Cybersquatters warned as pressure builds for new domains

Signs warning off cybersquatters are being hung out by new top-level Internet domain name registries like .biz as they open their doors for business.

But companies rushing to stake out their slice of the new name space are deluding themselves if they think they areentering a hassle-free zone.

More than two million address requests have been processed since .biz opened for pre-registration in May, accordingto the registry's owner, NeuLevel Inc.

NeuLevel CEO Doug Armentrout believes the queue could stretch to eight million by the time .biz domain names go live on October 1.

NeuLevel, a joint venture between US communications database company NeuStar and Australian domain name registrarMelbourneIT, is gambling .biz will become the Web's prestige address for commercial entities.

To ward off cybersquatters, it has built several new layers of protection into its domain name registration process.

Companies can opt to file a pre-registration intellectual property form which spells out their claims to anytrademark or service mark.

NeuLevel monitors subsequent IP claim forms and issues what NeuLevel CEO Doug Armentrout calls "automated cease anddesist orders" to companies filing similar names.

They aren't binding orders so companies can proceed with requests to register the same name but at least "they gointo it aware there are others," Armentrout said.

Once a contested name is registered, the registration is put on hold for 30 days while other claimants are notified.

Under .biz domain name dispute resolution rules, it will only be necessary to prove bad faith registration or bad faith use to reverse an approval. That makes it easier to dislodge cybersquatters than the current .com system which demands both must be proved, Armentrout said.

Even so, "it is definitely not cybersquatter-proof," says digital entrepreneur and former cybersquatter Brendan Yell.

"The only way to do that is with a dispute resolution process that kicks in before names are registered, notafterward.

"What .biz has done is more a warning system that checks for conflicts and sends out a warning but doesn't stop ther egistration."

Companies with common names or service marks won't face a costly auction process in the .biz domain. But neither will they have any guarantee of obtaining the address they want because NeuLevel will use a lottery process to determine who gets what name.

Once all domain name applications are in, NeuLevel plans to randomise the list and allocate registration rights fromthe reshuffled stack.

"It's the best way to give every registrant a fair and equal chance," Armentrout says.

Those who want to rig the odds in their favour for generic names like business.biz or sex.biz could still do so byfiling thousands or hundreds of thousands of applications. But they will have to pay a $US2 pre-registration fee foreach one, making it a costly exercise.

As the wholesaler issuing .biz Web addresses to 80-plus retail registrars around the globe, NeuLevel is charging a basic annual fee of $US5.30 for its services. Once retail charges are added, end users will end up paying $US15 to$US35 which is consistent with .com pricing.

But taking advantage of all the extra levels of protection offered by NeuLevel could tack as much as $US85 onto thebasic charge.

The .biz registry will provide real-time registrations and for an additional fee will lock the domain name at the registry level so it can't be cancelled because its owner forgot to pay his fee on time.

Australian demand is significantly higher for .info (another of the four new global top level domains) than for .biz names at the moment, according to reseller NetRegistry.

The lottery approach adopted by .biz will work in favour of companies with unique names, said Net Registry CEO LarryBloch.

He believes many .com companies will register .biz equivalents but argues the amount of investment already poured into the .com space will prevent a mass migration.

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Pete Young

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