The organization that manages the Internet domain name system has asked regulators in the U.S. and Canada to comment on the legality of the high prices and procedures used by Vox Populi Registry for registrations of ".sucks" domain names by trademark owners.
The move Thursday by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) follows a recent letter from its Intellectual Property Constituency, which asked that the rollout of the new .sucks gTLD (generic top-level domain) be halted.
The IPC, which represents the holders of trademarks and related intellectual property, described the registration scheme for the domain as predatory and designed to exploit trademark owners. It said Vox Populi had announced it would charge trademark owners $2,499 and above in annual fees to register domain names during the early 'sunrise' period.
The high annual fees will prevent many trademark owners from being able to take advantage of the preliminary sunrise registration period, intended to protect the rights of trademark owners, making it more likely that marks will be registered by cybersquatters for much lower, and potentially subsidized, fees at the launch of the general availability of the domain names, IPC President Gregory S. Shatan wrote in a letter to Akram Atallah, president of ICANN's global domains division.
Under the new gTLD program, ICANN had added 583 new TLDs at the end of last week, with plans to add hundreds more. The proliferation of domains like .porn and .adult have led celebrities and trademark owners to buy websites with their names in some of these new domains to prevent future misuse.
In letters to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Canada's Office of Consumer Affairs, ICANN's General Counsel John O. Jeffrey asked the agencies to investigate whether Vox Populi is violating any laws or regulations that are enforced by the two offices.
"I don't believe VoxPop has colored outside the lines either of ICANN's rules or national laws so I was surprised by the request," wrote Vox Populi CEO John Berard in an email about ICANN's letter to the regulators.
ICANN said it can enforce contracts with registries but not police illegal activity.
But if Vox Populi is not complying with all applicable laws, it may also be in breach of its registry agreement, wrote Allen Grogan, ICANN's chief contract compliance officer in a blog post. "ICANN could then act consistently with its public interest goals and consumer and business protections to change these practices through our contractual relationship with the registry," he added. Registrations in the sunrise period have already begun and will end on May 29.