On June 27, ICANN announced proposed agreements for the registries administering the domains. Language in the agreements indicated a departure from the established uniform pricing practice registrants had become accustomed to, which alarmed Kirikos, who set about trying to reach Cerf for comment.
“This is a markedly different approach from the fixed fee established in the 2001 .biz and .info registry agreements, and 2003 .org registry agreement, and is intended to appropriately scale the fees payable by each registry to ICANN to the success or decline of the registry business,” the proposed agreement reads in part.
Cerf confirmed to Kirikos, who said he fears the loophole would lead to an arbitrary pricing regime.
“I finally got the official word from Cerf, who confirmed that my interpretation is correct, that differential/tiered pricing on a domain-by-domain basis would not be forbidden under the .biz/info/org proposed contracts,” Kirikos said. “This means that the registries could charge $100,000 per year for Sex.biz, $25,000 per year for Movies.org, etc.”
According to Cerf, it would be “suicide” for a registry to change its prices because registrants are entitled to a six-month notice period for price changes, and they have the ability to register for 10 years at a time.
Countering Cerf’s “suicide” argument, Kirikos hypothesized that the rule change would allow PIR, which administers .org, to simply set a renewal price of $1 billion per year for a domain such as Pussy.org.
“If it takes 10 years to do it, many would wait, and it would not be considered ‘suicide’ for PIR,” Kirikos said, adding that PIR could simply say they were protecting children from porn on the .org TLD by pricing objectionable content out of the market.
Kirikos also suggested that the contract loophole could be used as a political weapon, as well. But his greatest concern is that registry companies will become beholden to profit above all else.
While the changes do not affect the .com TLD, Kirikos said there would be no reason why VeriSign, the company that administers the TLD, would not seek similar contractual liberties in its next agreement in order to level hefty fees on popular domains.