2010 by former music executives, plans to apply for the right to run .music as part of ICANN's ongoing new gTLD programme.

The company secured the support of a "loose coalition of organisations" formed by the RIAA last summer, beating several other would-be applicants, Far Further president John Styll told El Reg.

Other influential members of the coalition include the International Federation of Phonographic Industries and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

To get this support, Far Further had to promise strict intellectual property protections, such as banning regular punters from owning a .music address.

“It’s not open to everyone,” Styll said. “You’d have to join an organisation.”

The RIAA complained to the US government about ICANN's domain expansion last August, saying that any music-themed gTLD should have to have extra security measures to prevent it being used for piracy.

As a result, Far Further plans to crawl the .music space regularly for evidence of piracy and take down domain names found to host infringing content.

“We’re definitely looking at content, and besides the vetting process, in the registrant agreement there’ll be a warrant you’re not going to violate anyone’s intellectual property rights,” said Styll.

“We’re retaining the right to conduct searches. If we find evidence of infringing activity we’ll give you the opportunity to correct that, or we can take down the site,” he said.

The company is not a shoo-in for the .music gig, however. It faces competition from at least one other .music applicant, Cypriot businessman Constantine Roussos, who has been campaigning for .music for over five years. His bid would also limit who can own .music addresses to members of approved music industry associations.

Roussos said he believes that the music industry's support for Far Further will limit the contest to just the two applicants, but said he expects to give the rival bid a run for its money.

"We have planned far ahead for this outcome and we have our global community to back us up and financial resources to go as far as it takes us to win," he wrote this week. "This will be a long, drawn-out and expensive marathon."

Under ICANN's rules, contested gTLD applications can be resolved by agreement between the applicants or, as a last resort, an auction. It's unlikely that the fight over .music would be resolved until the second half of 2013 at the earliest.

There are also objection mechanisms that can knock out applicants. For example, governments have significant powers to scupper bids, and trademark owners can also file objections.

Starting in May, ICANN will also give members of the public the opportunity to comment on any new gTLD application. ®

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