California companies file suit against .biz TLD process

Likening the current TLD (top level domain) registration process for the emerging IP suffix ".biz" to an illegal lottery, a number of California companies recently filed suit against domain registrar Neulevel.

The class-action suit also names other .biz registrars as defendants, including ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), Network Solutions, Verisign, and Tucows.

But companies bringing the lawsuit zero in on Neulevel's application procedures in place around the new TLD, which they charge amounts to an "illegal lottery enterprise."

Neulevel did not respond to an electronic request for comment on the lawsuit.

In the suit that was filed Monday in the Los Angeles Superior Court, Plaintiff David Scott Smiley, who runs Smiley Productions, along with a slew of other California businesses took exception with Sterling, Va.-based Neulevel's practice of selling "chances" to register certain domain names.

At US$2.00 each, the "chance to win the right to register a domain name does not entitle any would-be registrant to actually register a domain name, it merely provides them with the chance to win the right to register a '.biz' domain name," reads the complaint.

Between September 18 and Octpber 1, Neulevel plans to "randomly select a would-be registrant purchaser." This process encourages applicants to purchase several chances, according to the complaint, which was posted on www.icannwatch.org.

Plaintiffs in the suit go on to cite promotional material from Tucows, a registrar approved by Neulevel.

"Registrars accredited by defendant Neulevel promote and explain the scheme as a 'lottery,'" reads the complaint.

"Pre-registration can be likened to a lottery. You purchase a ticket for a chance to win a prize -- in this case, a domain name. A lot of people may have already purchased a ticket for the same domain name, but only one can be a winner," reads the complaint, reciting Tucows advertising.

Parties to the lawsuit also lament the fact that Neulevel has not disclosed how many chances have been sold against a particular .biz domain.

Smiley and others participating in the suit petitioned the court for an injunction against .biz registrars and "equitable relief," including attorney's fees.

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