Accepting Guest Blog Posts

I have accepted a position that will not allow me to write in 2016. However, I want to continue to provide information on cyber, intellectual property (IP), social media, security, privacy, and technology law and policy to you all.  So…. I am accepting  submissions from guest bloggers!

Please send me your best cyber, IP and tech law and policy posts. Many of this blog’s followers are entrepreneurs, technophiles, tech novices, bloggers, social media user and those intrigued by tech, so please cater your posts to that audience. Please send posts to thedigitalcounselor@gmail.com. I will notify you if your post is selected.

Thank you for your submission, in advance, and more importantly, THANK YOU FOR READING!

I hope the readers find previous posts and any information others are able to provide in my absence helpful! And I look forward to returning in 2017!!

New gTLDs Causing Trouble for Twitter

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 10.07.30 AMYesterday, a website that looked exactly like Bloomberg posted “news” that there was a $31 billion buyout offer for Twitter. Ummm not true! The website, called http://www.bloomberg.market, featuring a new gTLD, was fake. And so was the report. The fake website was a near-identical replica of Bloomberg’s site, and even used Bloomberg reporter Stephen Morris’s byline. OpenOutcrier, a Twitter account that bills itself as a destination for “Real-time stock & option trading headlines, breaking news, rumors and strategy” was the first to post about the report, although Bloomberg employees were quick to point out it was fake.

Most discussions about new gTLDs causing problems for brand owners is preventative such as with the .SUCKS and .PORN domains. This incident is a good example of a new gTLD causing the damage brand owners are trying to prevent in those other cases. As a brand owner you should make sure to not only use these new gTLDs as a tool for branding but remain aware of the release of new gTLDs to proactively register relevant domains and/or monitor for infringement like this. There are a number of free monitoring tools like Google Alerts or Talkwalker that you can use to monitor use of your brand name.  And you can see which new gTLDs have launched and when so you can remain up to date on gTLDs that you should register from a branding perspective and/or from a brand protection perspective.

As a result of this false story, Twitter shares shot up, only to fall back down when Twitter corrected . It’s not clear who was behind the faux story. With all that’s going on with Twitter, including the CEO being replaced by co-founder Jack Dorsey earlier this month, this incident was believable.  This could have caused more damage to company finances, reputation, and consumer trust. Don’t let your brand be next! Fraudsters are very savvy as you can see.

New gTLDs as a Branding Tool for Entrepreneurs

The launch of new gTLDs (generic top-level domains) provide an amazing opportunity for entrepreneurs and small to medium businesses to further brand their business in their domain name. A gTLD is the part of you domain after the “.”.  Having fun with you website domain can help you stand out as you market yourself and establish your brand. Emphasize your company’s mission, expertise, experience, niche, etc through the top-level domain you use. Also if your company name or other domain you sought to register is taken on .com there are new and exciting options! Don’t miss out on companyname.rocks or company name.consulting.

You can register these new top-level domains just like you register a “.com” domain head to goDaddy, Namecheap, Name.com or your favorite registrar. This is something your should consider early in establishing your company. You don’t want to lose out on the perfect domain name.

This is an opportunity to accent your personal brand as well. As you establish your expertise and want to develop a website that showcases your skills you no longer are limited to firstnamelastname.com you can register firstnamelastname.esq, firstnamelastname.photography, or firstnamelastname.guru.  Grab your new domains as soon as they roll out!

Over 175 new domains have been released or delegated to date, with hundreds more on the horizon. You can view the available domains by visiting this page: http://newgtlds.icann.org/en/program-status/delegated-strings . This page lists the delegated domains, which means they are available for registration. This site will be updated as others are available.

