.Feedback Gets Negative Feedback on Public Interest



A coalition of brand owners, including Facebook Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., has prevailed in a challenge to an internet domain operator’s public interest commitment.

Top Level Spectrum, operator of .feedback, failed to operate the top-level domain in a transparent manner, a panel of the Public Interest Commitment Dispute Resolution Procedure (PICDRP) ruled.

The operator markets .feedback as a domain where companies can receive and share reviews of their products or services.

The PICDRP is a little-used rights protection mechanism finalized in 2013 by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the nonprofit that coordinates the domain name system. The decision against Top Level Spectrum, released March 16, was the first to be made under this mechanism, according to the panel.

The panel found that Top Level Spectrum violated a commitment—stipulated in its agreement with ICANN—to establish, publish and adhere to clear domain name registration policies. Top Level Spectrum didn’t announce policy changes on its website nor adhere to the 90-day notice requirement for making such changes, the panel said. Policy changes were instead announced in the news media, it said.

Brian J. Winterfeldt, counsel for the brand owners and an intellectual property partner at Mayer Brown LLP in Washington, told Bloomberg BNA March 20 that although he was happy for the win, the decision doesn’t address all of the harms Top Level Spectrum caused due to allegedly fraudulent conduct. The brands had alleged in their complaint that Top Level Spectrum, among other things, solicited and paid third parties to post fake product reviews on websites within the .feedback domain.

The panel said those allegations fell outside the scope of its review. According to the panel, the public interest commitment provision requires registry operators to prohibit fraudulent or deceptive practices, but it “imposes no obligation” on the operator itself to avoid such practices.

Winterfeldt said he was “disappointed the panel sidestepped the fraud issues.”

The panel said Top Level Spectrum breached a number of other agreement provisions, including failing to publish on its website a primary contact for handling abuse complaints, and not paying past due fees. Top Level Spectrum has until Apr. 15 to correct the violations.

Top Level Spectrum spokesman Jay Westerdal told Bloomberg BNA March 20 that the registry operator is working with ICANN to cure the breach. “Everything should be in routine shape before the end of the month,” he said.