Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property series
Edited by Christophe Geiger
Chapter 19: Free speech and other human rights in ICANN’s new generic Top Level Domain process: Debating top-down versus bottom-up protections
The GAC advises the Board that all safeguards … be implemented in a manner that is fully respectful of human rights and fundamental freedoms … After many years of debate, discussion, and planning, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) opened its new generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) process for Internet domain names in 2012. ICANN is the body responsible for the technical administration of the Internet domain name system. Prior to the implementation of the new gTLD process, ICANN had limited the number of gTLDs available – that is, the character strings ‘to the right of the dot’ in a domain name, such as ‘.com’, ‘.net’ and ‘.org’. It authorized registries to sell domain names within these virtual spaces. Prior to the implementation of the new process in 2012, the number of gTLDs available reached a maximum of 22. Some of these existing gTLDs have been limited in use to specific types of institutions, such as ‘.gov’ for governmental organizations, and ‘.edu’ for educational institutions. This means that only institutions that meet relevant criteria can register in the ‘second level’: in other words, can register character strings ‘to the left of the dot’, such as ‘Harvard.edu’. However, a number of these existing domains such as ‘.biz’, ‘.org’, ‘.com’ and ‘.net’ have been unrestricted which means that anyone can apply to register in the second level with an authorized domain name registrar.
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