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RFC 2352 - A Convention For Using Legal Names as Domain Names


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Network Working Group                                         O. Vaughan
Request for Comments: 2352                           Vaughan Enterprises
Obsoletes: 2240                                                 May 1998
Category: Informational

           A Convention For Using Legal Names as Domain Names

Status of this Memo

   This memo provides information for the Internet community.  It does
   not specify an Internet standard of any kind.  Distribution of this
   memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (1998).  All Rights Reserved.

RFC Editor's Note

   This RFC is an independent submission that discusses a possible
   convention for allocating domain names based on corporate and other
   names as registered by law.

   It appears to depend on corporations changing their domain names from
   their present form to more cumbersome handles, such as changing
   cisco.com to cisco-systems.co.ca.us or ibm.com to international-
   business-machines.co.ny.us, without giving them an incentive to do
   so, such as deprecating the .com and .net gTLDs.  It also appears to
   legislate the structure each national registry applies to its name
   space, something which the document itself asserts is within national
   purview and not for global standardization.

   It may not be politically feasible to implement as described.

Table of Contents

   1.   Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

   2.   Overview of the domain space . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

   3.   Possible solutions to name exhaustion  . . . . . . . . . . . 4

   4.   Proposed solution  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
   4.1   The world is not flat so why should domains be? . . . . . . 4
   4.2   The case for legal names  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
   4.3   Allocation of legal sub-domains . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
   4.4   Allocation of miscellaneous sub-domains . . . . . . . . . . 6
   4.5   Identifiers in non-ASCII languages  . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
   4.6   Non-textual identifiers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
   5.   Security Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

   6.   References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

   7.   Authors' Address . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

   8.   Full Copyright Statement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

1.  Introduction

   The purpose of this memo is to focus discussion on the particular
   problems with the exhaustion of the top level domain space in the
   Internet and the possible conflicts that can occur when multiple
   organisations are vying for the same name. The proposed solutions in
   this document are intended as a framework for development, such that
   a general consensus will emerge as to the appropriate solution to the
   problems in each case, leading eventually to the adoption of
   standards.

2.  Overview of the domain space

   Presently the domain space is organised as a heirarchical tree-
   structured namespace with several top level domains (TLDs), and sub-
   domains beneath them. The initial TLDs allocated and rationale are
   documented in RFC 920 [1].

   The TLDs are functionally split up into 'generic' top-level domains
   (gTLDs) and two-letter ISO 3166 country domains for every country in
   which Internet connectivity is provided. The allocation of sub-
   domains under these TLDs is entirely up to the registry for that TLD.
   The registry may decide to allocate further levels of structure or
   merely allocate domains in a 'flat' manner.

   Example:

           +-----+         +----+                       +----+
           | COM |         | UK |                       | FR |
           +-----+         +----+                       +----+
              |             |  |                         |  |
       +---------+     +----+  +----+     +--------------+  +-----+
       | VAUGHAN |     | AC |  | CO |     | UNIV-AVIGNON |  | AXA |
       +---------+     +----+  +----+     +--------------+  +-----+
          |              |        |              |             |
      +------+    +---------+  +----------+   +-----+      +------+
      | UNIX |    | NEWPORT |  | CITYDESK |   | SOL |      | MAIL |
      +------+    +---------+  +----------+   +-----+      +------+
                       |            |
                    +----+       +-----+
                    | NS |       | FTP |
                    +----+       +-----+

       1. Flat gTLD     2. Heirarchical country      3. Flat country

   In the example we see that the gTLDs are inherently flat, as
   organisations are allocated domain names directly under the TLD.
   With the country domains however, the domain allocation policy can
   vary widely from country to country, and it does. Some may choose to
   implement a functional sub-structure mirroring the gTLDs, some may
   choose to implement a geographical sub-structure, and some may choose
   to have no sub-structure at all.

