Proposal to Augment the Administration
of the .US Name Space
By Antony Van Couvering and Alan Sullivan
Draft October 6, 1997
Table of Contents
I. Introduction [go]
II. Goals and Solutions for the US Domain system [go]
III. Plan to restructure the US domain [go]
A. A new structure for the US domain name space [go]
B. The USADNA, a new membership organization to manage the US Domain [go]
1. The USADNA Organizational Structure [go]
a) The USADNA Members [go]
b) The USADNA Board of Directors: [go]
c) The USADNA Council of Advisors: [go]
d) The USADNA Staff [go]
2. USADNA Operational Procedure [go]
a) Relationship between the USADNA and USADNA Members [go]
b) Relationship between domain name holders and USADNA [go]
c) Registering a new domain name [go]
d) Modifying a domain name [go]
e) Renewing a domain name [go]
f) Transferring a domain name [go]
g) Dispute Resolution [go]
3. General Policies of the USADNA [go]
a) How domain names are assigned [go]
b) Who can hold a domain name [go]
c) Lame Delegation Policy [go]
d) Information in the US Domain database [go]
C. Technical Considerations [go]
a) Location and Maintenance of the US Domain repository [go]
b) Determination and implementation of technical policy [go]
c) Construction of USADNA repository [go]
This proposal recommends putting the United States top-level Internet domain (.us) on a more stable financial, legal, and structural footing by creating new second-level "affinity" domains under .us which correspond to recommended usage. We believe that the addition of new domains, administered in an equitable and accessible fashion, will encourage domain users within the United States to register domain names within the .us name space. We recommend creating a new structure, the US Affinity Domain Name Association (USADNA), to administer these new second-level domains. This structure would operate and exist in parallel with the locality-based domain structure now in use within the .us domain. The affinity domains and the locality-based domains would not interoperate, but the .us domain administrator – currently the US Domain Registry at the Information Sciences Institute of the University of Southern California (ISI), under the authority of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) – would participate in the operation of the USADNA.
An integral part of the USADNA is a fair and equitable registration system, using a shared-registry model in which Registrars will compete in a free market based on their prices and services. This will provide for the financial health and stability of the Registrars receiving domain name registration requests from prospective domain name holders. Finally, we propose a legally authoritative and robust registration process and dispute resolution policy that will relieve the .us domain of many legal and administrative problems stemming from disputed intellectual property and trademark rights.
Administrators of other top-level country domains have successfully moved to a shared-registry system using second-level domains. Our proposal borrows and expands upon ideas from several of these systems, particularly from Nominet, the administrator of the United Kingdom's domain, and from the NIC-México in Mexico. Since implementing its shared-registry system using second-level domains, both the .uk and .mx domains have seen phenomenal growth in registrations. Falling costs, much-improved service, and wide acclamation have accompanied this growth. These systems provide an excellent indication that the ideas and concepts we are introducing will prove successful when implemented if the .us domain.
Goals and Solutions for the US Domain system
- Increase the popularity and viability of the .us domain by creating affinity second-level domains in parallel to the existing structure. Affinity domains have domain names that correspond to the intended use of the domain or the activity of the registrant. Familiar affinity domains now in use would include .com (intended for commercial entities) and .net (intended for Internet networks).
- Provide financial stability for both registrars and the .us domain administrator by generating a solid revenue stream to support the entire .us domain infrastructure.
- Create a competitive registrar infrastructure, which will foster the survival of registrars who provide the highest level of customer service at the lowest cost.
- Create an administrative structure for the new affinity domains so that it functions as a representative membership organization such that registrars, administrators and outside advisors can work together as a collective entity to make modifications and corrections to keep the .us domain secure and viable.
- Allow for a large number of registrars, and thereby a greater revenue stream and consumer choice, by establishing low membership fees and by providing guidelines and operating procedures that require only limited technical knowledge on the part of registrars.
- Allow customers to provide name servers of their choice instead of having to rely on registrars for these services. Registrars should not be required to administer name servers.
