A.  What are Domain Names?

1.  Computers on the Internet are identified by IP Numbers.

cyberlawyer.com = 208.230.128.34

It’s difficult to understand how disputes over domain names arise until the nature of domain names is understood.

Most of the time you are using the internet you are "looking" at the contents of a particular host and that host is referred to by it's domain name.

A domain name is also like a telephone number. It is a unique character string that allows people to find your site on the internet. It usually represents a particular computer on the Internet, although one computer could actually host hundreds of domain names.  Like a telephone number, domain names are simply pointers.  Telephone numbers point to houses or businesses, and domain names point to computers, or a particular group of files on a computer.

There are really two unique names that you get when you register your domain name. The first one is called the IP address. The Internet Protocol uses this number to route information to the correct computer. It is always four numbers less than 256 separated by periods, for example 208.230.128.34. This is the "real" Internet address.

When most people talk about domain names they use the term in the second sense. In this case they are referring to a text domain name. People are not very good at remembering numbers. We remember names much better, so we assign a name to refer to a particular address. This name is linked to the IP address, as kind of a shorthand for it. The text domain name of the computer referenced above might be something like "cyberlawyer.com". So "cyberlawyer.com" and 208.230.128.34, refer to the same computer.

When you type a domain name into your browser you are really saying that you want to connect to a particular computer.  A program called DNS (domain name system) looks up the IP address and then uses the IP number to actually rout your request to that computer.  It's not much different than telling your secretary to get the president of IBM on the phone. She, like DNS, will look up the number for the president of IBM and try to connect to him.

DNS servers or "name servers" are important because when you register a domain, the application requires that you provide the IP number of two name servers that will have your IP number and your text domain name.

2.  Dissecting Domain Names

cyberlawyer           .com
  SLD                         gTLD

There are several parts to the domain name.  The first part of the domain name (the part to the left of the period) is just called the domain or second level domain (SLD). So in our example the domain is "cyberlawyer" and the top level domain is "com". A period (called dot) separates the two. You would pronounce it as "my computer dot com".
 

The letters after the period are called the top level domain names. In our example, the top level domain name is "com".  You can theoretically use any combination of capitals and lower case. They all refer to the same address so "MyComPuter.COM" refers to exactly the same computer as "mycomputer.com". It is probably a good idea to consistently use all lower case letters. That is the convention that has been established.

There are over 250 top level domain names . The most commonly used are:

.edu is for educational institutions.
.gov is for U.S. federal government agencies.
.com is for commercial, for-profit organizations.
.net is for network infrastructure machines and organizations.
.org is for not-for-profit and non-profit organizations.

The above are known as gTLDs (global top level domains).  They are global since they can be registered and used by individuals in any country of the world and are thus not specific to any particular country. ccTLD s are country specific top level domains.  Each one has its own set of restrictions for registration but some including .cc (Cocos Island) and .ws (Western Samoa)(WorldSite?) are completely open for registration.  .TV has an open registration policy but prices the registrations depending on their perceived value.  There is at least one TLD that uses foreign characters ( Chinese )

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ( ICANN ) has added even more gTLDs. Out of the 44 applications for new gTLDs, 7 have received approval with more on the way.

7  new gTLDs
,biz
.info
.name
.pro
.museum
.coop

    The proposed addition of the new gTLDs has already raised the spectre of litigation and possible government intervention.  Lawyers for biz.com suggest that ICANN will be guilty of contributory trademark infringement if they approve .biz as a new generic TLD.

    In a letter to the Commerce Department, Congressman Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Lois Capps (D-Calif.) asked the Department of Commerce to delay the implementation of these new domain names.  They cited the presence of VeriSign (which owns Network Solutions) among the applicants as clear danger. NSI for a long time held a government-sanctioned monopoly over domain name registrations and registry operations. They also cited what they called ICANN's closed process in identifying the best TLD applicants.  See ICANN: The Winners Are .. . and  Domain Fights Could Get Nasty and Many Battles Behind ICANN's Scene.

3.  Registrars

    NSI until recently has been the only registrar of gTLD domain names in the world.  Around August of 1999, ICANN began approving other registrars who have access to the shared registry of .com, .net, and .org TLD's.  There are currently about 75 registrars with another 75 awaiting final approval.  This competition has brought the price of domain name registrations down from the original $50.00 per year charged by NSI to around $10.00 charged by many others.   Each registrar is free to develop their own registration contract with certain requirements that must be met.  Specifically they must all include by reference the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) adopted by ICANN.

4.  Domain Names can be valuable.

    There will only be one computer on the Internet with the name "cyberlawyer.com".  Once it's gone, it's gone, unless the registration lapses or is taken away for some reason.  Domain names are registered on a first come, first serve basis.  The uniqueness of domain names thus creates an inherent scarcity.  Just as there can be only one 1-800-FLOWERS telephone number, there can be only one JETS.COM domain name.  This scarcity and the ability for branding has created a large market for domain names (see Afternic and Great Domains )

Top 50 Domain Name Sales

    The slowness large corporations to recognize the internet has caused them to miss opportunities in dot com branding (see drugstore.com ) or the chance to have a domain name which incorporates their trade name or trademark.  Individuals expecting to find Dominoe's Sugar or Domino's Pizza at http://dominoes.com/ , or the Dallas Cowboys at cowboys.com will quickly realize the value of generic word domain name


Anthony J. DeGidio Esq., 419-382-9590 FAX 419-382-9592
Email: tony@cyberlawyer.com