Take advantage of this branding opportunity before others catch on!!
Examples of some new gTLDs that can make for a creative domain name:

.guru
.consulting
.cooking
.ventures
.photography
.active 
.expert 
.coach
.lifestyle
.shopping
.bar 
.pub
.events
.buzz
.solutions
.careers
.company
.management
.enterprises
.technology
.holdings
.rocks
 
Visit my older posts for more information on this launch: What do you know about the new top level domains?Will You Be Confused When The New Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) Launch?​; &​ Five things you should know as the new gTLDs launch.  And as always ask questions in the comments and share your successes and observations re: new gTLDs!​
 

Five things you should know as the new gTLDs launch

What is a gTLD? gTLD stands for generic top-level domain and is an Internet extension such as “.COM,” “.NET” or “.ORG.” Right now there are a little over two dozen gTLDs, but soon, there could be hundreds. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is responsible for the coordination of the global Internet’s systems of unique identifiers and, in particular, ensuring its stable and secure operation. According to ICANN the new gTLD program was developed to increase competition and choice in the domain name space. As the new gTLDs launch and threaten to change the Internet as we know it there are a lot of things you should know but here are five to start. For additional background information about new gTLDs, please visit some of my previous posts “What do you know about the new top level domains?” & “Will You Be Confused When The New Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) Launch?”

1. Be careful of services “guaranteeing” to get a domain name for you

Cyrus Namazi, Vice President of DNS Industry Engagement for ICANN, published a blog post today titled “Pre-Reserve a Domain Name, or Not? ICANN Answers the QuestionNamazi warns against services that “guarantee” they’ll get the domain name for you:
 
 
As responsible Registrars are advising, successful pre-registration of a domain cannot be guaranteed. ICANN seconds that advice, cautioning that registrants should be wary of anyone who claims to be able to guarantee a domain registration on a new gTLD. There are several situations that can impact the availability of a domain name and some domain names may never be available for purchase.”
 
 
Namazi points out that competition between registrars for a single domain, domains claimed in sunrise, reserved domains, premium domains, and name collision domains make it impossible to guarantee. He also notes that some TLDs may not even end up being delegated.

 

2. The first non-Latin character new gTLDs were delegated 

What does delegated mean? This means that the gTLDs or strings have successfully completed the new gTLD Program and has officially been selected as a new gTLD that will go live for use. This will be the first time non-Latin characters can be used in a TLD and not just in the second level domain. Click here for more information from ICANN. 

One is شبكة, the Arabic word for “web” or “network”, while another is 游戏, which means “game” in Chinese.The other two – онлайн and сайт – are both Russian words, meaning “online” and “website” respectively

3. First nine LATIN new gTLDs​ were delegated

The first nine new gTLDs delegated last week were:

  • .CAMERA
  • .CLOTHING
  • .EQUIPMENT
  • .GURU
  • .HOLDINGS
  • .LIGHTING
  • .SINGLES
  • .VENTURES
  • .VOYAGE

The “sunrise period” for registration of the first seven gTLDs is “.BIKE,” “.CLOTHING,” “.GURU,” “.HOLDINGS,” “.PLUMBING,” “.SINGLES,” “.VENTURES.” will begin November 26 and general availability to anyone will begin January 29, 2014.  Keep any eye out for new gTLDs as they are delegated. Consider whether you or your company wants to purchase a domain. And monitor the official launch of these new gTLDs starting in January. Monitor how your brand and ineffectual property are being used on this new gTLDs. To keep up with delegated strings click here.

4. The launch of new gTLDs multiplies the size of the Internet and presents increased security and intellectual property infringement risks.

  • Pay attention to the gTLD in the address bar. New gTLDs give malicious actors more platforms to attack the unsuspecting. Pay attention to the address you are trying to get to and make sure all parts of the address are correct.  Also if you search for a website make sure the site that comes up is the legitimate website.
  • Companies must monitor the use of their intellectual property on new gTLDs. Companies should currently have a plan in place to protect their IP investments through motoring, preemptive registrations, the Trademark Clearinghouse and other rights protection mechanisms provided by ICANN. Be proactive!

5. Launch of new gTLDs presents a number of opportunities to market your brand or yourself. This will present business and consumers with a new and unique user experience and online footprint. There will be a lot more room for customization online and opportunities for marketers to be creative with how to reach consumers. I am excited to see the innovative means of reaching the public that are birthed from the new gTLD launch.Please ask any questions you have about new gTLDs, protecting yourself, rights mechanisms, IP protection, security concerns etc. Start the discussion!

New gTLD Timelines

ICANN
New gTLD timeline

ICANN has released two new timelines for when we can expect the launch of the first new gTLDs (the part of the URL behind the “.” such as “.com” or “.mobi”).

