Senate Calls Hearing on ICANN's Controversial Top-Level Domain Expansion Plan

Marketers Oppose ICANN's New Domains and Have Asked Congress to Take Action

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The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has called a hearing for Dec. 8 to discuss ICANN's plans to open up the application process for new generic top-level domains in mid January.

"This hearing will examine the merits and implications of this new program and ICANN's continuing efforts to address concerns raised by the Internet community," read a post on the committee's website.

ICANN's plan, which will allow parties to apply to become the registrar of top-level domains of their own creation, has come under fire recently from the Association of National Advertisers, among other trade groups and brands. The ANA claims that the creation of hundreds of new generic TLDs will burden businesses of all sizes, forcing them to defensively purchase countless domains with all types of iterations of their brand names. The organization also asserts that the program would spur an increase in cyber squatting and other online malfeasance.

"We believe the steps taken by ICANN so far don't adequately meet the concerns raised about this issue," said Dan Jaffe, ANA's exec VP-government relations. "This is clearly an issue Congress thinks is important enough to discuss further."

An ICANN representative didn't immediately respond to email and phone requests for comment.

Separately, two adult-entertainment businesses have recently filed an antitrust lawsuit against ICANN and ICM Registry over the launch of a new .XXX domain registry, which ICM operates. The suit, filed by Manwin Licensing and Digital Playground, alleges that ICANN awarded the domain to ICM without fair competition and that registrations of .XXX domain names will be cost-prohibitive for their businesses as well as other types of entities that will be inclined to register .XXX names to defend against unwanted associations with, for example, their universities, brands or products.

"This could cost Manwin tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars," said Kevin Gaut, a partner with Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, which is representing Manwin.

In a statement, Stuart Lawley, CEO of ICM Registry, said: "We are certain the claims are baseless and will vigorously defend this matter. ICM Registry has been working on the development of this TLD for more than 10 years and has taken extensive measures to ensure it is being launched in the most lawful and responsible way possible. Perhaps Manwin has filed this lawsuit because they are worried that ICM Registry is creating opportunities for others in the adult industry to finally have a fair chance to build great brands and businesses in this new .xxx space."

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