New gTLD .MUSIC
After multiple legal setbacks resulting from competition between candidates for the management of the .MUSIC new generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD), the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) finally signed a Registry Agreement with Dot Music Ltd. (Music.us, 2021-05-17). This agreement sets the eligibility conditions for the registration of .MUSIC domain names (1). It also specifies the requirements for using these domain names (2) and determines the alternative methods of settling disputes relating to the registration or use of such domain names (3). It should be emphasized that the .MUSIC gTLD is aimed at all musicians and all organizations whose corporate purpose is significantly related to music, regardless of their geographical origins (4). Finally, the incoming availability of the .MUSIC gTLD is an excellent occasion to examine the portfolios of brands, domain names, and social media accounts (5).
1. The eligibility conditions
.MUSIC is a community TLD, which implies exclusion rules. The eligibility conditions are governed by Specification 12, incorporated by reference into the Registry Agreement.
Access to .MUSIC domain names will be restricted to members of the “DotMusic-accredited Music Community Member Organization (MCMO)”, that is, on the one hand, musicians and, on the other hand, associations, coalitions, and institutions significantly involved in the promotion and distribution of music (music.us).
The registry will refer to a “Globally Protected Marks List” or “GPML”. As a result, a name appearing on the GPML can only be registered as a .MUSIC domain name by the owner of the related trademark. GPML listing is based on brand awareness, which is, in this specific case, measured in light of sales. In this regard, Specification 12 indicates that the GPML will be made up, by way of illustration, of the names of artists who have received a “Platinium” award from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which corresponds to a minimum of a million sales. In 2012, Dot Music Ltd. had published a GPML of over 4,000 names (music.us, 2012). The use of such lists aims at deterring cybersquatting.
However, a list exclusively compiled with RIAA data would necessarily be incomplete in that it would not reflect the success of artists representing, for example, musical movements such as Afropop, C-Pop, French Touch, or K-Pop. Of course, there is no reason why such artists should be excluded from the protection sought by the implementation of a GPML. Admittedly, the registry certainly has no such intentions. We have to admit that it would be unfortunate if the listing on the GPML were governed exclusively by the number of sales in the United States. Accordingly, further clarification could benefit the whole community.
Besides, the GPML might also raise some objections. Thus, the GPML of 2012 includes names of artists identical to generic words (Free, Fun, Heart, Hot, Live, Love, Spirit, Stars, Sweet, Videos), geographical names (Asia, Barcelona, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Japan, Orleans, UK, Verona) or evoking an artistic movement (Bauhaus). For instance, must the domain name live.music be assigned to the eponymous rock band? Domain names such as barcelona.music, berlin.music, boston.music, chicago.music, orleans.music or verona.music could they not benefit associations promoting music in the geographical areas of Barcelona, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Orleans, and Verona?
2. The conditions of use
The community nature of the .MUSIC gTLD justifies restrictions on the content of the sites concerned. Therefore, a site using a .MUSIC domain must imperatively be devoted to music. Any breach of this condition may lead to the termination of the domain name registration agreement.
3. Settlement of disputes
The out-of-court settlement of disputes is governed by article 2.8 of the Registry Agreement and Specification 7. These provisions refer to the Uniform Rapid Suspension System or “URS” (article 2.b. of Specification 7 ) and the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy or “UDRP” (Specification 12). In addition to these alternative methods of settling disputes relating to domain names, the registry will introduce a new procedure to resolve disputes involving copyright issues: .MUSIC Policy & Copyright Infringement Dispute Resolution Process (ʺMPCIDRPʺ). The ʺMPCIDRPʺ will take place under the aegis of the Forum.
4. A global TLD
One might be led to assume that Dot Music Ltd. targets primarily, if not exclusively, the music community in the United States: the choice of the country-code Top-Level Domain .US (United States) for the primary domain name of the registry; the reference of the RIAA in Specification 12 (this specification does not provide a non-U.S. or international example) and the designation of the Forum (having its registered office in the United States and better known by its former name “National Arbitration Forum”) as the sole out-of-court settlement institution to administer ʺMPCIDRPʺ disputes. In this regard, it might be recalled that competition is in ICANN’s DNA. Accordingly, it is surprising that other dispute settlement institutions specialized in handling intellectual property disputes do not benefit from this competence. This monopoly is all the more surprising, given that specialized institutions are established on each continent.
However, the .MUSIC is not delimited by any territorial restrictions. The involvement of the International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (“FICAAC”), the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (“IFPI”) ) or even the French Music Export Office (Bureau Export) shows the global nature of .MUSIC (and there are dozens of other examples). One might add that the 2012 GPML features many artists based outside the United States.
Artists, companies, and associations from all walks of life who would like to reserve a .MUSIC domain name can, therefore, verify their membership with the MCMO and, if necessary, proceed with their membership by submitting a form (music.us).
5. Management of portfolios of brands, domain names, and social media accounts
The launch of the .MUSIC gTLD offers the opportunity for music professionals (lawyers, artist agents, producers, or distributors), on the one hand, to carry out audits of trademarks and domain name portfolios that they have in management and, on the other hand, to consider the need to resort to monitoring in order to detect possible abusive registrations and/or use of these trademarks (including the names of artists) under the form, in particular, of domain names or social network accounts.