The contract for renewing ownership of all dotcoms domains is set to be investigated by the European Commission following a complaint that it is anti-competitive.
An umbrella group calling itself the Coalition for ICANN Transparency (CFIT), has filed a preliminary complaint in Brussels claiming that the details of the contract between Internet overseeing organisation ICANN and registrar VeriSign breach EC laws.
The contract will have "significant anti-competitive effects in markets for domain name registration and for related Internet services which depend on these domain registrations", the complaint says, and is in breach of Articles 81 and 82 of the EC Treaty, plus US anti-trust laws.
Earlier this week, the CFIT and another organisation also filed lawsuits in California making the same anti-competition complaints.
At issue is two main points. One, the new contract gives VeriSign effective permanent control of the dotcom registry. And two, it allows VeriSign to increase the current $6 it charges every time a domain is registered or renewed by seven percent every year. Both of these measures are damaging to the Internet and to competition, claims CFIT.
However, ICANN has brushed off the lawsuits and complaints, claiming that those behind the campaigns are simply trying to hijack the public comment process that is going on in Vancouver at the moment, and are motivated by self-interest.
It is certainly true that the backers of the sophisticated campaign stand to lose much of their business with the contract. As it now stands, it hands all expiring dotcoms domains over to VeriSign for resale - something that is currently done by a messy secondary market or resellers that fight for possession of expiring names.
And the CFIT, despite insisting on greater transparency for ICANN, has so far been opaque at best when it comes to disclosing who is paying its bills - something that has already stretched beyond several hundred thousand dollars.
Nonetheless, the campaign is having a strong impact and has put ICANN under significant pressure. No decision will be made on the proposed contract for several months and the Board has promised it will review all the feedback it gets before moving forward.
Whether the CFIT's legal efforts have an impact beyond that process will have to be seen.
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