|Published by NetAction||Issue No. 42||September 19, 1998|
Please circulate this Action Alert until October 5, 1998
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the Department of Commerce has asked for public comments regarding the .us Internet domain and how it should be used. Because this issue has important implications for noncommercial use of the Internet, the NTIA needs to hear from you.
Right now, there are very few Internet addresses ending in .us, as opposed to the more popular .com and .org top-level domains. The NTIA wants to change this, but NetAction, along with the Domain Name Rights Coalition (DNRC), is concerned about how the NTIA will structure the governance of the .us domain space. Specifically, we want to ensure that the proposed new .us governing body will uphold the rights of noncommercial speech on the Internet, and to prevent the .us domain from being restricted geographically by linking all .us domain addresses to postal addresses.
NetAction believes that the .us domain should not be dominated by corporate interests at the expense of private individuals, community groups, and political organizations. If you believe as we do, you can help preserve our rights to the .us domain by submitting comments on the issue to NTIA before the October 5, 1998, deadline. Our colleagues in the DNRC, who are following this issue closely, believe that the NTIA will be more responsive to concerns about noncommercial speech aspects of .us domain governance if they hear from numerous individuals and organizations before the comment period ends on October 5th. For that reason, we are urging you to submit comments, rather than inviting you to co-sign NetAction's comments.
Comments are being accepted by email, and to make participation easy we are circulating the draft of NetAction's comments. (See below.) You are welcome to use our comments as a sample in drafting your own, or simply substitute your organization's name and submit the comments we have drafted on behalf of your organization.
The e-mail address to send comments to is: .
If you prefer to submit comments on paper, you will need to include a computer disk with a copy of your comments in ASCII, WordPerfect, or Microsoft Word (indicating the version of WP or Word) and mail the comments and disk to:Karen Rose
The full text of the request for comments can be found at: http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/domainname/usrfc/dotusrfc.htm, and a more detailed explanation of NetAction and DNRC's position on the issue is located on DNRC's web site at: http://www.domain-name.org/usdomain.html.
The questions to which NetAction's comments respond are as follows:
3. Specifically, should special-purpose second-level domains be created under .us? What are the benefits and costs of creating particular special-purpose domains (e.g., industry-specific, credentialing, zoning)? How should such domains be created and administered? Are there reasons to map names and other addressing and identification systems (e.g., postal addresses, telephone numbers, longitude and latitude, uniform resource numbers or others) into .us?
5. How should conflicting proposals and claims to manage or use .us subdomains be resolved? Who should have responsibility for coordinating policy for .us over the long term? What public oversight, if any, should be provided?
6. What rules and procedures should be used to minimize conflicts between trademarks and domain names under .us? Should this problem be treated differently at international, national, state, and local levels? Should special privileges be accorded to famous trademarks, such as a right to register directly under .us or a procedure to pre-empt the use of the trademark in a range of subdomains?
NetAction thanks Mitch Stoltz for researching and drafting this alert and our comments. Please direct questions and/or comments about the .us domain issue to Mitch at: .
The following is a draft of the comments NetAction will submit to the NTIA. Use this as a sample or simply substitute your organization's name (or your name if you submit comments as an individual) and send the comments by email to: .
Office of International Affairs, NTIA
Room 4701, U.S. Department of Commerce
14th and Constitution Avenue N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20230
Comments on the Enhancement of the .us Domain Space, in response to the Request for Public Comment (Docket No. 980212036-8172-03).
Dear Ms. Rose,
The .us top level domain (TLD) provides the United States with a golden opportunity to alleviate overcrowding in the .com and .org domains, to experiment with new forms of Internet governance, and to present an example to the world of how the American values of free speech and open communication go hand-in-hand with the Internet. NTIA has taken the first crucial step by recognizing the value of the .us domain in promoting these goals. However, we feel that certain issues involving policy guidance of this domain, and the potential conflict of commercial speech versus other types of speech, need to be addressed more strongly by NTIA.