- Plan to restructure the US domain
- A new structure for the US domain name space
We recommend the creation of new functional second-level domains, under which domain name holders can register directly, as follows. Registration applications should not be checked for their suitability for a given second-level domain. Because of the complexity and lack of standards upon which to determine a registrant’s suitability to register a name in any particular category, as well as the bureaucracy and legal liability such an attempted predetermination would engender, we believe that a first-come, first-served policy should be applied to all domain name registration applications. Any attempt to check or otherwise police applications would hamstring efficient operation of the USADNA and lead to delays and discontent among domain name holders.
- .TRADE.US (or .MARKET.US) for entities providing goods or services
- .ISP.US (or .TECH.US) for organizations providing technical services
- .NEWS.US, for organizations disseminating information
- .ASSOC.US for not-for-profit organizations and unincorporated entities
- .NAME.US for individuals
- .EVENT.US for short-lived events (for example, movies and conferences)
- Other second-level domains may also be added as the need occurs, at the discretion of the managers and members of the US domain. We recommend that all new domains be four or five letters to eliminate confusion with current top-level domains.
- It is not recommended that existing top-level domains be "folded in" to the new second-level domains.
- The USADNA, a new membership organization to manage the US Domain
Currently, the US Domain is administered by the US Domain Registry at the Information Sciences Institute of the University of Southern California (ISI), under the authority of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). US is the ISO-3166 2-letter country code for the United States and therefore the US domain is established as a top-level domain and registered with the InterNIC in the same way as are other country domains.
We propose that the new affinity domains under the US domain should function under the auspices of a new organization called the US Affinity Domain Name Association (USADNA).
- The USADNA Organizational Structure
The USADNA will be created as a [insert proper legal form here] not-for-profit membership organization. The USADNA shall operate on a not-for-profit, cost-recovery basis. Any excess funds shall be devoted to reducing the cost of domain registration to Members, paying for administrative costs, and to provide funding to cover outstanding obligations of the US domain authority, as determined by the Board of Directors of the USADNA.
The USADNA will hold a physical annual meeting of all Members, at which time elections will be held to fill the currently expiring terms on the Board of Directors. The meeting will also be used to take care of any business the Board of Directors feels requires the attention of the entire membership and for Members to publicly bring up any issues to the Board of Directors.
The USADNA will indemnify its Members against intellectual property disputes.
The USADNA Board of Directors may promulgate formal by-laws based on this proposal and/or other models, such as the by-laws of the Internet Society, located at http://www.isoc.org/infosvc/96-007.htm.
The USADNA will consist of four main bodies:
- The Members, who join by paying a membership fee, and have the right thereby to register and modify domain names
- The Board of Directors, six of eight of whom are elected by the membership
- The Council of Advisors, who are appointed by the Board of Directors
- The USADNA staff
- The USADNA Members
The membership of the organization will consist of persons, groups, or organizations that join the USADNA. The USADNA belongs to its Members.
- Members will pay a one-time initiation fee upon joining the USADNA to cover the administrative costs of adding the member to the USADNA. The Board of Directors will determine the fee.
- Members will pay an annual membership fee to the USADNA. The fee will be determined by the USADNA Board of Directors and will be based on a cost-recovery basis.
- Members, and only Members, will be able to register domain names or make modifications to domain names under the new second-level domains.
- The USADNA Board of Directors:
- The USADNA Board of Directors will consist of eight persons, six of whom will be elected by the Membership of the USADNA. The other two are ex-officio.
- The Members of the USADNA will vote elected Directors as follows:
Any Member of the USADNA may nominate a person as a candidate for the Board of Directors.
Elected Directors will serve for a term of two years, except during the initial term, when three of the directors will serve for three years, in order to stagger the terms so that after the first two years, three directors would be elected each year.
All USADNA Members in good standing at the time of elections may vote for three directors from the list of nominees during each election (except during the first election, when six candidates will stand, with the top three vote recipients receiving the initial three year term).
- Ex-officio Directors are two: the Managing Director and the Director of the US domain. They will appoint and charged as follows:
The Managing Director will be appointed by the Board of Directors, and will serve at the pleasure of the Board of Directors. The Managing Director will run the day-to-day affairs of the USADNA.
The Director of the US Domain will be appointed by IANA and will serve at the pleasure of IANA. The Board of Directors may not remove him or her.