   In the first case the organisation is clearly a commercial one, as it
   is allocatged under the "COM" TLD. However, there is no information
   as to the country the organisation is based in.  In the third case,
   we know that the organisation is based in France (FR), but without
   studying the actual organisation name we do not know what type of
   organisation it is.  In the second case, we know the country that
   both organisations are based in (UK), and by following the heirarchy,
   we can deduce that the first is an academic organisation (AC), and
   the second is commercial (CO).

   While the system is flexible in not enforcing a strict heirarchy, it
   can lead to exhaustion of domain names in the generic space and lead
   to conflicts between organisations who may both have a legitimate
   claim to have a particular name.

3.  Possible solutions to name exhaustion

   With such a flexible system, there are many ways of preventing the
   name space being exhausted. A solution proposed by [2] is to create
   more gTLDs to allow organisations with the same name to be registered
   uniquely under different TLDs (FIRM, STORE, WEB, ARTS, REC, INFO and
   NOM). However, this has several disadvantages as discussed below:

   a) It creates confusion in users mind as to what TLD refers to a
      particular organisation. For example, MCDONALDS.COM maybe the fast
      food corporation and MCDONALDS.FIRM maybe a firm of lawyers, but
      how is the user supposed to know which is which?

   b) To prevent the above confusion, big corporations will simply
      reserve all the different variations of the name, ie. IBM.COM,
      IBM.FIRM, IBM.STORE etc. Thus we haven't solved the name
      exhaustion or conflict problems, in fact we have made it worse.

   c) Names of legitimate trade mark holders or other legally held names
      can still be acquired by anybody, leading to potential conflicts.

   Another set of possible solutions are discussed by The World
   Intellectual Property Organisation [4] but this only addresses
   dispute resolution when trademarks are used as domain names under
   gTLDs, and not in the full legal context of their origin of
   registration.

4.  Proposed solution

   With the aforementioned problems in mind, it is not a good idea to
   create new gTLDs which merely overlap the existing ones. As the
   domain name system is heirarchical it would seem a good idea to
   expand on the existing structure rather than creating several
   duplicate structures.

4.1 The world is not flat so why should domains be?

   With the expansion of the Internet to a truly global medium, the
   notion that there can only be one commercial entity, one orgnisation,
   and one network provider etc. with the same name seems impossible.
   This is the situation that the present system finds itself in.  There
   is a constantly spiralling number of disputes over who 'owns' or
   'deserves' a certain name, with an increasing number ending in
   unnecessary and costly legal action. This is not something that the
   providers of a domain name service should concern themselves with,
   but yet with the present system, this seems inevitable.

4.2 The case for legal names

   This proposal allows for country-code-based domain names that are
   related to legally registered names in the country (or locality,
   state or province within that country) that they are based in, by
   creating a functional heirarchy beneath the country TLD.

   This proposal does not seek to do away with gTLDs, but rather
   suggests that a legal name should be sought first and then, if
   desired, a generic name could be used alongside it. The organisation
   would then, in case of any disputes, have a legally-held name which
   no other organisation could have any claim to.

   This proposal has several advantages:

   a) The process of deciding what names belong to which organisation
      is no longer a function of the domain name registry, but of the
      company name or trade mark registration authority in the given
      locality. This means that disputes over names cannot arise as all
      names are unique within the context of the legal name.

   b) As all names are unique, there should be no exhaustion
      (deliberately or otherwise) of 'desirable' names by other
      concerns, as all the owners of legally-held names will
      automatically have the right to the relevant domain name.

4.3 Allocation of legal sub-domains

      The sub-domain identifiers should be created from the existing
      indentifiers for company names and trade marks within the given
      locality, state, province or country.

      The general form of such a sub-domain is:

      <legal-token>.<locality-identifier(s)>.<iso3166-country>

      For example:

      LTD.UK           for limited companies in the UK
      PLC.UK           for public limited companies in the UK
      TM.FR            for trademarks in France
      INC.<state>.US   }
      LTD.<state>.US   } for incorpated bodies in the US
      CO.<state>.US    } (each is equivalent)
      CORP.<state>.US  }
      LLC.<state>.US   for limited liability companies in the US
      GMBH.DE          for German companies

   The registry for the appropriate upper level country, state, province
   or locality domain should create entries in these sub-domains based
   on the laws for allocating such legal names in that particular
   country, state, province or locality.  Specifically, the full legal
   name should be used, but omitting the legal token (eg. Ltd, Corp,
   etc.) as this will be determined by the choice of upper level domain.
   ALL spaces within the name should be converted to hyphens '-' and
   other punctuation either disregarded or also converted into hyphens.

