Little-used '.us' is re-launched

NeuStar, which won the right to manage the '.us' country-code top-level domain (ccTLD), has announced that the general public will be able to register names from April 24 2002. US trademark owners have been given an advance registration period, which began on March 4 and will end on April 18.

The '.us' ccTLD has existed for many years but is little used, unlike equivalent country codes in, for example, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. It has been an unpopular choice for businesses because the naming structure was complicated. The first level was '.us', the second was the applicant's state, and the third was the applicant's city or county. Finally, the fourth level could be assigned to an organization or individual. The new system, however, will allow registrations of just a name plus the ccTLD (eg, 'www.companyname.us').

In an effort to avoid the '.info' debacle (see Afilias begins challenge of '.info' names), Neustar says it will only accept registrations during the 'sunrise' registration period from valid US trademark holders. Then, on April 24 at least 29 accredited companies will begin accepting '.us' registrations from the general public on a first-come, first-served basis. The names are open to all companies worldwide, provided they and their customers meet the eligibility requirements and policies.

NeuStar has inked a deal under which the American Arbitration Association will provide dispute-resolution services for the domain. Under the contract, the arbitration association will be charged with resolving cybersquatting disputes between trademark holders and '.us' domain name owners under the US Dispute Resolution Procedure (usDRP).

However, it seems it is not all going to be smooth sailing. The Small Business Administration's (SBA's) independent Office of Advocacy has written a letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) challenging the legality of the '.us' procurement. The SBA argues that both the sunrise and dispute resolution procedure provisions amount to legislative rulemaking that will affect the legal rights of millions of small businesses and individuals. It claims that since the NTIA did not submit these rules for notice and comment as required by the Administrative Procedure Act, nor conduct a regulatory flexibility analysis as required by law, the contract for managing '.us' is unlawful.

Jon Fell, Masons, London

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