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    USA Goverment Relations House Heavyweights Fire Warning Shot on .us
    posted by michael on Thursday June 14 2001, @10:56AM

    Warning that Commerce's "proposed solution is a cure far worse than the disease," the Chairman and Ranking Member (that's the leaders of the Republican and Democratic delegations) of the House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property have written to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to "ask that the NTIA request for quotations" on a new manager for the .us ccTLD "be slowed until the underlying policies can properly be reviewed by the Administration and Congress."

    The letter also warns the Secretary that "this issue is an oversight matter of concern to us as well as many of our colleagues."

    Their letter, reproduced in full below, cites a number of specific concerns. For example, "Congress has been given no assurance that the proposal is designed to maximize the value of assets for the taxpayers or implement the wisest policy." It also cites intellectual property and, not least, local-governmental-affairs-related concerns. Local, teachers, librarians, mayors and even state officials may be a powerful lobby group on an issue like this.



    Here's the full text of the letter:

    June 14, 2001

    The Honorable Donald L. Evans
    Secretary of Commerce
    U.S. Department of Commerce
    1401 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
    Washington, D.C. 20230

    Dear Secretary Evans:

    As the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property, the subcommittee with primary jurisdiction over intellectual property matters, we are writing to express our concerns regarding the proposed disposition of the .us country-code top-level domain name (ccTLD). This proposed action raises a variety of concerns including how the proceeds from the disposition would affect the Administration's fiscal year 2002 budget. Further, this proposed action raises intellectual property and consumer concerns affecting U.S. industries seeking to protect their copyright and trademark assets as well as the public's interest in a variety of public health and safety issues through potential cyberfraud.

    Currently, the .us ccTLD is used primarily by municipalities, public schools, and public libraries, which apply to one of hundreds of local registries for third- and fourth-level domains. For example, the official website of the state of Texas is http://www.state.tx.us. This website is an important information resource for citizens about education, government, tourism, and other official state services. While the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which oversees the .us ccTLD, maintains that the current structure of the .us domain space is not attractive to users, its proposed solution is a cure far worse than the disease.

    This issue involves the ownership of property rights in a unique U.S. government asset. We have been contacted by those who raise sincere criticism of the potential relinquishment of both the policy and the registrar functions to a single private entity. Any proposal must contain the necessary policy safeguards to protect consumers, government entities, and American businesses from a range of cybercrime, confusion and fraud. The historical experience from federal spectrum auctions is that any transfer of government assets must be structured very carefully to avoid legal gamesmanship and abuse. In addition, Congress has been given no assurance that the proposal is designed to maximize the value of assets for the taxpayers or implement the wisest policy.

    This issue also raises intellectual property and consumer protection concerns. Hearings on and enactment of cybersquatting legislation in the 106th Congress demonstrated that the Internet unfortunately includes websites posing a variety of risks to the public. The copyright and trademark rights of American industries, including many small businesses, are seriously put in jeopardy by potential new commercial uses of the .us domain. In addition, the introduction of a new gTLD for public commercial use compounds the current risks of Internet websites making fraudulent offerings to the public by the means of counterfeit or other fake dangerous goods. Finally, since the current domain is used by a large number of state and municipal entities, the expansion of this domain space risks confusing citizens as to the authenticity and source of important governmental resources upon which they already rely. Any proposal needs to be structured so that any dispute or illegal activity can be handled in an efficient, fair manner that will not undermine law enforcement activities.

    We would ask that the NTIA request for quotations be slowed until the underlying policies can properly be reviewed by the Administration and Congress. Please know that this issue is an oversight matter of concern to us as well as many of our colleagues. Please keep our offices updated regarding the development of any Department of Commerce or NTIA proposal regarding the future of the .us country-code top-level domain name (ccTLD). The Members of the Subcommittee are prepared to work with the NTIA and your staff on this issue as well as other pertinent matters affecting Internet and domain name policies.

    Thank you, and we look forward to your response.

    Sincerely,

    HOWARD COBLE
    Chairman, Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property

    HOWARD L. BERMAN
    Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property

    Cc: John F. Sopko, Acting Undersecretary and NTIA Administrator

     
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    House Heavyweights Fire Warning Shot on .us | Log in/Create an Account | Top | 8 comments | Search Discussion
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    Did they read the proposal?
    by lextext on Thursday June 14 2001, @11:11AM (#878)
    User #6 Info | http://www.lextext.com
    What am I missing here? The RFQ states that the successful bidder will (a) agree to implement the UDRP, a sunrise trademark registration period, and a rich, searchable whois database (that's your wish list if you're an IP owner), and (b) agree to maintain the current system of locality-based delegations. As I read it, the drafter of the RFQ anticipated almost all of the concerns raised by the letter.

    -- Bret
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