Domain name dispute: who gets to keep Amazon?

By Luisa Penna - luisa.penna@montaury.com.br

09/05/2019 - Domain name dispute: who gets to keep Amazon?

It is unquestionable that Amazon has always been subject of disputes. Whereas it has been subject of territorial dispute or regarding the management of its resources, it seems that Amazon has become the subject of yet another dispute. This one regarding the extension of the domain name (gTLD) .AMAZON.

Domain names are, by definition, a label that identifies a distinct group of computers under a central administration or authority, identified by a unique underlying numeric address. In an attempt to make electronic addresses more accessible, domain names were introduced as an easily understandable electronic address for the user of a computer, usually as a facilitator to remember or identify a certain electronic address.

In this sense, domain names are an easy way for internet users and the general public to find or access a website. Therefore, in an even more connected and digital society, where electronic contracts of all kind are made, domain names have become of great interest for companies or entities, in order to expand their business as well as to increase their visibility.

Thus, with the continuous development of the internet, ICANN – Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers -, a nonprofit organization responsible for coordinating the maintenance and procedures of several databases related to the namespaces and numerical spaces of the Internet, as well as for the development of the Domain Name System (DNS), from time to time introduces new generic top-level domains (gTLDs).

A gTLD is one of the domains at the highest level in the hierarchical Domain Name System of the Internet. The top-level domain names are installed in the root zone of the name space, in the domain name www.icann.org, the gTLD is .ORG. Traditional gTLDs have been long used, such as the extension .COM, .NET and .ORG.

Considering this, since 2012, when ICANN decided to authorize the registration of non-traditional domain names extensions, Amazon – Jeff Bezos’ E-commerce giant – has been seeking a way to register it, allowing the company to spread – even wider – its presence in the market. However, such request has found a strong opposition, considering that the eight countries that share Amazon’s territory – Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Equator, Guiana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela – have all argued against it.

The countries claim that the occupation of the extension .AMAZON by the company would constitute a violation of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO), the socio-environmental bloc of countries dedicated to the Amazon founded in 1995.

The countries argue that the occupation of the extension under discussion by a company may hinder the public’s interest, offends the bloc’s purpose and goals as well as could raise questions regarding sovereignty of the countries. Considering the situation, in 2013, the company’s request was denied and the right over the extension .AMAZON put on hold.

However, since 2017, the case has taken another direction, with ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee opening the issue for debate once again when it requested the technology giant and the countries that compose ACTO to reach an agreement regarding the management of the extension . AMAZON.

The ACTO countries argue that they do not entirely oppose to the company having some share of the extension .AMAZON, alleging that allowing Amazon to keep the extension related to its products and services (app.amazon or kindle.amazon) would not be prejudicial. Nevertheless, they argue that providing the company with full control over the .AMAZON extension may cause cultural and sovereignty issues. Thus, the countries are in favor of a shared management of the extension, which seems to be the more reasonable agreement.

In any case, the company and ACTO seem to be having difficulties in reaching said agreement, with Amazon having failed to present to ICANN a solution in the latest deadline provided by the organization, expired on April 21st, 2019.

In this sense, ICANN will now have to decide on the future of the extension. However, the organization affirms that it has no estimate a new date for said decision to be made.

Luisa Penna

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