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The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, worried that Amazon(s amzn) will use new internet names like “.book” and “.author” to gain more power in the publishing industry, are asking the agency that assigns control of those names to refrain from giving them to a private entity.
In a letter addressed to ICANN and posted on the Guild’s website, President Scott Turow stated the group “strongly object to ICANN’s plans to sell the exclusive top-level domain rights for generic book-industry terms.” The Wall Street Journal reports the publishing group has similar objections. (Update: the AAP sets out the reasons for its objections in a letter here.)
The issue, which remains arcane for many outside of the domain name industry, arose as part of ICANN’s decision to open up the list of top-level domains to all comers. In practice, this means hundreds of new suffixes will join familiar ones like “.com” and “.org” as part of the internet. It also means companies that win the right to control names can choose between keeping the names for their own use or earning money when the names are bought and sold in the open market.
Both Amazon and Google(s goog) have paid to obtain the right to run hundreds of new names though it’s still unclear what the companies intend to do with them. Google has indicated it will keep suffixes related to its core business, such as “.goog” or “.search,” for its private use while making others like “.store” and “.dog” open to anyone. Amazon, which also wants to run names like “.kindle” and “.movie” declined to respond to the Wall Street Journal’s request for comment.
Barnes & Noble(s bn) has also objected that Amazon could abuse its control over the names to the detriment of the publishing industry. In theory, this could occur if Amazon agreed to to grant a “.book” or “.author” website to favored writers or publishers but not to rivals.
Google and Amazon are just two of hundreds of companies applying to run the new domain names. In some cases, there is only one applicant for the name while in other cases multiple firms have asked ICANN to run names like “.movie.” In the latter situation, ICANN will choose between the competing applicants. (You can see the full list of proposed names and applicants here).
The timing and the process for the arrival of the new names is unclear. In no small part, this is due to the murky operations of ICANN. The LA-based organization is nominally a nonprofit with a mission to run the internet’s naming system, but it has attracted controversy for failing to protect trademark owners who accuse it of facilitating “shakedowns,” and for self-dealing among its members.
Last week, the CEO of GoDaddy, which is the world’s biggest registrar of domain names, predicted the first series of new names will arrive in June and that others will be rolled out in batches of 20 in the weeks that follow.