Dot MLS May Face a New Opponent

by Victor Lund on December 4, 2011

Dot MLS Domains

The United States Senate may be a new challenger to the successful bid by a group of MLSs (MLS Domains Association) to gain approval for a Top Level Internet Domain. A top level internet domain is .com, .net, .org, .XXX, or the curent application for the new .MLS.

.MLS promises salvation for many of the ills that torment consumers and real estate brokers online. Notably – it suggests a rule set for displaying listings to consumers in order to qualify to purchase a .MLS domain. By subscribing to the rules of .MLS, publishers provide consumers with a level of certainty about the quality of listing content. A classic real estate example of a domain name gone wrong is MLS.com – a website that is not an MLS, nor is it associated with any MLS.

Today, real estate brokers and agents have agreed to similar terms by subscribing to MLSs offering Internet Data Exchange programs (IDX). These rules are enforced by MLSs across the nation. If Dot MLS is successful, website publishers would extend a similar set of rules to the internet itself – giving the Top Level Domain Administrator the ability to suspend any website from the Domain for failure to comply with .MLS terms.

Top Level Domains are managed by a non-profit trade organization called ICANN. Recently ICANN recognized that we are running out of Domain Names on the popular Dot Com Top Level Domain. The organization also recognizes that there is just cause for allowing new Top Level Domains. They have already issued Top Level Domains for most Countries – like the popular .CA for Canada. Recently, they launched the Dot XXX Top Level Domain for Adult Content displayed on the internet. In each case, they are providing the consumer with a benefit of understanding something about the website they are visiting.

Not everyone is convinced that this effort by ICANN is a good one. Many brands are financially burdened by increasing costs associated with owning their brand’s online domain name.  Moreover, the costs associated with ensuring that interlopers are not camping on a brand’s domain for the financial benefit that comes from misleading consumers who think that they are on a brand website.

Other WAV Group Articles on the Topic

http://waves.wavgroup.com/2011/06/21/mls-domains-association-update/

http://waves.wavgroup.com/2011/08/26/dot-mls-is-the-right-side-of-the-dot/

Here is an article from AdAge.com that discusses the Senate Hearing

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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