WFA opposes ICANN decision for unlimited generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs)


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Brussels, 31st August 2011: The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) has spoken out against the decision by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to approve a plan to allow for unlimited generic Top Line Domains (gTLDs). Currently there are 22 gTLDs on the internet (e.g. .com, .edu, .gov) and 250 country-level domains (e.g. .de, .uk, .cn). The new proposal, scheduled to come into force in January 2012, could see the emergence of a myriad of new gTLDs, such as .pepsi, .google, .beer, .cars, .toys and so on.

WFA and its members have written to ICANN to express “the deep concerns and strong reservations held by the global marketer community” that this decision will lead to significant legal and financial risks for brands in relation to the protection of domain names and monitoring of domain name abuse.

WFA believes that the changes are likely to introduce confusion in the marketplace, increase the likelihood of "cybersquatting" and lead to trademark disputes. Brands could be forced to engage in costly defensive registrations of domain names in order to protect their trademarks and intellectual property, requiring significant diversions of internal resources on top of the costs already associated with buying gTLDs. Applications for new gTLDs will incur a fee of $185,000 in addition to on-going yearly administration costs.

ICANN has now formally adopted its plan for new gTLDs, ignoring the potentially serious financial and legal implications for brands around the world. In its letter, WFA calls on ICANN to abandon its plan in its current form.

Stephan Loerke, WFA Managing Director, said: “ICANN's decision flies in the face of their own impact assessments, which highlight the potential dangers and massive costs that unlimited domain names could incur. Worse, it could lead to significant confusion among consumers and expose them to abuse by fraudulent operators.”

The sentiment was echoed by Alain Heureux, President of the Brussels-based Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB Europe): “Allowing limitless domain endings opens the door to huge registration costs and significant potential damage to both publishers and advertisers. This decision jeopardizes both our brands' integrity and the safety of consumers”.

Angela Mills Wade, Executive Director of the European Publishers Council (EPC) also added: "It is essential that an urgent review is undertaken so that publishers are not forced into costly, defensive registrations of domain names in order to protect their trademarks and intellectual property against abuse."

Ivan Vandermeersch, Secretary General of FEDMA: “changes as planned by ICANN would have counterproductive impacts on the internet world, creating huge costs for the protection of brands, while confusing consumers and creating more exposure for them to fraud (identity theft, privacy concern...), thus decreasing tremendously users' trust online, when it is most needed.”

The full letter can be downloaded here. For further information please contact Will Gilroy

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