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A River Runs Through It: Amazon Gets Reminded of Its Namesake as ICANN Rejects Domain Bid; “.author,” “.book,” Still on Block

As Amazon vies to snag exclusive rights to use top-level domain (TLD) names including “.author,” “.book,” and “.read,” last week it was thwarted in its attempt to buy one suffix it coveted: “.amazon.”

The online retailer applied to purchase the domain name after the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced plans last year to sell generic top-level domain names (website suffixes such as “.com” and “.org”) to private companies. The New York Times reports that an ICANN committee recommended against selling the river’s name to Amazon after a group of Latin American countries voiced their objections in a letter.

“In particular ‘.amazon’ is a geographic name that represents important territories of some of our countries, which have relevant communities, with their own culture and identity directly connected with the name,” the letter said. “Beyond the specifics, this should also be understood as a matter of principle.”

The Authors Guild similarly opposes the plan to sell the rights to top-level domain names for generic book-industry terms. In a letter to ICANN in March, Guild president Scott Turow wrote:

“Placing such generic domains in private hands is plainly anticompetitive, allowing already dominant, well-capitalized companies to expand and entrench their market power.  The potential for abuse seems limitless.

ICANN, of all entities, should be mindful of the critical need to maintain an open, freely competitive Internet.  Please rethink this project.”

Last week ICANN signed contracts to sell its first four TLDs, all in foreign script. It’s expected to take months to decide on who can purchase hundreds of other names.

In a sign of how valuable these domains are thought to be, Amazon has applied for 76 names, at a cost of $185,000 per application. Last year, ICANN said “.book” was among the most sought-after TLDs, with nine companies paying the hefty fee to compete for the name in the initial round of applications.