Who are Accent Media and what is Domains Watch?
Steve Machin: We founded the company in 2012 specifically to apply for the .tickets web space, which we now own and operate.
We are now at nearly 1,000 names and we have coverage from sports brands and franchises in North America and Europe, including the NBA, Formula 1 and top football teams across Europe who have all bought our domain names.
We have launched a unique product in Domains Watch, which is a public anti-domain squatting website that currently services .tickets domains, but will later be rolled out to a wide number of other TLDs.
Is it not unusual that no other company seems to have set up a service like Domains Watch before?
Gary Fisher: There is a reason for that. A normal domain business model is that a registry will try to sell millions of domains to maximise its revenue. The principal objective of most TLD registries is to get TLDs into the market. The more the better for them, regardless of the quality.
That is not our business model. We are instead seeking to sell quality domains to blue chip businesses that want to sell tickets using our .tickets web address, and simultaneously ensure that we build consumer trust in the .tickets brand.
If we were to flood the market with $10 .ticket domains, it would just cause confusion, destroy value in the brand, and ultimately not help our core market.
Machin: I think timing is also an aspect. With .com, .net and .org, they are legacy TLDs and when .com emerged, very little attention was paid to rights. No one knew that the internet would be such a success.
Go back 10 years when the first batch of new generic names were released, like .info and .mobi, and there was a lot of additional rights protection implemented. Most registries do what they have to do from an Internet Corporation for Associated Names and Numbers (ICANN) compliance perspective.
It’s only really now and as of 2014 that there may have been an opportunity for new registries to launch and operate their registries in new and interesting ways. I think when the new TLDs came out they were largely operated by players who were already in the domains space. They were legacy operators and already familiar with how ICANN compliance works.
Whereas, I think with this round there has been an influx of companies such as Accent Media that do not have a history of working in the domains space. We have come at it from a ‘how can we fix this challenge’ approach, rather than try to fit into the model that already exists.
Can Domains Watch be seen as a cybersquatting tool?
Machin: The plan for Domains Watch was to use it as a service that supports the .tickets registry because of the way in which the industry wanted it to run. We spent a lot of time building the system and running through how it might work. We came to the conclusion that if we spent a lot of time developing a sophisticated structure, surely that would be of interest to other people in the domain industry.
Domains Watch should be considered as a broader anti-cybersquatting tool, certainly not just for .tickets.
What sort of brands have you seen using Domains Watch?
Fisher: Brands such as Disney, Nascar and Ticketfly have been successful in securing their names ahead of cybersquatters. Cybersquatting is most likely going to happen in entertainment and with artists, but it is going to happen in all sorts of sectors.
The idea of Domains Watch was to make it a publicly available utility. We can’t monitor everything that is going on unless we make it public and add a rights identification layer. It gives us the tools to help brands, and those that manage rights for their clients.
We plan to build additional services for agents and intellectual property lawyers to enable them to be automatically notified, and we do plan to roll out these services at a later date.
But at the moment, we have to do the leg work to ensure that brands know about it. And then it’s up to them if they want to take action or not.
Have you had any feedback from brands?
Machin: When we were privately road-testing our policies with major brands, we received strong support from media companies and sports organisations in the UK. They all said that stopping an application before it goes to a registration was a thing that most registries did not do, but they wanted.
They liked the surety of our methodology, which means they could guarantee stopping a registration that infringed on their brand or the rights.
Are you considering any other TLDs at the moment?
Fisher: The first issue is whether the TLD works for us, and to create a model that works for brands. The main reason we called it Domains Watch rather than domainswatch.tickets was because we wanted to create a general utility and general brand for the domain industry to use. We are talking to other domain name registries about extending the service to them.
We would adapt it for their own unique policies and market, and it may be visualised in a different way. But the aim is to turn Domains Watch in to a brand and a general utility for other TLDs to use.
We hope and expect Domains Watch to be a success. We are talking to very interested parties. There are a lot of TLDs, including ones coming to the market that understand they are not yet serving their community in the ways they may want to.
There’s re-engineering for the new ones and re-engineering for existing TLDs and we’ll see how far we get with that.
Machin: There are a handful of domains that have a level of impact, and they provide some sort of benefit to the user and their industry beyond just providing domains, in the way that .tickets serves the ticket industry and provides increased consumer confidence when visiting a tickets website. The other TLDs where we’re getting good traction with Domains Watch provide a similar level of surety in their niche. We fully expect that we will have additional registries on board this year.
With Domains Watch, we offer something different to the ICANN Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) process. We don’t allow trademarks to take priority if they’re not in a classification that is for ticketing goods and services.
As an example, there is a trademark for ‘movie’, registered in Belize in the classification of scented candles. Clearly that registration is not being used to sell movie branded scented candles, it is being used to acquire domain names during the sunrise period.
For us, we are concerned with making sure that the classification matches the industry in which you are serving.
It was one of our policies to ensure our policies could not be ‘gamed’, in the way that the TMCH has been.
The ICANN process is quite a tough regulatory environment, and we’ve done our best to improve upon some of that. Without being too burdensome to the registry or the registrants and the registrars, there is a triangular relationship. They all need to work in tandem to ensure the process is smooth, while ensuring the rights are protected.
Domains Watch is designed to have minimal changes required at each of the points on the triangle, making it as simple as possible to implement for other registries.