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.
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