Report: Government should back off domain name process

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The U.S. government should step away from overseeing Internet addresses, but only after assuring a new system for assigning names will be stable, says a recommendation for Internet management prepared by the Clinton administration.

Presidential adviser Ira Magaziner's report, due to be published next week in the Federal Register, takes a middle position between those who suggest the immediate ouster of Network Solutions Inc. as the registry for all Internet names and those who want the company to continue its work.

The report urges that companies acting as "registrar" of individual sites using a top-level domain name such as ".com" or ".store" be different from the companies that keep the registry of sites. A number of competing companies could act as registrars but a single, possibly non-profit entity would be assigned for each individual registry with five registries recommended initially.

A not-for-profit corporation should oversee policy for registries, determine when new top-level domains are added and coordinate technical parameters.

The report suggests NSI separate the two functions it now performs and, beginning in September, let others compete as registrars. Gradually over a two-year period beginning Sept. 30, other top-level domain names would be added and current government control would be phased out.

The report leaves unresolved issues over trademarks. Instead it says a better method of searching for trademarks needs to be developed, asks for suggestions on how to resolve trademark disputes and asks that registries be required to set up a system for resolving disputes. It also asks for a more comprehensive study of the issue.

"We do not propose to establish a monolithic trademark dispute resolution process, at this time, because it is unclear what system would work best," the report says.

The text of the report is available at the U.S. Department of Commerce's Web site.

Copyright January 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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