Obscenity claims halt domain name scheme

TURKMENISTAN has called a temporary halt to a London company's bid to set up Internet domain names under the country's top level domain name, '.tm', because some of the addresses it is registering are regarded as obscene in that country.

NetNames – a domain name registering company – began promoting the top level domain name, '.tm', last month after getting approval from Turkmenistan to register domain names under the country's official suffix.

While there is no such thing as an Internet trade mark, NetNames hopes that '.tm' will become an unofficial trade mark, which will provide companies with a way of retaining their brand name across the unregulated territory of the Internet.

When Netnames began promoting '.tm' as a top level domain name, hundreds of companies flocked to register their domain names under it.

But the government of Turkmenistan has brought the project to a halt on the grounds that some of the names being registered are legally obscene in that country.

NetNames marketing manager Steve Miller said certain phrases that are in common usage have different cultural connotations in Turkmenistan.

Miller said the company expected the Turkmenistan government to send it a list of words that it found obscene, after which it would begin registering names again.

NetNames' registering scheme is designed to stop the disputes which have been raging between companies wishing to register the same domain name and the so-called 'hijacking' of domain names – where a person registers a well-known brand name to sell it to the trade mark holder.

But Internet lawyer Tony Willoughby, the senior partner at Willoughby & Partners, said the move would only cause more confusion because people would 'recognise the '.tm' as 'trade mark' and not because they have any connection with Turkmenistan'.