We’re about to start seeing a lot more diversity in web names. With its slogan “welcome to the not com revolution”, the Bellevue, Washington based Donuts is the largest provider of new domain name registrations with uniqe extensions that offer site owners more options to express their identities via their URLs. For instance, the company has over 67,000 registrants with the extension .GURU; and as described on their website, Super Bowl 50 was a “coming out party” of sorts when viewers were directed to visit GodsofEgypt.MOVIE to learn more about the release of this major motion picture.
This morning, Donuts has also placed itself at the forefront of OSPs taking voluntary measures to mitigate large-scale online piracy. In a joint announcement with MPAA, the two organizations have forged a voluntary agreement, which outlines specific conditions under which the MPAA will be treated as a “Trusted Notifier” when reporting sites registered with Donuts that are engaged in large-scale piracy. Conditions of the agreement place the burden on the Motion Picture Association to provide clear evidence of large-scale piracy of the works it is ahtorized to represent; and it must make a good faith effort to make direct contact with the site registrant prior to notifying Donuts. Once presented with a referral, Donuts maintains the right to act at its own discretion in determining whether or not the site registrant is “clearly devoted to clear and pervasive copyright infringement” in violation of their Acceptable Use and Anti-Abuse Policy, in which case it may put the domain on hold or suspend it.
Both copyright interests and digital rights activists should applaud this voluntary measure, which could serve as a model for other rights holding entities to adopt similar agreements with major OSPs. In principle, these private-sector agreements provide tangible options for mitigation of large-scale piracy, but their voluntary nature and structure should mute the usual hew and cry of “slippery slope to censorship” that tends to come with legislative proposals. Absent the opportunity to invoke the boogeyman of “government”, it would seem that any complainants about voluntary measures of this nature will have their rationales reduced to just admitting that they like piracy. At least that would restore some refreshing honesty to the discussion.
Ultimately, this type of voluntary measure is a positive step forward for consumers. The Web has grown fast, and the major designers of our experiences and engagement with digital life have, in a a matter of years, attained the kind of market dominance that historically takes decades. And that’s fine. But while scaling rapidly in a free-for-all, Wild West environment is exciting, makes happy shareholders, and yields all manner of free apps and platforms for consumers, we are also lately beginning to recognize significant weaknesses that come with adopting a purely laissez-fair approach to the digital market.
When search results lead users to a nest of clickbait and malware; when advertisers lose value in the digital ecosystem; when seeking information becomes algorithmic manipulation; and when digital predators can exploit the environment to do anything from wasting your time to invading your privacy to taking your money, then the Web fails to be what we need it to be. OSPs, major businesses, consumers, and start-up entrepreneurs all have a stake in a sustainable digital market; and voluntary measures are an expression of that mutual interest.