Publishers Call Closed Generic Top-Level Domains Against Public Interest, Internet Freedom

Thursday, 07 March 2013 | Andi Sporkin

Washington, DC; March 7, 2013 — Citing ICANN’s stated responsibility to act in the public interest, which includes ensuring consumer choice and internet freedom, the Association of American Publishers filed comments today opposing closed generic Top-Level Domains (gTLD) applications overall and the application by Amazon EU S.a.r.l. to exclusively secure the “.book” domain.

In its comments filed with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), AAP states that granting any single private company the exclusive use of a closed domain string would defeat the expressed public interest purposes for which new gTLDs are being authorized. AAP also recommends a process by which applications could be evaluated.

“From inception, the introduction of new gTLDs has been promoted as a means to increase competition, add consumer choice, support internet freedom, expand market differentiation and diversify service providers,” said Allan Adler, General Counsel and Vice President, Government Affairs, AAP. “How would handing over ownership of a domain string to any one single private company, such as a retailer, for its own business goals support that public service mission?”

As example, the AAP document references Amazon’s own filing; the latter’s stated purpose in seeking exclusive rights is that “All domains (in .book will be) registered to Amazon for use in pursuit of Amazon’s business goals.” The retailer also noted that .book would “provide a unique and dedicated platform for Amazon while simultaneously protecting…its brand” with “no resellers in .book and no market in .book domains (since) Amazon will strictly control the use.” Amazon concluded that “There is no foreseeable reason for Amazon to undertake public outreach or mass communication about its new gTLD registry.”

Adler added that granting exclusive control of a closed registry to any one entity, especially a private company interested in exploiting the domain solely for business purposes, does a disservice to ICANN’s broader intents. “The vast book community — authors, publishers, sellers, libraries, readers, educators, editors, researchers, literary agents, collectors, printers, clubs, archives and many others — shouldn’t be barred from connecting around the world through the .book domain. This was the stated mission of the ICANN initiative and should be its goal.”

In its comments, AAP urges that any application for a closed generic gTLD registry require an affirmative objective showing by the applicant that it is acting in the public interest, as well as a corresponding finding by ICANN.