ICANN revises .com deal with VeriSign

Out-Law News | 31 Jan 2006 | 12:16 pm | 1 min. read

ICANN, the body responsible for the internet’s domain naming system, has published revised agreements intended to settle all pending litigation with domain registry VeriSign and to detail the terms under which VeriSign will retain control of the .com top-level domain until 2012.

The agreements contain significant changes to earlier proposals issued in October.

The new arrangements no longer provide for a proposed registry-level transaction fee of around 50 cents per registration, for the purpose of funding ICANN, which VeriSign would have been able to pass on directly to registrars.

Instead, ICANN intends to levy VeriSign with a much larger fixed registry-level fee – $6 million for the first year of operation, doubling to $12 million in 2009. VeriSign would not be entitled to pass this on to registrars.

The new proposals permit VeriSign to increase the price of domain name registrations, but put limits on the frequency of price rises. Instead of being allowed to impose rises of up to 7% in each of the next six years, in two of those years, VeriSign will only be able to raise prices if it can show that the rises are necessary for security reasons.

VeriSign will retain its presumptive right to renewal of the .com registry under the new proposals, but must comply with clarifications on the use that it may make of traffic data, new service-level specifications for the .com registry, and revised powers of approval granted to ICANN in respect of possible new registry services.

These provisions reflect difficulties that sprang up between the two organisations in September 2003, when VeriSign launched its controversial Site Finder service.

This service redirected surfers to VeriSign's Site Finder search engine when they entered a web address that was not registered on the internet or was inactive. It was heavily criticised at the time.

ICANN stepped in and, in the face of a threatened court action, VeriSign agreed to suspend the service. VeriSign sued five months later, alleging that ICANN had overstepped its contractual authority and improperly attempted to regulate VeriSign's business in violation of its charter and its agreements with VeriSign.

The case was later thrown out, but was subsequently re-filed in a California court. In the meantime, ICANN countersued.

The new arrangements, which are open for public comment until 20th February, have yet to be approved by the ICANN Board.