Briefing Paper No. 33

Internet Domain Names: Privatization, Competition, and Freedom of Expression

By Milton Mueller
October 16, 1997

Executive Summary

There is growing confusion over the administration of Internet top-level domain names (TLDs), the system of suffixes, such as .com, .org, and .edu, that determines a person’s e-mail or Web site address on the Internet.

We need to define rules and procedures that will permit and encourage competition among administrators of TLDs in response to market demand. Freedom of expression should be a primary concern. Proposals for compulsory national TLDs should be rejected. National TLDs would undermine the international character of the Internet and encourage national governments to enact myriad petty regulations and restrictions on free speech. Domain names should not be equated with trademarks or brand names. We should reject attempts to forge inappropriate links between domain name registration and trademark protection.

The U.S. government should encourage the development of property rights and competition by moving the administration of Internet domain names into the private sector.

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Milton L. Mueller, an associate professor at the Syracuse University School of Information Studies, is the author of many scholarly works on telecommunications policy.