Ever since the Internet opened to commercial traffic, businesses have been limited to using a handful of top-level domains, such as .com and .biz, and various country-specific designations like “.uk” and “.us.” This changes in January 2012 when the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (“ICANN”) — the organization that controls the Internet domain name space — begins accepting applications for almost any imaginable top-level domain. For the first time, industry organizations will be able to obtain a top-level domain tailored specifically for their industry. A record company association could register a top-level domain like “.music;” a financial industry group could register “.bank;” and a builders’ association could register “.construction.” Industry organizations can then dole out second-level domains to their members, making possible web addresses like ”Sony.music,” “WellsFargo.bank,” and “California.construction.” These kinds of industry-controlled top-level domains have many potential benefits for consumers and industry. If a well-known, reputable organization controls “.construction,” consumers in California can go to “California.construction” and be assured they are dealing with a reputable California builder. This is a significant improvement over the current system, where domain name registrations are open to reputable business and serial fraudsters alike.1 Despite their benefits, industry-controlled top-level domains raise the potential of antitrust harm and liability. If, for example, only Universal Music Group, Sony Music, and Warner Music Group are allowed to register second level domains on the “.music” domain, they may face antitrust suits from independent record labels who want to register domains like “IndependentMusicCo.music.” Fortunately, industry organizations considering a community top-level domain can take steps now to limit their risk of antitrust liability. Moreover, businesses and organizations that are not considering a top-level domain registration can and should take steps now to limit the risk of an organization shutting them out from an important part of the market.
Antitrust Scrutiny of Domain Names May Increase as Consumers Become Accustomed to the New Top Level Domain Landscape
Avoiding Antitrust Risk
Preventing Anticompetitive Threats
To view additional stories from Bloomberg Law® request a demo now