Washington DC
01 June 2015
Reporter: Tammy Facey

New gTLD RPMs .suck, says FTC

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) should consider revising its rights protection mechanisms in the new gTLD programme, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Edith Ramirez, chair of the FTC, wrote in a letter to ICANN on 27 May that the commission will consider ways in which it can address the concerns about the .sucks TLD.

ICANN general counsel John Jeffrey wrote to the FTC and Canada’s Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA) on 9 April, asking the agencies to launch investigations into .sucks operator Vox Populi Registry, after receiving complaints from brands.

Ramirez said the FTC will “take action” against Vox Populi if “we have reason to believe an entity has engaged in deceptive or unfair practices in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act”.

But ICANN needs to address the “potential” for consumer confusion over new gTLDs, she wrote in her letter. The public may not be able to discern the real owner behind a .sucks site.

“I hope ICANN will encourage all gTLD holders to identify themselves on their websites so that people do not confused an activist with a company site.”

Ramirez also questioned whether the Trademark Clearinghouse is a suitable rights protection mechanism.

“It may be very well that stronger rights protection mechanisms are needed to ensure that IP rights holders are adequately protected,” she said.

She also suggested ICANN yield to the Governmental Advisory Committee’s approach to verifying the credentials of owners of sensitive domains.

The GAC wants Whois information to be verified before a new gTLD name is sold.

But ICANN adopted a far less stringent requirement, instead requiring that owners represent that they possess the appropriate credentials.

She said: “This more lax approach increases the risk of consumer fraud because bad actors will not hesitate to make false representations about their credentials.”

“I encourage ICANN to reconsider implementing the important safeguards recommended by the GAC in this area.”

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