With a history dating back to 2003, the rights to the new .MUSIC top-level domain are firmly in the hands of DotMusic Limited after an agreement was signed with ICANN. More than ten years ago, the RIAA was sounding the alarm, claiming that .MUSIC would be used to enable massive copyright infringement. However, it appears that .MUSIC will implement some of the most stringent and specific anti-piracy policies ever seen, making it a hostile place for pirates.
After being released in 2003, the .MUSIC top-level domain became a hot property, with several major companies hoping to secure the rights to control what was expected to become an important tool to promote music worldwide.
After fighting off the likes of Google, Amazon and domain registry Donuts, in 2019 Cyprus-based DotMusic Limited announced that its application had been accepted and ICANN would award it the rights to the domain extension. The move was broadly welcomed by the music industry, with IFPI and the RIAA noting they were satisfied by DotMusic’s assurances that the TLD would not be abused for piracy purposes.
Ten years earlier, however, the mood was very different.
RIAA Issues Stern Warnings to ICANN
In a strongly-worded message to ICANN back in 2011, the RIAA expressed deep concern that .MUSIC would become a breeding ground for pirates, warning that it could be used to “enable wide scale copyright and trademark infringement.”
“We strongly urge you to take these concerns seriously,” the RIAA continued. “We prefer a practical solution to these issues, and hope to avoid the need to escalate the issue further.”
A decade on and after a substantial amount of background work, those fears are a distant memory. In fact, it now appears that .MUSIC will be an incredibly hostile place for pirates – even if they are able to find a way to obtain a .MUSIC domain in the first instance.
.MUSIC Sign Registry Agreement With ICANN
In an announcement from DotMusic CEO Constantine Roussos, the company reveals that it has now signed a formal agreement with ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) to operate the .MUSIC domain.
“This has been a long, challenging and unpredictable process for the entire .MUSIC team and the global music community, which has supported the .MUSIC initiative to launch a safe, trusted and secure .MUSIC domain extension and identity,” Roussos says.
“Finally, after nearly a decade-long effort since applying for .MUSIC, we are excited to have signed the registry agreement with ICANN. We are now one step closer in providing the international music community with a verified music web address and identity that signals trust, authenticity and a safe haven for music consumption on a global level.”
With a clear emphasis on safety and security, it seems that preventing piracy is now one of the domain’s top priorities. And via some of the most stringent and piracy-specific policies ever seen in the domain world, .MUSIC and its industry partners appear to have most if not all angles covered.
Enhanced Safeguarding & Copyright Protection
To begin, .MUSIC says it will ensure that its domains will only be available to “legitimate members” of the global music community. The domain is governed and controlled by that community, with seats on its Policy Advisory Board occupied by entities such as IFPI, the RIAA, National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) and The American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), to name just four.
Anyone signing up for a .MUSIC domain will have to be validated through a mandatory two-step phone and email authentication process and to protect the names of famous brands and artists, these will be given priority during the launch phase. Those thinking of obtaining a .MUSIC domain as a mirror or replacement for their existing piracy-focused domain will also be disappointed.
“Absent a 2/3 vote from the Policy Advisory Board (PAB) to permit the site to remain live or credible evidence that the site has been authorized by most of the applicable rights holders to use the content in question, DotMusic shall ensure that all strings for sites on other gTLDs for which Trusted Senders (e.g. IFPI or RIAA or BPI etc.) have sent notices of over 10,000 infringements on such site, will be on the block domain list,” .MUSIC’s copyright provisions read.
“Any strings on the block domain list will not be made available on .music. For example this means if notices of over 10,000 infringements on abc.xyz site have been sent, then DotMusic will ensure that abc.music is blocked, and will not be sold or resolve. The block domain list shall be continuously updated.”
Registrants Must Deploy Strict Anti-Piracy Policies
Those operating a .MUSIC domain will be required to implement policies that effectively tackle copyright infringement, ones that go beyond a simple notice-and-takedown process. Indeed, .MUSIC insists that when a takedown notice is received, domains must not only remove the content on the specific URL listed, but also ensure that the same content is removed site-wide.
In addition, .MUSIC registrants must also implement strict repeat infringer policies that terminate users if they are targeted by “several” copyright infringement notices. Any domain registrant that does not meet these standards, including by not having an active policy, will be suspended. Repeat offenders will be denied access to .MUSIC domains, period.
Furthermore, any site that makes music available (directly or indirectly) that is owned by a third party will be required to publish the full name of its operator, plus a phone number and physical/email addresses on the site itself. Failure to adhere to these terms will result in an immediate suspension.
Finally, DotMusic says that if it receives a complaint from any of its Trusted Senders (which include IFPI and the RIAA), it will immediately suspend the platform until the dispute is resolved.
.MUSIC Sets the Gold Standard For The Music Industry
It’s clear from the above that the music industry has allayed most if not all of its initial fears that .MUSIC would develop into a playground for pirates.
With oversight and veto powers over anything that may be deemed even remotely infringing by the major labels, .MUSIC seems unlikely to prove attractive to anyone seeking to create any kind of disruptive business model. Or at least those that seek to do so but don’t mind their entire operation being shut down, even in advance of any dispute being settled.
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