Source: Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

New '.music' web domain worries recording industry

The recording industry is singing the blues over a new online addressing rule that will allow for the creation of a ".music" domain.

The new domain name system was approved in June by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the nonprofit organization that oversees the Internet addressing system.

The music industry is concerned that the new system could allow online pirates to buy new domain names that help make their websites look more legitimate - encouraging more copyright infringement of digital music.

One of the main concerns is that music pirates could register Internet addresses under the domain .music to make it appear to Web surfers that the music on its site is legal and licensed by recording companies.

"Because these generic top-level domains are so specialized, people may think, ‘This is where I go if I want music,'" said Steven Marks, general counsel for the Recording Industry Association of America. "Therefore, we have the same kind of [copyright infringement] problem we have today."

The change in the Web's domain name system is monumental because it allows businesses, nonprofits and organizations to apply for nearly any domain name they like. ICANN will begin accepting applications for new domain names between January and April of next year. It will cost $185,000 to create a new top-level domain, and all applicants will be subject to in-depth background checks by ICANN.

It's unclear how much of a problem music pirates applying for domain names might pose when the application process gets under way. While there's a possibility that the new system carries a risk of copyright infringement, it also presents an opportunity to create a safe home for digital music on the Web under the .music domain name.

"These guys like the RIAA spend their entire lives combating illegal downloading sites. Any opportunity for people to come up with a new backdoor for launching these sites and services obviously is a problem for them," said Ben Crawford, chief executive officer of CentralNic, which facilitates and manages domain name acquisition for companies. "I actually think the opportunity to create a safe zone is greater than the risk of proliferating zones of piracy."

The recording industry also sees opportunity in the new domain name system.

"There's the opportunity for this to be something that's very helpful and worthwhile for the industry - a place where everyone knows this is the place to get legitimate music," Marks said.

This isn't the first time members of the recording industry have aired concerns to ICANN.

In a January letter to ICANN's leadership on behalf of 15 national and international trade groups, RIAA Deputy General Counsel Victoria Sheckler wrote that the coalition is concerned "that a music themed [generic top-level domain] will be used to enable wide-scale copyright and trademark infringement." The letter added that the group "would like to work with ICANN and others to ensure that best practices are developed and used to ensure this type of malicious behavior does not occur."

As the clock ticks down, the recording industry is staying in touch with ICANN and deciding how to best handle the change.

"We're very focused right now on who is going to be applying for the [.music domain] and what do they have in mind for it and what role we'll play," Marks said.

For its part, ICANN said it consulted with a range of stakeholders when designing and implementing the new system, and players in the intellectual property community were included in those discussions. The application review process will also be very stringent, because if an application is approved, ICANN will be responsible for maintaining and distributing approved domain names.

"It is a serious business commitment," said Michele Jourdan, a spokesperson for ICANN. "It's not a trivial thing so that anyone would be able to get a .music domain name and do bad things with it. Every applicant is going to go through background checks; they're going to have to demonstrate that they're serious about this and what their intent is."

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