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[comments-gtlds] Name Registration For The ".COM" Domain
MEETING SUMMARY REPORT
The National Science Foundation Workshop
Name Registration For The ".COM" Domain
September 30, 1994
1828 L Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036
"NAME REGISTRATION FOR THE .COM DOMAIN"
1828 L Street, NW, Suite 1202
Washington, DC 20036
September 30, 1994
9:00am - 5:00pm
WELCOME - Stephen Wolff, Director,
Networking & Communications
Rsch. & Infrastructure
National Science Foundation
STATEMENT OF SCOPE OF MEETING - Stephen Wolff, NSF
Donald Mitchell, Staff Associate,
DISCUSSION OF ISSUES - All Participants
DISCUSSION OF APPROACHES - All Participants
RECOMMENDATIONS - All Participants
Steve Wolf, Director of the Division of Networking & Communications
Research & Infrastructure (DNCRI) at the National Science Foundation,
greeted the participants (list attached) and opened the meeting with a
discussion of the purposes of the meeting and a review of the actions that
have led to the current situation. He raised issues such as should the
government be handling the INTERNET registrations and should there be a fee
for such services. He also asked the participants to address the issue of
what is a defensible position for taxpayers and the registration community.
Don Mitchell, Staff Associate at DNCRI, continued the discussion with a
brief account of how the registration situation has evolved and how NSF
inherited the registration for the nonmilitary portion of the Internet from
the Department of Defense. NSF inherited the non-military portions of the
INTERNET registration when DOD withdrew its support. Don Mitchell also
noted that although the responsibility for funding passed to NSF, no
authority transferred to NSF. (NSF views itself as supporting the Internet
registration activity for the U.S. Research and Education community rather
than carrying out any inherently governmental function.) Jon Postel has the
ultimate authority for the numbering, but has delegated the authority for
the .net, .gov, .com., and .org domain registrations to Scott Williamson of
Network Solutions. Scott Williamson has since been replaced by Mark
Kosters, also of Network Solutions.) NSF funds the administration of the
registrations but does not have authority over the policies by the
registration system is administered. This transfer of funding
responsibility(from DoD to NSF) occurred about three years ago when the
fastest growing part of the Internet was the education domain (.edu).
Jon Postel could not attend the meeting but requested through an e-mail
memo that the meeting focus on the provision of responsible and responsive
management for the .com domain. He cited the problems with the current
situation as the cost of operating the function and the potential
liability. He noted that although the current problems are residing in the
.com domain, that the .org and .net domains need to be considered as well.
CURRENT PROCESS & POLICIES
Scott Williamson related that in the .com domain the requests for
registration have grown from 300 month to over 2000 per month with about
600 requests per month for changes. This has created a backlog has been
steadily accumulating in the last few months. There have been changes and
upgrades to the hardware and staff increases to service the requests.
Scott also reported that from January 1993 to January 1994, requests for
domains increased from around 5000 to around 11000. From January to August
of this year they doubled again to about 20000. NSI added a person for
domain activities and a person for IP activities this year and they are
already overwhelmed. One person can handle about 100 new domain
registrations per day.
As the registrants grow, so do the maintenance requests. Currently they are
running behind by about 50 domains per day. Offers of additional funding
are received to push some registrations to the top of the list. The
employees working in domains are now working 10-12 hours a day and the loss
of one of those employees would be a set back for the organization in
trying to keep up with the volume of registration requests.
There are a number of items that could further increase these activity in
the near future such as FOIA requests. It was felt that part of the
interest in the.com domain at the time is that the availability for space
for businesses is becoming scarce, and .com may be too small for all US
Under the terms of the NSF agreement, Scott cannot generate a profit for
NSI in domain administration, but he can set a fee that allows both NSI and
NSF recover the costs of registration activities.
Scott related that he often get questions about the policies by which the
registration requests are processed. These questions are often from
lawyers and include inquiries about if and who is researching trademarks.
Scott related that the current domain registration policies were developed
ad hoc. They have been observing a "first come/first serve, no duplicates"
policy with the stipulation that registrants must have one server set up
for the domain. There is no policy that prohibits having more than one
address. He noted that it is sometimes difficult to get information on who
the registrant actually is. The motivation behind registration appears to
be that people want to connect to an enterprise and want to reduce their
cost of entry.
He also related that the legal activity is picking up and he may need to
appear in court on these issues within the next couple of months. There is
also a question of how the legal costs will be handled and who is
responsible for any liabilities generated as a result of the registration.
It was also noted that there is no established case law nor any legal
precedents in this area.
It was stated that by the end of the five year award period, it is the goal
of NSF that the registration process would be free standing and
self-supporting. It was felt that registration fees could generate
sufficient income to make the registration process self-supporting. There
was also a feeling that the registrations have become valuable property and
handing away the registration to an outside organization could be handing
away up to a billion dollars in potential revenue over the next 10 years.
Other problems identified with the current process included the task of
processing 2000 requests per month and the need to differentiate and assign
the appropriate domains--particularly between the .net and .com domains.
Some people are seeking to register in both domains.
