Law in the Internet Society
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-- By KibongCho - 20 Dec 2012


In this paper, I argue that the current privatization and decentralization of the generic Top Level Domain names by ICANN, an idea that I initially supported and thought would be good for the public, could actually harm the public interest since in general, only larger companies with a lot of money would be able to register gTLDs, and once they control the gTLD market, can demand much higher fees for registering domain names from the public. Furthermore, many large companies that are not in the business of managing Internet domains, such as Johnson & Johnson or Ford Motors, have applied for top-level domain names. While registering a domain name under current structure, for example, “”, only removes one name from the universe of available domain names, registering a gTLD such as “.ford” would remove an infinite number of available domain names.


Even though I cannot approve Mr. Donald Trump’s business ethics, politics, and particularly his hairstyle, I admire his vanity. I myself, enjoy placing my name on things. When I learned of Google’s new service that assists users to purchase a domain name and have their own email address, the temptation of owning my own email address “” became irresistible.

However, my excitement quickly turned to despair, as I realized that NAMEKING.COM, INC. (“NAMEKING”), had already squatted on “”, and was demanding me to pay up $1,500 if I wanted the domain (registering new domains ending in “.com” costs around $9.99) even though it had zero visitors. NAMEKING was crossing the line, and I became determined to resist rather than yield to just another example of the Proletariats exploiting the Bourgeoisie by turning culture and expression into consumption.

I was going to do this by buying the domain name www.kibong.cho.. Who says I cannot do this?


As I was trying to register www.kibong.cho, I came across “,” an organization that seemed to share a similar mission as our class of freeing the public from the “King-of-the-un-deads.” Name.Space was founded in 1996 to create other Top Level Domain names that would supplement the limited set of .COM, .NET and, ORG.. Their mission statement said:

During this time in Internet history, many were spreading misinformation that large numbers of top-level domain names were either unfeasible or could cause harm and “break” the Internet, in order to maintain their market dominance and thwart competition from potential newcomers. (emphasis added).

In 1996, Network Solutions, Inc. (“NSI”) was the sole provider and controller of the domain name registration services, and only seven gTLDs were available. In response, Name.Space began providing domain name registration services, and “accepted approximately 530 gTLDs, such as “.forpresident,” “.formayor” and “” Name.Space, v. Network Solutions, 202 F.3d 573, 578 (2d Cir. 2000). These gTLDs were not accessible to most Internet users, however, because they could not be converted into the proper IP numbers unless NSI added the new gTLDs to its master root zone file. In response, Name.Space challenged NSI’s refusal to add the new gTLDs on the root zone file as antitrust and First Amendment violation. The Second Circuit affirmed summary judgment for NSI on both antitrust and First Amendment, not necessarily because it was opposed to Name.Space’s position of adding new gTLDs, but rather because it believed that the “[e]xpansion of gTLDs should proceed at a deliberate pace, in order to maintain the stability and promote the controlled evolution,” and NSI was already working with the government towards privatizing and liberalizing the gTLDs market. Id. at 578. Thus, the court found that NSI had implied federal sovereign immunity on the antitrust claim, and that although there is “nothing inherent in the architecture of the Internet that prevents new gTLDs from constituting expressive speech,” gTLDs at the time were not protected speech because the government agreement with NSI limited “them to three-letter afterthoughts such as .com and .net, which are lacking in expressive content.” Id. at 585.


Thus, even if Name.Space lost the legal battle, it did not lose the war towards increasing the number of gTLDs. In fact, by early next year, there might be hundreds of gTLDs (there are currently 22).

This movement unfortunately does not solve my problem, and if fact, makes it worse. This is because it costs about $200,000 to register a gTLD, and no one else has applied to get the gTLD name “.cho” so far. Perhaps the public has more to lose than gain, since the current ICANN’s gTLD liberalization structure would mostly restrict gTLD registration access to corporations and individuals with big pockets. For example, ICANN requires US $185,000 evaluation fee, and US $25,000 annual registration fee for registering a gTLD. Would people really pay this much money to register for a gTLD if what they were interested in is to promote public interest?

By limiting access at the initial stages only to wealthy applicants, the ICANN is perhaps giving control of this market to corporations, which will then have more control over the public. The ICANN website explicitly lists “Increased control: You set the rules and the price for those registering your TLD,” as one of the benefits of owning a gTLD.


At least under the current structure, the gTLD market is controlled by an entity that is closely controlled by the government. I might not get to register kibong.cho, which is unfortunate, but no one else gets to either. Under the gTLD liberalization structure that gives corporations an advantage over the public in terms of controlling the market, it seems like ICANN is providing the corporations another opportunity to subject the Bourgeoisie to their control, and turn expression and exchange of culture into consumption.

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r1 - 20 Dec 2012 - 21:17:52 - KibongCho
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