- The Board of Directors will hold quarterly meetings, at which the Managing Director will brief the other Board members about USADNA business. Meetings may be held in person or through alternative media if all Board members agree. The Board of Directors will meet physically at least once a year. Any Board member may call an emergency meeting. A quorum consists of two-thirds, or six, members of the Board of Directors.
- Each member of the Board of Directors shall have one vote. Decisions will be made when five members of the Board of Directors vote together.
- All members of the Board of Directors are unpaid, except the Managing Director, who receives a salary, the amount to be determined by the Board of Directors. Certain administrative expenses incurred by members of the Board of Directors may be reimbursed, according to a policy to be announced publicly by the Managing Director.
- The Board of Directors can create committees, composed of qualified individuals, to work on specific areas of interest to the USADNA (e.g., technical or legal issues). The committees report to the Board of Directors, which implements or ignores the suggestions.
- The USADNA Council of Advisors:
- The USADNA Council of Advisors will consist of twelve (12) members appointed by the Board of Directors for a term of one year.
- The members of the Council of Advisors are to be drawn from the ranks of leaders of many different groups, including business (Internet and non-Internet), ISPs, public policy groups, the United States Government, and other groups. Care should be taken by the Board of Directors to select members from a good cross-section of both the public and private sectors.
- The purpose of the Council of Advisors is to make recommendations and suggestions to the Board of Directors in the operation of the USADNA and the management of the US Domain.
- Members of the Council of Advisors are unpaid. Certain administrative expenses incurred by members of the Council of Advisors may be reimbursed, according to a policy to be announced publicly by the Managing Director.
- The USADNA Staff
- USADNA employees, who would number about ten, operate the USADNA. The exact number of employees and skill sets required to manage and run the operations of the USADNA will be determined by the Managing Director in consultation with the Board of Directors, except that the Managing Director shall appoint a Technical Director.
- The Managing Director is at once a member of the USADNA staff and a member of the Board of Directors.
- USADNA Operational Procedure
- Relationship between the USADNA and USADNA Members
Members of the USADNA can act as agents for the USADNA for purposes of registering a new domain name, for modifying a domain name, or for renewing a domain name. Upon joining the USADNA, Members will be issued a PGP key that will verify and authenticate all transactions between Members and the USADNA.
- Members will pay a per-transaction fee to the USADNA for adding to or modifying the US Domain database. The fee will be set by the Board of Directors, and will be determined on a cost-recovery basis. (Note: at the discretion of the Board of Directors, some transactions may have a cost of $0 – e.g., updating contact information).
- Members will pay for transactions in advance by purchasing subscription blocks, which will be decrement as the Member makes chargeable transactions. The blocks will be non-refundable, and discounted by volume. The minimum subscription block size will be good for the addition of 20 domains to the database, and each Member must purchase at least one block per year to maintain membership. Members may purchase additional blocks, with larger volume blocks receiving discounts. The size of the discount will be based on reduced administrative overhead when selling a single large block rather than several smaller blocks. Members will be expected to pay for blocks at time of purchase, either via credit card or pre-paid account. The Board of Advisors may decide to allow large volume Members to pay via purchase order on a monthly basis to reduce administrative costs.
- The subscription block model assures immediate and steady revenue and will preserve an active membership. The subscription-block model will eliminate the large backlog of unpaid fees that other country domains (.uk, .mx) are now coping with.
- Relationship between domain name holders and USADNA
Persons or organizations holding a domain name in the US Domain have a contractual relationship with the USADNA with regard only to the registration and modification of their domain name(s), and certain matters relating to intellectual property disputes. The USADNA is not responsible, nor does it have any say, in the relationship between a domain name holder and a USADNA member. Specifically, the USADNA is not responsible for billing, technical services, or customer service issues.
- Registering a new domain name
Prospective domain name holders will register a domain through a Member of the USADNA. Members are agents only; the contract governing the use of the domain name is between the USADNA and the domain name holders. Paper certificates, signed by the domain name holder, will constitute a contract between the domain name holder and the USADNA. The paper certificate will complement digital authentication in order to establish the identity of the domain name holder and the authenticity of the request, as well as the authority to perform any modifications to the registration. The domain name holder will be issued a digital key that will be required for any modification or transfer of the domain name.