Some users in .com are suing users in .net, as well as those responsible
for administration of the domains. The complainants have charged a lack of
policy in the registration process and allege that some parties are not
The discussion focused on future registration procedures and technical
support. A US entity could be set up to take requests for new
registrations and these requests posted for a week in advance of
implementation. Scalability needs to be developed into this scheme to
avoid future problems.
The discussion also included the .geographic domains, country codes and how
these are administered and who the administrators are. It was recognized
that although the particular problems associated with addressing have been
localized in the US, they are just as likely to be international problems.
The problems identified with the .com domain were also considered to be
relevant to the .org, and .net domains as well.
There was concern expressed as to whether a "band-aid" fix to the .com
problem should be sought or to extend the scope of consideration to the
other domains and look for a policy solution that could fit all domains.
Since the .com domain may not be able to handle all requests in the future,
perhaps the problem can be relieved by opening up the .c domain.
Telecommunications and other addressing systems were discussed. These
included the telephone addressing system and the advent of direct distance
dialing system; the North American Numbering plan;and the 800 numbering
system. This discussion included the role of governments, the carriers,
and standards-setting bodies; and the issues of who owns the numbers as
well as who distributes and administers them.
The system utilized by ANSI in setting up x400 names and procedures was
discussed. The ANSI fees range from around $1000 for a numeric and $1500
for an alpha-numeric. This is a one-time fee. The IEEE system assigns
Other issues discussed included issues of individual rights, carrier space,
and computer network research issues.
COSTS & PAYMENT POLICIES
A primary immediate concern for the .com domain is how to set a fee policy
that could recover the costs associated with managing the system and how to
deflect and/or pay for the legal challenges that are beginning to arise.
Affecting this issue is the sense that the addresses are achieving a
"market value" in excess and separate from the cost of any registration
A lot of the discussion focussed on whether the string of letters in an
address is a trademark and as such if it is the "property" of the users and
what rights are attributed to the users once an address has been issued.
It was felt that the addresses are beginning to be viewed with the same
values attributed in a trademark-like sense even though there is no law
that makes that association. As such, what would be the monetary value of
such an address? It was noted that this problem of attributable commercial
value exists in other domains as well.
The goal of registration administration has been to assign a string that is
effectively usable. There was acknowledgement that property rights could be
getting assigned along with the addresses but no resolution was reached on
how these should be managed. This led to the question of whether these
rights should be delivered for free.
With the escalating costs associated with the registration process and for
public policy purposes, the discussion focused on whether such a
registration fee should be charged and used for maintaining the system.
Concern was expressed that since this involves a great deal of money, the
administration of the system could be a potential revenue generating
enterprise that could keep a non-profit entity afloat or create a bonanza
for a for-profit entity. Concern was also expressed that there could be a
role for speculators in address registration with a re-sale market operated
The question of a cost policy includes whether a registration fee should
just recover the costs of registration and if so how do you establish the
true costs of a registration; should a fee be charged that will enable the
entire operation to break even; or should a fee be set to yield a certain
excess that could be used to fund research and other activities. Also
expressed was the consideration of whether a fee should be set in order to
deter some kinds of registrations and if so, how to do so without deterring
Liability in Administering Name Registration
There was a feeling that the potential for law suits would remain as a
prominent problem. A possible important deterrent to the increase in suits
could be to have a policy process in place that can be communicated to all
registrants and potential registrants. It was felt that the issue of
sufficient notice was an important policy that would assist in resolving
the legal challenges that could ensue.
Charging a fee for registration would also be important to establishing
such a process. First of all it can produce a revenue stream for the
infrastructure that can cover the costs of the suits as well as recover
administration costs and moderate the process of new registrants.
The discussion on funding options continued to a range of questions that
would require definitive policy decisions. These included whether to
grandfather in existing accounts; if the fee would be a one-time or
reoccurring charge; when to end accounts for non-payment; when would the
fee begin; when to announce that a fee would be required with a request for
registration; whether trademark searches would be included before a name
was awarded; as well as others.
There was further discussion on what would be a legally sufficient process.
It was felt that litigation as such is not preventable; and there will
probably be a few legal challenges to the process that will then in turn
define the process in law.
There was concern expressed that opening up such a process could result in
more legal challenges, questions and additional administrative burdens for
the administrators of these domains.
Law suits have also included challenges to the problem of names that are
similar to each other in the same domain as well as between or among two
domains. It was noted that the technology is moving so quickly that auto
registration may be possible. In a number domain, for example, numbers or
an arbitrary string could be assigned indiscriminately.
Suggestions offered during the discussion included:
1. A two-level or two-tiered assignment system. There
are certain kinds of names that could be registered as
trademarks and those could be paid for at a level
reflecting that status and there are others that could
be established on a first come/first serve basis that
have no value as to the numbers or letters assigned.
An example would be an address for a research project.
2. Registration of the domains and IP addresses be
turned over to an agency in the Federal government such
as the Patent & Trademark Office. It was noted that
this may cause concern on the part of some foreign
governments. There was also concern that if the US
Government did not administer the system there could be
far greater problems in the system.