The launch of these new gTLDs will have a lasting and significant effect on the way we use and operate the Internet. This fact is why new gTLDs have yet to launch. The industry is a buzz with the pros and cons of every aspect of this change. The confusion of consumers, protecting intellectual property, domain name approvals, potential monopolies, privacy, and other business concerns are on the forefront.  No interest group wants things to remain the same but with competing interests and priorities carving out new policy has been slower than anticipated.

I encourage consumers to remain aware of this development. This will develop the way we consume online information.   I will continue to write about the developments. Also visit some of my previous posts such as Will You Be Confused When the New gTLDs Launch?  Visit ICANN’s site on new gTLDs for developments.

What are you concerned about? Are you interested in hearing more about the effect this will have on businesses and families?

 

Will You Be Confused When The New Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) Launch?

With the impending release of the new generic top level domain (gTLD)program there has been a lot of discussion and disagreement about how gTLDs, especially “closed gTLDS” should be handled. The new gTLDs are “dot-anything” domain extensions that go beyond .com, .net, .org, .info., .ca., and the other domain endings that we’re used to.

As part of a planned expansion, the new gTLD program, ICANN accepted applications in the first half of 2012 from organizations willing to pay a hefty price tag to run a domain extension. This includes companies such as IBM, Google, Amazon, Audi and YouTube.

In all, 1,930 applications for new domain extensions have been filed for various types of extensions, ranging from the truly generic (.love, .shop, .app), to the brand-specific (.goog, .bmw, .aol) and the geo-specific (.nyc, .boston, .paris).

Companies given the right to manage these new gTLDs don’t necessarily have to open them to the public. Domains that are truly generic have been termed “closed generics” like .art and . music. This issue is important because of its effects on consumer perception, information, and market share. For example if a hotel chain is granted .hotel and it is recognized as the space to go to find hotel information there is a lot of room for monopoly creation and excluding of the competition. The victorious hotel chain could include information for hotels that are not direct, price-point, competitors but market the domain as an authority on hotels or the domain to use when planning your next hotel stay. This ability to craft a misleading message has the potential to cause consumer confusion as most consumers will be unaware of who owns the domain and create unfair advantages that will skew competition. This leaves the consumer with incomplete information which runs counter to purpose of trademark and other intellectual property protections afforded innovators and disrupts the delicate balance of competition that is necessary to preserve fair pricing.

Intellectual property maven,  Professor J. Thomas McCarthy,  has filed a statement opposing closed generic gTLDs as being inconsistent with trademark law and its goals.  According to McCarthy

“Trademark law in every country in the world forbids individuals to gain exclusive property rights in generic names of products. One of the primary rationales for this rule is to prevent a single person or company from gaining an unfair competitive advantage in the marketplace. Private ownership of generic language is not consistent with free enterprise and fair competition in an open economy. If ICANN were to approve closed, generic gTLDs, these important goals would be undermined…

Transparency and consumer choice are goals of the trademark system of every country in the world. In our view, these values are threatened by closed, generic gTLDs. Indeed, should these types of new gTLDs be approved, consumers may mistakenly believe they are using a gTLD that allows for competition, when in reality the gTLD is closed and the apparently competitive products are being offered by a single entity. This would allow the owner of the generic gTLD to gain exclusive recognition as the provider of a generic service, something that is prohibited by Trademark law.”

Domain names are a niche of trademark protections and should abide by similar rules because they are designed for a similar purpose. Consumer confusion and brand value are an important part of investing in domains and seeking to purchase these gTLDs. With that in mind, ICANN should be seeking to protect the consumer first and then to protect and promote brands. If the consumer is place first there should be some additional rules and regulation for these truly generic domain extensions.  They should be clearly defined and then regulated to a degree. Either companies keep them exclusively for their use so consumers know the term is closed or if they make it available for competitors they cannot exclude any competitors or legitimately interested parties.

chrome-domains_610x604
Image from Cnet

In response to these recent concerns, Google claims that if they are awarded the right to manage the domain registrations for .search, .app, .blog, and .cloud, there is a “good chance” that it won’t just use them for its own services  and will open them up for non-Google properties, too.  Google accounts for about 100 of the over 1,900 applications ICANN received. Some of these are brand specific but Google, like others, also applied for the right to manage some very generic top-level domains. This was an excellent business move on the part of Google but should really cause ICANN to consider how these domains can best serve the entire internet community and preserve competition on the Internet.