- To register a new domain name, the prospective domain name holder must contact a Member. If a prospective domain name holder contacts the USADNA directly, he or she will be referred to a full list of Members.
- Members will explain the registration procedure to prospective domain name holders and process applications on behalf of the domain name holder.
- Members will submit registration applications to an automaton operated by the USADNA staff that 'knows' the rules of the USADNA and processes applications.
- Applications that generate no errors are registered and delegated immediately. The domain name holder can begin using the domain name right away, but the registration is not complete until a contract is signed and sent to the USADNA and a paper certificate and a digital key are issued to the domain name holder.
- Applications that generate known errors (e.g., incomplete applications, or applications for names that are already assigned) are returned to the Member with an appropriate error message.
- Applications that generate unknown errors are processed manually by USADNA staff.
- Upon receipt of a successful application, the USADNA delegates the domain to its name servers and notifies the applying Member that the application was successful.
- The applying Members supplies to the domain name holder the current USADNA contract.
- The domain name holder signs the contract and sends it by postal mail or courier to the USADNA staff. The contract can specify whatever the Board of Directors feel is appropriate. Possible provisions might include:
- Indemnifying the USADNA in case of a dispute concerning intellectual property.
- An undertaking to use mediation or arbitration services in the event of a dispute
- An undertaking not to transfer the domain for more than a certain percentage above the initial registration price (similar to anti-scalping laws in many states)
- The power of the USADNA to amend the contract unilaterally upon sufficient notice.
- If the contract is received within the time allotted (e.g., two weeks), the USADNA issues to the domain name holder, by postal mail or courier, a security-printed certificate which is constituted as follows:
- On one side, the domain name, along with associated information (e.g., listed domain holder, admin and tech contacts, and name servers) is listed.
- Also printed on side one of the certificate is a digital key that must be used to complete all further transactions with the USADNA.
- On the reverse side is a fill-out form to be used when the domain name holder wishes to transfer the domain to a different party.
- The receipt of the signed contract and the subsequent issuance of the security certificate establishes the legal relationship between the domain name holder and the USADNA and ensures that the correct information is entered into the US Domain database
- If the contract is not received by the USADNA within the time allotted, the USADNA notifies both the applying Member and the domain name holder. If the contract is not received within an additional time period (e.g., another two weeks), the delegation of the domain name in question is deleted. The applying Member may choose to refund monies to the domain name holder, but the USADNA will not refund any monies or issue a credit to the applying Member.
- Modifying a domain name
A Member of the USADNA must process modifications. The USADNA staff will not modify a domain name directly. Modifications can include changes of contact information, or re-delegation of name servers. Transferring a domain name from one holder to another is considered a transfer, not a modification, and is subject to a separate process.
- The domain name holder notifies a Member that he or she wishes to make a modification to his or her domain name. The Member may be either the original applying Member or a different Member.
- The domain name holder may choose to supply, or may already have supplied, his or her digital key to the Member.
- If the Member is in possession of the domain name holder’s digital key, the Member requests a modification of the domain name from the USADNA and signs the request with both the Member’s digital key and the domain name holder’s digital key. If the request is valid, the USADNA makes the change to the US Domain database.
- If the Member is not in possession of the domain name holder’s digital key, the Member requests a modification of the domain name from the USADNA and signs the request with the Member’s key only. The USADNA then notifies the domain name holder that a request for modification has been made, and the domain name holder must acknowledge and affirm that he or she desires that the modification be made, and must sign the acknowledgment with his or her digital key. If the USADNA receives the proper acknowledgment, it makes the change to the US Domain database.
- Renewing a domain name
Renewal of a domain name is an essential activity. The renewal process ensures that the domain objects stored in the US domain database are current. Domains must be renewed every twelve months. Renewals must be completed through a Member.
- Two months before a renewal for a domain name is required, the USADNA will send out a notification to both the domain name holder and to the Member who made the latest modification to the domain name, stating that the domain must be renewed. The USADNA will send out a second notification one month before the renewal is due.
- The domain name holder who wishes to renew his or her domain name must contact any Member. Domain name holders who do not wish to renew are not required to do anything.
- The Member processes the renewal by sending in a renewal request and paying the required fee to the USADNA. The Member is responsible for billing the domain name holder for its services.
