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Canada to ICANN in dot-sucks dot-rumble: Take off, you hoser!

Knubley not bubbly about TLD price query

The Canadian government has responded to a request from domain-name overseer ICANN about the .sucks top-level domain – by shaking its head and sending a form letter.

Two months ago, prodded heavily by intellectual property lawyers infuriated that the dot-sucks registry was charging trademark holders $2,500 for .sucks domains and everyone else $10, ICANN's general counsel wrote to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Canada's Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA) asking them if dot-sucks' actions were illegal.

The Canadian government was asked because the owner of the registry, Vox Populi, is based in Canada.

Last month, FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez replied saying her regulator repeatedly prodded ICANN in the stomach, and asked what the hell ICANN expected since it has ignored the FTC's advice on a number of occasions.

Ramirez also noted that the pricing structure fitted within ICANN's rules, although she didn't rule out that the FTC wouldn't take some future action. She also provided some advice over how to deal with issues arising from dot-sucks.

The Canadian government was less inclined to bother.

In a two-paragraph response [PDF], one of which simply acknowledged what the letter was about, Deputy Minister John Knubley told ICANN:

Canada's laws provide comprehensive protections for all Canadians. Canada has intellectual property, competition, criminal law and other relevant legal frameworks in place to protect trademark owners, competitors, consumers and individuals. These frameworks are equally applicable to online activities and can provide recourse, for example, to trademark owners concerned about the use of the dotSucks domain, provided that trademark owners can demonstrate that the use of dotSucks domains infringes on a trademark. Intellectual property rights are privately held and are settled privately in the courts.

Or in other words: what the hell are you bothering me with this nonsense for?

Combined, you do have to wonder why ICANN felt that involving national regulators was the best solution to complaints from its intellectual property lobby.

As we've mentioned previously, it may have something to do with the fact that in the contract ICANN signed with Vox Populi there is a highly unusual and somewhat troubling clause that forces Vox Populi to pay a one-time fixed "registry access fee" of $100,000 and then a further "registry administration fee" of $1 for each of the first 900,000 transactions. In other words a one-million-dollar sweetener.

The reason? Previous companies that were affiliates of Vox Populi's parent company, Momentous, had closed in the past without paying ICANN what they owed. So ICANN decided to use the unrelated dot-sucks registry contract as leverage to get its money.

Some irony that ICANN later asked questions about Vox Populi's "predatory, coercive and exploitive" pricing. ®

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