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Ownership of Domain Names

Currently, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is working with ICANN and the international stakeholder community to determine the transition of stewardship of key Internet Domain name functions from the Us to this international community. At issue is that some government or group of governments will exercise undue influence. Congress will make the case that the .mil and .gov domain names remain under the sole ownership and control of the Us. The Us is the only nation with a sponsored top-level domain (TLD) name for both its military and government (it does not need to be further defined by .us), a legacy of the important role played by the US Defense Department in the creation of the Internet. Similarly, the .edu TLD name is only granted to post-secondary institutions recognized by the US Department of Education [115].

This has national security and free speech implications because if certain domain names are captured by nations that wish to impose walls, then acquiring a particular domain name would give them that control. For example, the Chinese government recently issued legislation that would require all Internet domain names in China to be registered with a central domestic agency, which could impose further restrictions on these names. This action might tighten control over the Internet in China since nonChinese domain names can then be easily monitored and blocked. Moreover, firms that conduct business in China would have to comply by having .cn domain names which would make them subject to Chinese oversight and comply with forced data localization, which might impinge on the free flow of information, adding more control to China’s great firewall [116].

History plays an important role in ownership questions. Domain names historically owned by some nations can begin to acquire a new significance under changing circumstances.

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