   For holders of international trademarks and other international
   names, the gTLD "INT" can be used in place of the country identifier.
   For example:

      TM.INT  } for international trademarks
      REG.INT }

4.4 Allocation of miscellaneous sub-domains

   In countries that do not have existing sub-structure it is strongly
   recommended that along with the creation of legal sub-domains
   described here, that other sub-domains be created for commercial
   entities, organisations, and academic entities to reduce remaining
   conflicts from organisations that are not legally-registered.

   For example:
                     +------------------+
                  | ISO 3166 country | . . . . . . / / . .
                  +------------------+        .           .
                   |       |        |         .           .
               +-----+  +-----+  +-----+   +-----+    +-------+
               | AC/ |  | CO/ |  | OR/ |   | LTD |    | state |
               | EDU |  | COM |  | ORG |   +-----+    +-------+
               +-----+  +-----+  +-----+                  |
                                                       +-----+
                                                       | INC |
                                                       +-----+

4.5 Identifiers in non-ASCII languages

   The representation of any domain element is limited to the ASCII
   character set of alphabetic characters, digits and the hyphen, as
   described in RFC 1035 [3]. The representation of names in languages
   that use other character sets is limited by that definition or any
   future update.

4.6 Non-textual identifiers

   The registration of non-textual trade marks such as logos or three
   dimensional shapes under this scheme is beyond the scope of this
   document. It is unlikely that these marks will need to be used in the
   way that domain names are used presently, but their use is not
   explicitly prohibited.

5.  Security Considerations

   This memo raises no issues relating to network security.  However,
   when delegating entries in sub-domains, the registries must ensure
   that the application contains sufficient evidence of the legal rights
   to a given name.

6.  References

   [1]  Postel J., and J. Reynolds , "Domain Requirements", RFC 920,
        October 1984.

   [2]  "Generic Top Level Domains - Memoranding of Understanding",
        <URL:http://www.gtld-mou.org/>

   [3]  Mockapetris, P., "Domain names - Implementation and
        Specification", STD 13, RFC 1035, November 1987.

   [4]  "Trademarks and Internet Domain Names",
        <URL:http://www.wipo.int/eng/internet/domains/>

7.  Author's Address

   Owain Vaughan
   Vaughan Enterprises
   PO Box 155
   Newport NP9 6YX
   UK

   Phone: +44 1633 677849/822164
   Fax:   +44 1633 663706
   EMail: owain@vaughan.com

8.  Full Copyright Statement

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (1998).  All Rights Reserved.

   This document and translations of it may be copied and furnished to
   others, and derivative works that comment on or otherwise explain it
   or assist in its implementation may be prepared, copied, published
   and distributed, in whole or in part, without restriction of any
   kind, provided that the above copyright notice and this paragraph are
   included on all such copies and derivative works.  However, this
   document itself may not be modified in any way, such as by removing
   the copyright notice or references to the Internet Society or other
   Internet organizations, except as needed for the purpose of
   developing Internet standards in which case the procedures for
   copyrights defined in the Internet Standards process must be
   followed, or as required to translate it into languages other than
   English.

   The limited permissions granted above are perpetual and will not be
   revoked by the Internet Society or its successors or assigns.

   This document and the information contained herein is provided on an
   "AS IS" basis and THE INTERNET SOCIETY AND THE INTERNET ENGINEERING
   TASK FORCE DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING
   BUT NOT LIMITED TO ANY WARRANTY THAT THE USE OF THE INFORMATION
   HEREIN WILL NOT INFRINGE ANY RIGHTS OR ANY IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF
   MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.

 

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