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Public Comments on the "Consultation Paper on the Review on Administration and Assignment of Internet Domain Names and Internet Protocol Addresses in Hong Kong"


Consultation Paper on the Review on Administration and Assignment of Internet Domain Names and Internet Protocol Addresses in Hong Kong
Comments by the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce


The Internet is playing a critical role in Hong Kong's economy. Internet Domain Names and Protocol Addresses are an important part of the Internet infrastructure, and their administration will have an effect on the development of the Internet. We welcome the effort to establish an effective system for the administration of Internet Domain Names and Protocol Addresses and we find the consultation paper a very timely document.

Our basic position is that the approach should be based on a minimalist regulatory principle, with maximum encouragement for the efforts of the private sector. Our comments on the specific recommendations of the consultation paper are as follows.

a) a non-profit making and non-statutory corporation should be set up to assume the overall responsibility for Internet domain name administration in Hong Kong,

b) the corporation should operate on a self-financing basis

We support the formation of a self-financing, non-profit corporation. This corporation will, however, act not just as an administrative body but will take on a regulatory function, as a non-statutory self-regulatory body. The support of the ultimate authority for regulation, namely ITSD, will be critical for this corporation.

In order to benefit from the dynamics of the private sector, this corporation should serve as the executive arm of the ultimate regulatory authority (ITSD) and as much of its work as possible should be undertaken by the private sector.

c) the corporation should be spun off from the JUCC initially, with an interim Board comprising directors from the academia, the industry and the Government;

We agree to the evolution and governance of the corporation as proposed. On industry representation, we would point out that the board should consist not only of experts from the IT or Internet sector, but more importantly members who can represent the general business community. In our view, the significance of e-commerce lies not in "Internet companies" as such, but in the application of the Internet to the entire range of businesses in Hong Kong.

d) the corporation should gradually transform into a membership-based organisation with its directors elected from its members;

We are unable to fully appreciate the rationale for a membership-based structure. The corporation should have a very focused mandate of administration and regulation of domain names and IP addresses. A membership-based structure will be more suited to organisations with broader objectives, such as "promotion of the Internet". In our view, this corporation should concentrate on the specific task of providing a service to end users (i.e. registration of names and addresses) and regulating the registrars and agents. As to general promotion of the Internet, already a large number of organisations in the private sector are undertaking that task.

e) the authority of the corporation should be formalised through some form of "endorsement" from the Government, e.g. an agreement with the Government;

We agree fully. This endorsement is crucial in lending government authority to the corporation.

f) the existing arrangements for IP address allocation in Hong Kong should continue;

g) the existing arrangements for a single domain name registry in Hong Kong, with duties assigned by the body responsible for .hk domain name administration, should continue;

We agree.

h) the Government should take over the registrar responsibility in respect of the domain;

i) the JUCC should continue to provide registration services in respect of the domain;

j) the existing practice of having a single registrar for domain names ending with, and should continue;

k) the registrar responsible for, and domain names may engage agents to perform some of the routine registration work;

We understand the benefits of having a single registrar for each category, at least initially. Our comment on each category is as follows: We agree government should be the registrar. This should continue to fall under the academic community. This should be taken up by some representative body of the IT sector. The registrar should be an organisation with broad business representation and contacts. This should be taken up by an organisation with broad representation and contact among non-governmental organisations.

l) a reserved list of domain names consisting of well-known international trademarks, service marks and brand names as well as some other names which are of restricted use, making reference to the reserved lists prepared by other ccTLD registration authorities, may be drawn up;

n) domain names should be registered on a "first come, first served" basis;

In respect of domain name allocation, we believe there is merit in treating special numbers or character strings separately, using the concept of "special numbers" in telecommunications numbering. The rationale is that "special" or "lucky numbers" are a public resource and their allocation may not be best served by the first-come-first-serve principle. The experience of the Office of Telecommunications Authority and its Numbering Advisory Committee may be worth exploring.

m) the second-level domain category being selected for a particular domain name application should correspond to the business nature of the applicant;

o) the domain name applicant should declare, when making an application, that to its best knowledge, the domain name applied for does not infringe upon the intellectual property rights of a third party;

p) each organisation should be allowed to register more than one domain name under .hk;

q) the transfer of domain names on valid grounds should be allowed;

r) only companies and organisations registered or incorporated in Hong Kong should be allowed to register domain names ending with . hk initially;

s) each individual resident of Hong Kong should be allowed to register one domain name in a new second level domain category under .hk;

t) domain names should be subject to renewal at a fee;

These recommendations all relate to the operational aspects of the administration of domain name and IP addresses. We agree with all these suggestions. We would point out, however, that they reinforce the need for ensuring that the registrar bodies should be in close touch with their respective constituent end users.

Furthermore, a domain name has the properties of a business registration, a trade mark, a telephone number and - since it can be applied to individuals - a personal identifier. In the administration of domain names, the related regulatory principles or practices should also be considered. For example, in processing domain names for individuals, there may be implications of personal data privacy which have to be taken into account.

u) the body responsible for .hk domain name administration should maintain a neutral role in the handling of disputes arising from the registration or use of domain names ending with .hk; and

v) an alternative dispute resolution mechanism should be developed in Hong Kong to facilitate early resolution domain name disputes.

The Internet is fast changing; it is also a comparatively recent development. Disputes relating to the Internet and their settlement present a challenge to regulators and legal practitioners. The disputes are also likely to be much broader than just domain names and IP addresses.

We agree that there should be a mechanism to deal with disputes over domain names and IP addresses. As the aim of the corporation is to facilitate Internet businesses, the dispute resolution mechanism should be designed on the principle of simplicity. More importantly, it should be part of a broader framework for regulation of the Internet which the ITSD and ITBB should develop. For this reason, it is all the more important to specify very clearly and unambiguously the role and mandate of the corporation.