That tactic is known as cybersquatting, and its use is rampant across the Web with standard domain names. Just look at Pants.com for further proof. The site does nothing except link to other places that sell pants and collect referral fees when a sale is made.
And if a big company came along wanting to buy Pants.com, there’s little doubt that the domain’s owner, Digimedia.com, would sell. If you’re in the market for BathingSuits.com, Recipes.com or Shampoo.com, Digimedia owns those, and plenty of others, too.
But ICANN has certain systems in place to prevent cybersquatters from registering custom domain suffixes.
According to ICANN’s Applicant Guidebook (available here) for the new domain program, companies applying for custom domain suffixes will undergo a screening process to check “general business diligence and criminal history” as well as the company’s “history of cybersquatting behavior” against a database of known offenders.
If a company passes that initial test, the requested domain suffix will then be evaluated to see if it “is so similar to other strings that it would create a probability of user confusion,” “might adversely affect DNS security or stability” and to find out whether the applicant has “the requisite technical, operational, and financial capability to operate a registry.”
In other words, this is all quite a bit more involved than registering a $10 domain name in hopes that someone will want to buy it in the future. As for who will handle these review processes, “ICANN is in the process of selecting qualified third-party providers to perform the various reviews,” and there’s a code-of-conduct section in the guide outlining rules against panelist bias and conflicts of interest.
Public Objections and Free Speech
Once all of those hurdles have been cleared, a requested domain suffix will be open to public comment for 60 days.
Per the Applicant Guidebook:
Evaluators will perform due diligence on the application comments (i.e., determine their relevance to the evaluation, verify the accuracy of claims, analyze meaningfulness of references cited) and take the information provided in these comments into consideration.
If a domain suffix draws complaints but doesn’t get shot down by the evaluators, there’s a “Formal Objection Process.”
A group may file a formal objection — this one costs money: there’s a minimum $2,750 filing fee — against a proposed domain suffix, which will be evaluated by a panel of experts.
(MORE: ICANN vs. the World)
The guidebook states that “everyone has the right to freedom of expression, but the exercise of this right carries with it special duties and responsibilities. Accordingly, certain limited restrictions may apply.”