Predatory or prudent? High price of .sucks domain investigated

14/04/2015

The price of new .sucks domains is to be investigated amid claims that brands and celebrities could be exploited.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Number (Icann) has asked the US and Canadian trade authorities to investigate Vox Populi, which secured the rights to sell the name. The company denies any wrongdoing.

An influx of new domain names are going on sale in June, including potentially helpful domain endings such as boutique, .support, .travel.

However, there are also more sinister extensions, including .sucks, .fail and more adult .xxx and .porn.

These domains could be hijacked by disgruntled customers, competitors or used to host inappropriate material.

Companies will have to decide whether it’s worth $2,500 a year to tie up a .sucks address during a 60-day early access period set aside for trademark owners and celebrities that begins March 30.

If they don’t, anyone in the world will be able to register the name and set up their own protest site.

Specialist online website Domain Incite reports that actor "Kevin Spacey, Microsoft, Google and Apple have already bought up '.sucks' sites in a bid to protect their reputations", a practice is known as "defensive registering".

Icann granted Vox Populi permission to sell the ".sucks" names but is now concerned at the price levels the Canadian company has set.

Vox Populi is allegedy selling the domians for $2,000, described as a 'sunrise' premium to those wishing to register '.sucks' addresses early.

"Also they are using a list of words or names that have been defensively registered in the past, for which they are charging the top amount."

By contrast, new gTLDs such as ".rocks" or ".forsale" typically sell for between $5 (£3.42) and $20 a year.

Another controversial new suffix, .porn, has already begun its early access period, drawing registrations from Microsoft, Harvard University and even pop star Taylor Swift.

Celebrities have more experience with the problems that may arise, having dealt with a barrage of new web site names when the .xxx suffix opened for business four years ago.
“Predatory”

In a strongly worded letter to Icann, the authority's own advisory body, the Intellectual Property Constituency (IPC), demanded a "halt" to Vox Populi's "illicit", "predatory" and "coercive" selling scheme.

But even though Icann approved the ".sucks" domain name sale and issued the licence to sell the related website addresses, it appears not to have jurisdiction over how they are sold.
There is no evidence that Vox Populi has done anything wrong, and the company told Domain Incite its pricing and policies were "well within the rules".

Icann has referred Vox Populi to the two bodies it believes may have the regulatory authority to investigate the company's practices: the Federal Trade Commission in the United States and the Canadian Office of Consumer Affairs, as the company is registered in Canada.

But unless the company has broken the law, it is not clear what powers Icann has over Vox Populi's handing of the sale of ".sucks".

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