- If the renewal request is received on time, the USADNA updates the US Domain database and sets the subsequent renewal date at a year from the current renewal date.
- If no renewal request is received from a Member before the expiration date for renewal, the domain name holder and the Member who made the latest modification to the domain name receive a final notice. This final notice should be made by postal mail as well as by electronic mail. If a renewal request is not received from a Member within thirty days of this final notice, the domain name is deleted from the US Domain database.
- Transferring a domain name
Transferring a domain means changing the domain name holder. In another sense, it means changing the power to make modifications to the domain name. The transfer of a domain is the only transaction where the domain name holder communicates directly with the USADNA.
- To transfer a domain, the domain name holder signs the reverse side of the security certificate issued when the domain name was first registered, after filling in the information about the new domain name holder.
- The domain name holder sends the signed security certificate to the USADNA (traceable courier is advised).
- Upon receipt of the certificate, the USADNA checks the signature on the certificate against that on the contract that the domain name holder signed when the domain name was last assigned.
- If the signatures match, the USADNA sends out a new contract to the prospective new domain name holder, and upon receipt of the new contract sends a new certificate to the new domain holder, along with a new digital key. If no contract is received from the prospective new domain name holder, the domain name is not transferred.
- If the signatures do not match, the USADNA returns the certificate to the domain name holder, along with instructions on how to obtain a new certificate. In this case, the domain name is not transferred.
- Dispute Resolution
Where parties disagree about who has the "right" to use a domain name, the USADNA should offer mediation and arbitration services, but should not unilaterally decide on who should get the domain. The USADNA would be well served to steer clear of direct involvement in disputes. A very great benefit to the USADNA of the paper-based contract will be to enable the USADNA to require of domain name holders indemnification of the USADNA and its Members individually against all intellectual property disputes, and to ask domain name holders to affirm that they are not violating any trademark laws by using a given domain name.
Nonetheless, the USADNA cannot expect to escape disputes entirely. A well-explained and swift online arbitration procedure can help solve the majority of disputes; where an agreement between the parties is not possible; the courts will have to decide.
- The USADNA, as a first step in any dispute, should offer the parties the service of professional mediators. Mediation is not mandatory, nor is it binding. The cost of mediation will be borne by the challenger to discourage frivolous claims.
- The USADNA will offer arbitration through a widely accepted arbitration service, to be offered online via its web site. The arbitration shall not be mandatory, but it shall be binding if accepted. The cost of the arbitration should be borne by the challenger to discourage frivolous claims.
- USADNA will take no action to transfer or otherwise modify a disputed domain name, except as requested by the domain name holder, until ordered to do so by a U.S. court or upon agreement by parties involved.
- General Policies of the USADNA
- How domain names are assigned
- Domain names will be assigned on a strict first-come, first-served basis.
- There will be no limitation on the number of domain names assigned to a person or organization.
- Who can hold a domain name
- Any person, organization, company, or group can hold a domain name.
- There shall be no restriction on the geographical provenance of a domain name applicant.
- The domain name applicant must provide an U.S. address for delivery of legal documents.
- Lame Delegation Policy
- All domain name holders shall have at least two functioning name servers prior to applying for the registration of a domain name. All applications shall have the name servers verified for functionality prior to acceptance of the applications. Any non-functioning name servers shall result in a denial of application.
- Information in the US Domain database
- All information in the US Domain database will be publicly and freely accessible, both through a searching tool such as whois, and possibly as one file, available via ftp or other transfer protocol.
- Technical Considerations
- Location and Maintenance of the US Domain repository
- The DNS database name servers which are the repository of information that make up the domain database will operated and maintained as part of the USADNA registry by USADNA staff under the supervision of the Technical Director.
- Determination and implementation of technical policy
- The Board of Directors shall determine technical policy, with input from the Board of Advisors. Technical policy shall be implemented the Technical Director, who shall have day-to-day responsibility for technical administration. Committees appointed by the Board of Directors will consider technical policy issues, and their recommendations will be implemented at the will of the Board of Directors.
- Construction of USADNA repository
- The construction of the USADNA repository shall be contracted out to vendors through tenders offered by USADNA. Vendors can be paid either by a per-transaction percentage over a pre-determined period or on a fixed-cost basis.