The domain name system (DNS) serves the central function of facilitating users?ability to navigate the Internet. It does so with the aid of two components: the domain name and its corresponding Internet Protocol (IP) number. A domain name is the human-friendly address of a computer that is usually in a form that is easy to remember or to identify, such as www.wipo.int. An IP number is the unique underlying numeric address, such as 188.8.131.52. The DNS operates on the basis of a hierarchy of names. At the top are the top-level domains (TLDs), which are generally divided into two categories: the generic top-level domains (gTLDs) and the country code top-level domains (ccTLDs). There are seven gTLDs at present.78 Three of these (.com, .net and .org) are open to all persons or entities. The other four gTLDs (.int, .edu, .gov and .mil) are restricted, only certain entities meeting certain criteria may register names in them. There are at present 243 ccTLDs. Each of these domains bears a two-letter country code, for example .au (Australia), .cn(China) and .fr (France). Some of these domains are open, others are restricted, only persons or entities satisfying certain criteria (for example, domicile within the territory) may register names in them. Functionally, there is no distinction between the gTLDs and the ccTLDs.
The Internet technical development has been guided by protocols established through participatory decision-making processes by bodies such as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and its subcommittees, and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). However, there has not been a central rule-making entity that has exercised comprehensive legislative authority over the Internet. And the DNS was used for about 12 years (1982-94) without creating any significant public policy issues. The year 1995 can be used as the date when the Internet became a truly commercial, public medium. In 1995, the USA government allowed Network Solutions, Inc. (NSI) to be responsible for registering domain name in the gTLDs .com, .net and .org. NSI adopted the ’first come, first sreved?policy for registration of domain name and a Dispute Resolution Procedure to deal with the conflict between trademarks and domain names. NSI policy was criticized for it strongly favoring the owner of a trademark registration and it was also criticized as operating a monopoly in the reserving of the .com, .net and .org TLDs.
The USA Department of Commerce (DOC) issued for comment A Proposal to Improve the Technical Management of Internet Names and Addresses (the "Green Paper") on January 30, 1998.79 It proposed for discussion a number of measures relating to the administration of the DNS, including the creation by the private sector of a new corporation located in the USA and managed by a globally and functionally representative Board of Directors. Following the closure of the comment period, DOC issued its Statement of Policy on the Management of Internet Names and Addresses (the "White Paper") on June 5, 1998.80 It confirmed the call contained in the Green Paper for the creation of a new, private, not-for-profit corporation responsible for coordinating specific DNS functions for the benefit of the Internet as a whole. Following the publication of the White Paper, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was established, then DOC and ICANN entered into a Memorandum of Understanding in November 1998, with the intention of coordinating the on-going transition of the management of the DNS.81
In the "White Paper", DOC alleged that the USA Government ”is committed to a transition that will allow the private sector to take leadership for DNS management?and international organizations may provide specific expertise or act as advisors to ICANN. While it granted authority to ICANN, it alleged that it still believed that neither national governments acting as sovereigns nor intergovernmental organizations acting as representatives of governments should participate in management of Internet names and addresses. It called on WIPO to ”initiate a balanced and transparent process?to develop recommendations for a uniform approach to resolving trademark/domain name disputes involving cyberpiracy, recommend a process for protecting famous trademarks in the gTLDs, and evaluate the effects of adding new gTLDs and related dispute resolution procedures on trademark and intellectual property holders. ?U>These findings and recommendations could be submitted to the board of the new corporation for its consideration in conjunction with its development of registry and registrar policy and the creation and introduction of new gTLDs.? (emphasis added)
As an organ of the United Nations, responsible to all its member states rather than just the USA, WIPO felt empowered to define its own terms of reference. WIPO stated that it intended to make recommendations concerning dispute prevention, dispute resolution, process for the protection of famous and well-known marks in the gTLDs and effects on intellectual property rights of new gTLDs.82 WIPO thus gave itself a considerably broader and more ambitious charge than the fairly narrow one proposed by the USA. Unfortunately, the Final Report83 largely returns to the original mandate suggested by the USA Government. WIPO's recommendations in the Final Report has been submitted to ICANN, which can adopt them, modify them, or ignore them as it will. However, WIPO's report is likely to be influential. ICANN's registrar accreditation guidelines adopted some of the features of the WIPO interim report. On 24 October 1999, ICANN approved the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy which has been adopted by all domain name registrars,84 and four dispute-resolution service provider were approved so far.85 Thus, ICANN, a so-called ”private?USA corporation became the administrative authority of the DNS and a USA-centric management of DNS thus was established.