Decanter.com are reporting that Dacian Ciolos, the EU Agriculture Minister, is seeking a freeze on domain names ending in .wine and .vin. We are used to seeing TLDs (top level domains) of co.uk, fr, com, org, info, gov etc – they are the last segment of a domain name and identify something about the website associated with it (ie. what country or type of business / organisation it is). However ICANN has proposed an expansion of the TLD system to allow anyone to register and reserve any unused letter sequence for their exclusive use (eg a wine maker could use vin or wine or a guest house could use hotel instead of com). The problem that this has created is that we need proper regulation to oversee the correct useage of these TLDs.
The suggested TLDs of vin and wine are not live yet but there are concerns that people could register domains such as Bordeaux.wine who have no connection to the wine region. This means that ‘Domain squatting’ or ‘Cybersquatting’ can occur – this is when someone buys a domain name that they think would be valuable to someone else and hold it hostage until they are paid a fee to release it. Domain Squatting is one of the banes of the internet and unscrupulous entrepreneurs often buy a host of likely looking domain names intending to profit from their resale. Panasonic, Fry’s Electronics, Hertz and Avon have been among the “victims” of domain squatting, However most businesses now know that nailing down domain names is a high priority.
What’s more TLDs can also be extended to use AOCs and the Sud Ouest newspaper has raised concerns that as yet there is no protection of geographical regions (ie. Bordeaux, Burgundy etc) and winemakers are worried that these TLDs could be hijacked:
“As we wrote in May, the wine industry has issued two requirements: 1) the names of second-level domains corresponding to a geographical appellation area are transferable and are managed by the representative body. 2) the existence of a procedure with a different referee whenever a disputed domain name on wine would be filed.”
Decanter.com go on to say that Commissioner Ciolos is pressing his colleague Neelie Kroes, Commissioner for the EU’s Digital Agenda, to block the registration of the TLDs wine and vin until the sub-domain rules are clarified at an international level:
“When contacted by decanter.com, a European Agriculture Commission spokesperson said, ‘the Commission is following the situation carefully and is looking into legal and diplomatic arguments to defend EU interests, notably on protecting intellectual property rights deriving from geographical indications.’ He would only confirm that Commissioner Ciolos is in close contact with fellow commissioners Neelie Kroes, who represents the EU at ICANN, and internal market commissioner Michel Barnier, who is responsible for intellectual property.’
Let’s hope that regulations can be imposed soon! I’ll keep you updated of any new TLDs refering to Bordeaux!