In a letter sent to ICANN recently, Google Chief Information Officer Ben Fried said the organization should allow closed generic string applications to proceed (PDF). The company believes that an “unfettered process is paramount in opening up the domain name space and increasing innovation in a market that has always been, effectively, stagnant.”

Google also clearly stated that it would expand the use of certain gTLDs beyond its own products:

After careful analysis, Google has identified four of our current single registrant application that we will revise: .app, .blog, .cloud and .search. These terms have been identified by governments (via Early Warning) and others within the community as being potentially valuable and useful to industry as a whole. We also believe that for each of these terms we can create a strong set of user experiences and expectations without restricting the string to use with Google products.

The completely “unfettered process” requested by Google leaves too much unknown. Most things to get the desired result require at least a modicum of regulation. I do not suggest that ICANN begin to dictate how all gTLDs should be run but I do think guidelines and prevention of consumer confusion are important considerations when relinquishing control of very generic domain extensions to private companies.

ICANN CEO Fadi Cherhade announced the release of new gTLDS starting April 23.  These closed gTLDs will not be apart of that roll out but will follow shortly thereafter. The important question is how are these very generic extensions going to be handled?  Will there be additional regulation to prevent consumer confusion, preserve healthy market competition, and prevent monopolies? I wouldn’t doubt that these are considerations for ICANN and that they have ideas in the works to combat these issues. Hopefully, the initial launch will help to solidify any lingering questions.

TechFreedom believes that this type of regulation should be left to antitrust regulators, however, the law is always behind and this regulation would be reactionary rather than proactive. Antitrust regulators can fine tune and regulate on a micro level but implementation should begin with macro regulation or guidelines.

What do you know about the new top level domains?

There are currently a total of only 22 top level domains, including the three most well-known: .com, .net, and org. In June 2012, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)—the quasi-governmental body responsible for administration of the domain name space—revealed applications for 1930 new ones. Six hundred fifty of these 1930 applications are for brand names. Many recognizable brands applied for their company names to become a domain that appears as “.brand”.  For example, “.kodak”, and “.apple”.  The new top-level domains (TLDs) are going to change the landscape of the internet, the question is how much and for who?

Right now, companies and countries are the only ones dealing with the consequences of this new space on the internet. The main issue being that companies who applied for these applications are facing a little bit of competition because not only did companies apply for their brand names companies applied to own the rights to generic terms. For example, among the 1900+ top level domain name applications are four competing applications to register the generic top level domain “.auto”. The applicants for .auto are Uniregistry, Donuts Inc., Fegistry and Dot Auto Inc., all non-endemic to the automotive industry. Donuts and  Uniregistry—along with another company, DerCars LLC—also plan to battle it out for .cars.

Another conflict in the new TLD space if over “.africa”. DotConnectAfrica mistakenly applied for “.dotafrica” instead of “.africa” in its application during the new TLD process. DotConnectAfrica trust is Kenya-based with headquarters in Mauritius.  They are competing against UniForum SA (NPC), trading as Registry Africa, which is officially supported by the African Union.This endorsement and the errors in DotConnectAfrica’s original application leave their chances slim at best of secure the TLD.  Additionally, according to its new TLD  guidebook, ICANN is obliged to look for the official endorsement for geographic TLDs – for regions at least 60 percent of the respective governments have to be supportive – the DotConnectAfrica’s bid can hardly win.  The resolution of conflicting applications will be interesting.

Companies who did not enter the race for ownership of TLD are also facing increased challenges. They have to prepare to protect their brands from increased cybersquatting and other malicious attacks. Brand owners in all industries are rightfully concerned about potential misuse of the new top-level domains. ICANN has put procedures in place to ensure companies can object to the issuance of new top-level domains but nothing is foolproof. 

How does this effect you? Well if you’re worried about getting scammed by a fake website or getting scammed the hundreds of other ways hackers have developed online, the risk has increased. On the other hand, this could make for a great consumer experience. Consumers will be able to find things easier and have more choice in how and where they search. Companies will be able better tailor a users experience by creating sites like “JohnDoe.kodak”. Users will have an easier and more personalized experience.

Keep an eye out as these TLDs launch. The .xxx TLD already launched and hasn’t made too many waves but with the potential for a large influx of new TLDs we will see noticeable changes in the way we use the internet.