Money & Business

Amazon's Domain-Control Bids Draw Publisher Criticism

By / Mar 14, 2013 (photo by soumit/Flickr)

A number of publisher groups have come out against efforts by Amazon to own exclusive rights to top-level domains such as .book, .author, and .read.

Should one company own the exclusive rights to the word “book”?

In recent months, that issue has become a major sticking point for many companies, as large corporations such as Google and Amazon have expressed interest in purchasing top-level domains (TLDs).

In the case of Amazon, publishing associations have spoken up about the issue to the organization that controls domains. More details:

Association opposition: The Association of American Publishers, The Authors Guild, and the European and International Booksellers Federation, among others, filed comments with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), urging it not to grant exclusive ownership of generic top-level domains. Authors Guild President Scott Turow noted that exclusive ownership could become “plainly anticompetitive, allowing already dominant, well-capitalized companies to expand and entrench their market power.”

Corporations object, too: A number of corporate entities that could be considered competitors of Amazon, including Yahoo and Barnes & Noble, also spoke out. The book retailer argued that “Amazon will be positioned to gain unfair advantage in direct navigation and online search; will become associated with the very genus of books; and will likely control the generic book TLDs in perpetuity as the registry agreements permit unlimited automatic renewal in 10-year terms.”

Amazon’s take: In a letter to ICANN acquired by Thomson Reuters, Amazon senior corporate counsel Stacey King argued that expanding alternatives for domains beyond .com would be good for consumers: “Why should a company be able to own ‘widget.com’ and not ‘.widget’? Currently, .com may be considered more ‘valuable’ space, but that does not create a competition issue for the owner of the generic second-level domain.” As many as 30 of Amazon’s 76 top-level domain requests have been contested. Google, meanwhile, has applied for 23 of the same top-level domains as Amazon.

What could happen next: The move by Amazon to control certain domain names could lead to an antitrust suit by publishers in which courts would be asked to evaluate the potential value of alternative TLDs versus the traditional dot.com, Thomson Reuters reported. Section 7 of the Clayton Act, which blocks companies from acquiring assets that could create a monopoly, could provide a basis for such a case.

 

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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