Re-Constructing Intellectual Property Law in a Knowledge Society
Edited by Thomas Riis
Chapter 9: The private legal governance of domain names
Domain names serve as “human friendly” “mnemonic labels that assist in identifying the locations of resources on the internet”. Although their importance as a means for navigating the Internet has diminished with the development of effective search engines, an effective system for the management of domain names remains crucial for the functioning of the Internet. In spite of their continuing importance, and in spite of burgeoning potential for conflicts concerning trademark rights, the intervention of traditional State-enacted law has been very limited in terms of regulating domain names. National legislators have been almost totally absent from the process and relatively few conflicts have reached national courts considering that a staggering 270+ million domain names are registered. While the traditional means for creating legislation and resolving conflicts have remained peripheral, we have seen the emergence of what has been described as “a cosmopolitan and uniform system of rules that transcends local rules and nation states”. Hence, conflicts involving domain names are being decided by special private tribunals or panels such as the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP). These are bodies which have been developed by communities of users within complicated systems of self- and co-regulation such as ICANN (the Internet Cooperation for Assigned Names and Numbers). Such bodies have authorized a number of private institutions (“Providers”) to decide disputes over domain names. Normally, these dispute resolution bodies do not derive their competences from legislation.
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