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New Domains Renew Naming Debate

By Jason Shpik
Posted Sunday, August 15, 2004

SO YOU PONIED UP $70 TO LOCK DOWN TWO YEARS' CONTROL OF THE WEB address (www.[your name here].com), plus another $140 for the suffixes .net and .org. What about .cc, .nu, .md, or any of the almost 250 other country-code top-level domains that have hit the Internet?

Country-code domains are two-letter Internet addresses styled after International Telecommunications Union abbreviations for countries and territories. Some 90 of the 250 nations with these domains either conduct or have licensed outside registration; among locales that have licensed their abbreviations to North American registry entrepreneurs are the South Pacific islands Niue (.nu) and Tuvalu (.tv), Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean (.cc), and Moldova (.md) in Europe.

For some, this could be a return to cybersquatting--the infamous practice of buying potential domain names in hopes of reselling them to a brand's owner at a tidy profit. In March, for instance, Microsoft--owner of the online travel site Expedia--entered into arbitration with a Medfield, Mass.-based company called .Nu Domains Ltd., which had registered expedia.nu for a Swedish firm hoping to use the address.
"Cybersquatting is certainly occurring in some of these domains," says Francis Gurry, assistant director general and legal counsel with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva. WIPO has discussed reining in domain prospectors, but international law is unclear on the issue. "The domains are not administered pursuant to uniform principles," Gurry adds. "There is not yet any agreed approach."

On its site, .Nu Domains notes that it will register new domains for names that do not violate trademark law in the registrant's jurisdiction. Any disputes must be resolved through the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Squatters aside, securing every possible domain could break a home office's bank. Where $70 buys two years' use of a .com from Network Solutions, the overseas domain prices are typically higher: The Beverly Hills-based firm SamsDirect charges $100 to register a .cc domain for two wars. And Domain Name Trust president John Harris says his Fort Lauderdale, Fla., company gets $299 per year from medical organizations seeking a .md address.

How can you protect your company's Web presence? Consider registering your name with the top international domains, including, de (Germany), .uk (United Kingdom), .dk (Denmark), .br (Brazil), and .nl (the Netherlands), says Pinky Brand, director of business development of idNames, the corporate services division of Network Solutions. But first, make sure you have .com, .net, and .org secured.

However, Brand is quick to add: "I don't see .cc as an alternative to .com. The latter has become that Fifth Avenue address on the Net, an 800 number for the world."

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