3. That with the request for an address, an
acknowledgment be agreed to with the requestor that
there are no property rights ascribed to this
4. The first come/first serve policy is probably a
good one that could be aided with the addition of a
period of time for public notice for any challenges to
assignment of an address. This could be an important
deterrent to legal challenges.
5. Revenue generated from charging for setting up an
address or changes to it could help fund computer
6. The .com domain could be eliminated or it could
remain but with new domains established to compete with
.com. These new domains could be .c, for example.
7. Create alternative domains. Additional domains
could be created in new software systems that would
alleviate these problems.
8. Have a US agency administer the US registrations
thereby distributing the problem geographically.
9. A legal opinion should be sought as to what are
the implications of recognizing that a registration
could have trademark implications.
10. Create a competitive registration industry. If
you accept first come first serve and assign Scott's
grant activities with the initial monopoly and also the
task of developing the protocol to allow competition.
11. Sunset the .com domain and then only register top
level domains into three letters. This lets the second
level be delegated to lower levels.
The discussion evolved into consensus around the following:
1. Develop and document a set of criteria and policy
procedures to handle commercial registrations. This
would include a first come/first serve policy;
definitions of domain names; what a registrant can
expect from obtaining a name registration. Also, the
best legal help should be consulted to re-draft the
agreement that is signed with the request for a
registration. This could include a binding contract
that you can't request trademark names or names
registered to another corporation. This could also
include a limit on the number of names that could be
assigned with one application. Additional applications
could be considered after a certain period of time.
2. Set up a fee structure that will start to defray
the costs of the operation as soon as possible. This
would include initial charges for .com registrations
that would be set to recover costs and which would also
include anticipated legal costs. This fee structure
could also include maintenance costs to include items
such as abandonment of names, removal of names, etc.
3. Clarify if there is a property right conveyed with
these registrations. Consider a public review period
before the name is officially registered in order to
avoid potential legal challenges and other conflicts
connected with trademark issues.
4. Consider automatic registrations to reduce the
workload and costs of administration of the
registrations. There is a concern that these
technologies are not without additional problems,
5. Consider distributing the domain registrations.
Look for an organization to do the top level domain
6. The issue of authority for the domains needs
clarification. Perhaps the US government should support
registration of non-profits such as universities. There
is probably no need for government to cross subsidize
businesses or for profit organizations.
The meeting concluded with a brief discussion on the issues concerned with
IP registrations that will need to be addressed in the near future, perhaps
around a major conference.
********* END *********
"NAME REGISTRATION FOR THE .COM DOMAIN"
September 30, 1994
List of Attendees
AIKEN, Robert MOCKAPETRIS, Paul
Program Manager Director, HPCC Division
Office of Scientific Computing Information Sciences Institute
U.S. Department of Energy 4676 Admiralty Way
M/S F240-GTN Suite 1001
Washington, DC 20585 Marina del Rey, CA 90292
T: (301) 903-9960 T: (310) 822-1511 x 285
F: (301) 903-7774 F: (310) 823-6714
E-mail: email@example.com E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
HUSTON, Priscilla PURCELL, Arthur
NSFNet Program Director Patent & Trademark Office
National Science Foundation 2231 Crystal Park
4201 Wilson Blvd., Room 1175 Suite 702
Arlington, VA 22230 Arlington, VA 22202
T: (703) 306-1949 T: (703) 308-6856
F: (703) 306-0621 F: (703) 308-6879
E-mail: email@example.com E-mail:
MITCHELL, Donald RUDOLPH, Deborah
Staff Associate Manager, Technology Policy Council
Div. of Networking & IEEE-USA
Communications 1828 L Street, NW, Suite 1202
Rsch. & Infrastructure Washington, DC 20036
National Science Foundation T: (202) 785-0017
4201 Wilson Blvd., Room 1175 F: (202) 785-0835
Arlington, VA 22230 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
T: (703) 306-1949
F: (703) 306-0621 RUTKOWSKI, Anthony
E-mail: email@example.com Executive Director
12020 Sunrise Valley Drive
Reston, VA 22091
T: (703) 648-9888
F: (703) 648-9887
SALMAN, Gassan WOLFF, Stephen
Programmer, Technical Program Director
Development, Standards Div. of Networking &
IEEE Service Center Rsch. & Infrastructure
445 Hoes Lane National Science Foundation
P.O. Box 1331 4201 Wilson Blvd., Room 1175
Piscataway, NJ 08855-1331 Arlington, VA 22230
T: (908) 562-3815 T: (703) 306-1949
F: (908) 562-1571 F: (703) 306-0621
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org E-mail: email@example.com
SINCOSKIE, W. David
Service Management Systems
445 South Street
Morristown, NJ 07960-6438
T: (201) 829-4426
F: (201) 829-2504
Chair, USA Registration
5A210 900 Route 202-206 N.
Bedminster, NJ 07921
T: (908) 234-4564
F: (908) 234-8681
505 Huntmar Park Drive
Herndon, VA 22070
T: (703) 742-4820
F: (703) 742-4811