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Want a .law Domain? Who Controls Domain Suffixes Anyway?

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. | Last updated on

Remember back in the early days of the Internet, when websites came in three simple sizes and no one talked back to their elders? Once upon a time all you had to know was .com, .org, and .edu -- maybe a if you were worldly. Those days have long gone.

Today, there's domain suffixes for every whim and fancy, from .ninja to .xxx. Soon, there will be .law. Here's how you can become a dot law'er, along with a quick look at the shadowy Internet bureaucracy that controls dot everything.

Dot Law'ers Are Coming -- in October

The expansion of domain suffixes (those .com's and .xyz's, also known as generic top-level domains or GTLDs) has been rapid and it has been recent. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, ICANN, the non-profit that oversees the Internet's domain name system, announced last year that it would be expanding domain suffixes from 22 domain suffixes to well over one thousand.

Soon, that number will include .law, for those working in the .legal industry. Minds + Machines, an Internet registration company, is the exclusive licenser of .law domains, along with .london, .beer, and plenty more. Beginning July 30th, trademark holders will be able to register .law domains through Minds + Machines, according to the ABA Journal. 

Those names will then be available to buy in early October. To reserve a domain name, lawyers and legal professionals should file a registration with the company. Trademark holders have priority, but if they have not expressed interest once the domains are available for sale, could be bought up by a third party.

ICANN Shake You Down?

If you think buying up a .law domain sounds like an unnecessary extra cost, you're not alone. When ICANN announced that it was greatly expanding domain names, many businesses objected, arguing that they would be forced to buy up dozens of new domain suffixes in order to prevent cybersquatting and protect their intellectual property.

The head of ICANN, Fadi Chehade, says he's sensitive to those concerns. A bit of background: ICANN grew out of the work of Jon Postel, the computer scientist who helped create ARPANET, which eventually gave birth to today's Internet. In the early days of the Internet, Postel was almost solely responsible for administering domain registries, making sure that when one typed in they actually ended up there. ICANN was formed in the late 90's to handle this task. It works to manage the world's domain name system and is under contract with the U.S. government.

Unsurprisingly, ICANN has plenty of critics. It has recently come under fire for mishandling an ownership dispute over the .africa domain. It has been criticized for doing too little to protect copyrights and intellectual property, though it has instituted measures to prevent and resolve disputes. For example, it has creating a trademark clearinghouse. 

Chehade, for his part, doesn't see any need to reign in domain suffixes anytime soon. Why would he? After all, each new domain brings ICANN nearly $200,000 plus annual fees.

But we're not complaining. We think being a dot law'er sounds pretty cool.

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