Advertising Representatives Call on ICANN to Abandon New gTLDs Program
In a strongly worded open letter to Rod Beckstrom, President of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), calls on the corporation to abandon its proposed expansion program for gTLDs that would allow Internet address names to end with almost any word in any language.
ANA's letter to the ICANN President is the result of a recent round of discussions and consultation with its membership on a program that many see as unworkable and full of major flaws. ANA, founded in 1910, represents over 400 companies with more than 10,000 brands that collectively spend over $250 billion annually in marketing communications and advertising and is clearly not at ease with the program that the ICANN board passed on June 20. The decision to expand the Internet's Domain Name System was hailed at the ICANN meeting as ushering in a 'new Internet age' by allowing Internet address names to end with almost any word in any language. It has since received heavy criticism from many quarters including, among others, the Coalition for Online Accountability (COA) and the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse (CADNA).
ANA's criticism is aimed at what it calls 'ICANN's lack of a bottom-up input process involving the global Internet community,' insufficient research and guidance from expert authorities, as well as inadequate oversight by the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) which could have 'potentially disastrous consequences if the program is implemented in January 2012, as planned', the letter claims.
Similar criticisms were outlined by ANA in public comments sent to the DOC on July 29, 2011 which included the COA's opinion on the new gTLD program as not being taken ‘for the benefit of global Internet users,’ but for 'only a small slice of the private sector, chiefly the registries and registrars who stand to profit from the introduction of new gTLDs.' Similar comments made by CADNA were also included in ANA's concerns to the DOC.
Addressing ICANN, ANA argues that implementation of the ICANN program is economically unsupportable and is likely to cause irreparable harm and damage to its membership and the Internet business community in general.
Further, ANA says that ICANN has overstepped its mandate and that the new gTLD program will:
- Divert scarce corporate resources away from job creation, capital investment and economic expansion.
- Contravene the legal rights of brand owners, such as those belonging to ANA members.
- Exacerbate the already challenging problem of protecting consumers from online confusion and unlawful invasions of their personal privacy.
- Diminish cyber security and increase the likelihood of predatory cyber harm.
- Pose significant risks to consumers by making it easier for criminals to hide behind a trusted brand.
- Force marketers to buy their own brands from ICANN at an initial price of $185,000.
Bob Liodice, President and CEO, ANA made further scathing comments by saying that the confusion introduced into the marketplace would increase the likelihood of cybersquatting and other malicious conduct as well as diminishing the power of trademarks to serve as strong, accurate and reliable symbols of source and quality in the marketplace. He added, "Brand confusion, dilution and other abuses also pose risks of cyber predator harms, consumer privacy violations, identity theft and cyber security breaches."
"The decision to go forward with the program also violates sound public policy and contravenes ICANN's Code of Conduct and its undertakings with the United States Department of Commerce."
In conclusion, Liodice cites the program as an example of public policy gone awry and asks ICANN to sit down with the Association to work it out, after firstly abandoning the program as it currently stands. ANA has asked for a written response from ICANN by August 22, 2011.
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