Amazon's domain name applications 'monopolistic', say publishers

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Book publishers are uniting to oppose Amazon's application for dozens of new top-level internet domain names, including .book, .read and .author.

With the internet now creaking at the seams, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is looking to increase the number of potential web addresses. Hundreds of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) are to be added to the existing .com, .net and so on.

When applications were received last June, it was revealed that some companies - most notably Google and Amazon - were looking to acquire large numbers of domains. These include not only names associated with specific products, but common words such as .shop and .book.

Now, both the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and Authors' Guild president Scott Turow have written to ICANN to complain.

"Placing such generic domains in private hands is plainly anticompetitive, allowing already dominant, well-capitalized companies to expand and entrench their market power," says Turow in his letter. "The potential for abuse seems limitless."

Amazon has made it clear in its application that it intends to monopolize the .book suffix, explaining that it would "provide a unique and dedicated platform for Amazon while simultaneously protecting…its brand" with "no resellers in .book and no market in .book domains [since] Amazon will strictly control the use."

This, says the AAP in its letter, runs directly counter to ICANN's stated aim of broadening competition.

"From inception, the introduction of new gTLDs has been promoted as a means to increase competition, add consumer choice, support internet freedom, expand market differentiation and diversify service providers,” says Allan Adler, the AAP's general counsel and vice president for government affairs.

"How would handing over ownership of a domain string to any one single private company, such as a retailer, for its own business goals support that public service mission?"

Barnes & Noble has already made a similar complaint, as has the European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF).

Amazon's take on the matter is that there's no more monopolization going on than there ever has been: that owning '.widget' is no different in principle than owning 'widget.com'.

ICANN's receiving comments for another two days before making up its mind, with the first new domains set to go live on April 23rd.