In response to question (5) of NTIA's ".us Request for Comments," we believe that the policy issues surrounding the .us domain should be handled by a U.S. Internet Council, a forum where the U.S. Internet community can negotiate policy for the .us domain under the jurisdiction of U.S. law. The existence of such a body would not conflict with the current trend of internationalizing Internet governance. On the contrary, it would ensure that the U.S.-specific TLD, .us, is maintained according to U.S. law and U.S. values of free speech, without the need for accountability to foreign governments. This domain could then serve as an example to the world of fair, democratic Internet governance.
The existence of the Internet Council would facilitate the separation of policy and technical administration of domain names. This is clearly a necessity, since the policy-making body must be held open to participation by and be accountable to the U.S. Internet user community and the U.S. Government and legal system, while the technical overseers of the domain name system should be free of these responsibilities.
We believe that the .us domain should be organized initially into a small number of second-level domains (SLD's) based on the type of content to be organized under each. (Question 3) SLD's can be created for commercial content, personal content such as individual home pages, and for political speech. The current geographical system, which assigns SLD's to states and localities, does not make sense to a modern, mobile, location-independent Internet company or organization, and it violates the Internet's "location-independent" philosophy. Mapping addresses in .us to postal addresses or phone numbers does not make sense for the same reasons -- there is no value to associating an Internet address with a specific locality.
Finally, we believe that noncommercial and commercial speech should be given equal protection in the .us domain, as addressed in question (6), and that trademark owners not be given any special precedence in obtaining a domain name. Law and court cases have established that simply registering a domain name does not constitute use of a trademark. Thus, companies should not be able to pre-empt the registration of a domain name similar to their corporate trademarks, especially not in the personal and political SLD's we propose. Since the Internet was first created as a tool for communication and collaboration, not for buying and selling, any policy which protects the right of commerce over freedom of expression violates the spirit under which the Internet has achieved its phenomenal success. The first-come, first-served system of assigning domain names which exists currently has been an important factor in this success by allowing a very fast turnaround for domain name registrations. To replace this system with something resembling the lengthy registration, review, public notice, and opposition process which registered trademarks require would be unmeasurably damaging to the Internet's viability as a medium of speech.
In order to maintain the values which are key to the Internet's growth, and to set an example to the world Internet community, we ask that NTIA make a high priority of the following policy recommendations put forth by the Domain Name Rights Coalition:
a) That the protection of free speech be a primary policy goal for those overseeing the .us domain.
b) That "No Internet policy will prevent individuals or businesses from using their full imagination and creativity to create and label products, services and content for the Internet, just as they do in traditional channels of communication and commerce."
c) That policies for the .us domain "will affirmatively and expressly set out protections for free speech and open communication, as well as protections for intellectual property rights in the digital environment."
d) That these policies "will protect and promote the development of new Internet products and services by entrepreneurs and small businesses, as well as the ongoing marketing and sale of products and services by long-established companies."
The proposed expansion of domain names under the .us TLD cannot help but alleviate overcrowding on the generic TLD's like .com and .org. However, we have an opportunity to achieve other goals with this transformation: a strengthened protection of the rights of free speech and entrepreneurship which our country stands for.
601 Van Ness Ave., #631
San Francisco, CA 94102
Private control of the domain name registration process impacts important Internet issues, including free speech and public access. The closed nature of ongoing discussions about domain name governance poses a threat to these principles. Internet users can learn more about the situation at an Open Forum on Domain Names and Internet Governance which is scheduled to take place Wednesday, September 23, 1998 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The event, entitled "Taking Back the Net: Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Choice Online," will be netcast, live from the Great Hall of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City. Internet participants will have an opportunity to submit comments, questions and criticism to the panel during the discussion. (For those in New York, the Great Hall is located in the Foundation Building, 7th Street at Third Avenue, in Manhattan.)
See http://www.iciiu.net/ for information on how to participate in the netcast, and for background on the International Congress of Independent Internet Users (ICIIU).
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