Why companies are fighting over .sucks domains

Trademark holders have until June 1 to register .suck domains. Screenshot

There’s the old-fashioned .com and .ca domains, or the less popular .net and .org that everyone knows.  But there’s also hundreds of others from .xxx to .shoes.

But one in particular is causing quite a bit of controversy: .sucks.

That’s right, beginning June 1, you can register for approximately $250, but only if the trademark holder hasn’t already bought it.

Domain names are all registered with a central authority called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which a few years ago, decided to expand the list of website suffixes (technically called Top Level Domains) from the traditional .coms to an expanded, more specific, list.

As part of that process, the non-profit gave certain companies sole responsibility for registering certain domains; Vox Populi was made the sole registrant of .sucks domains.

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And they’ve given brands until June 1 to claim theirs.

“Apple doesn’t want to have some troll reserving the .sucks top level domain and then be able to start a website [called] and then using that as a springboard or a foundation to critique or criticize the company,” technology analyst Carmi Levy said in an interview Thursday.

“So what they wanted to do was give major brands the opportunity to reserve .sucks domains before the general public got in on it.”

The company is charging companies nearly $2,500 to register the domain – far more than it costs to register the domain as a non-copyright holder.

Though the price hasn’t stopped Taylor Swift, Kevin Spacey, and Apple; they have all registered .sucks domains.

And now ICANN, which allowed .sucks to be created, wants the Canadian and American governments to keep it under control.

The non-profit has sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States and Canada’s Office of Consumer Affairs stating it has received complaints from the Intellectual Property Constituency (IPC) that the higher price is “predatory, exploitive and coercive” and is asking each government to give a ruling.

Vox Populi responded and, through lawyers, said in a statement to ICANN that none of the letters forwarded to the FTC identify “any manner in which any law might actually have been broken” and questions any assertions the domains could be used for cybersquatting.

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But Vox Populi CEO John Berard said in an interview Thursday that he sees the .sucks domain as a new public relations tool for companies. He suggested the value of that public relations tool is far greater than the $2,500 Vox Populi is charging trademark holders and he said he didn’t envision being used solely as a defensive registration to keep trolls from owning the website.

He used Google as an example and noted the millions of results (75,500,000 to be exact) that are returned when you search for “Google Sucks.”

“You will find websites of every stripe from every corner of the Internet and it’s pretty hard for a single company to manage that kind of widespread distributed criticism,” he said.

“What the .sucks platform allows the company to do is to centralize that activity. It is our hope that we will be creating, I like to call it a ‘clean well-lighted place for criticism’ that would allow a company to actually participate, to curate, collaborate, to draw insight from the criticism.”


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