US senators focus on Clinton plans for domain name register

(Elizabeth Davidson reports)

US president Bill Clinton's proposals to set up an American body to register domain names will come under the scrutiny of the House of Representatives for the first time this week.

Clinton wants to set up a US-based non-profit-making organisation to register top level domain names the Web address suffix which identifies the activity of the domain holder or their geographical whereabouts.

A House of Representatives committee will discuss the plans outlined in the green paper "To Improve Technical Management of Internet Names and Addresses" this Tuesday.

The date of the meeting coincides with the expiry of US company Network Solutions Inc's (NSI) government licence to register top level domain names, although it will continue registering names until 31 September under transitional arrangements, which may be extended.

John Wood, managing director of London computer training and consultancy company Prince, criticised the Clinton green paper for failing to require domain name authors to search for conflicting trade marks before setting up a Web site.

Critics of the green paper also claim it has failed to address legal uncertainties over the status of top level domain names, in that they could be classed as trade marks, addresses or simply an expression of free speech. There are also issues of ownership and jurisdiction.

Us Senator Patrick Leahy recently proposed an $800,000 independent international inquiry into the impact of domain names on trade marks and dispute resolution.