In less than 3 days, ICANN’s 50th session will be taking place in London (22-26 June). The wine sector denounces some governments’ intervention that lead to the failure of negotiations between the sector and the candidate companies to the “.wine” and “.vin”. It deeply regrets the opacity surrounding ICANN’s decisions and conflicts of interest and calls for a profound reform of Internet governance as well as for the establishment of an independent organisation. The wine sector will launch a comprehensive campaign to highlight the risks associated to the use of these domain names for both consumers and producers and will call for a general boycott. In the meantime, the sector calls on the EU to put in place a system to identify and block websites that will not respect the EU legislation on the protection of geographical indications and urges the European Commission to be more proactive in international negotiations.
For almost two years, the wine sector has been engaged in a tug of war with the domain names industry. The fight relates to wines with a Geographical Indication (GI) which, contrary to trademarks, is not protected by ICANN, the Internet oversight body. In April 2014, ICANN gave a new deadline of 60 days to the wine sector and candidates to find an agreement on this issue. Unfortunately, the negotiations were not successful. The President of EFOW (European Federation of Origin Wines), Riccardo Ricci Curbastro, deplores the conditions in which the discussions took place and denounces the opacity surrounding the decisions within ICANN: “These negotiations had no chance to succeed since a number of governments intervened to dissuade candidates to pursue the dialogue with us. The only candidate who seemed open to our proposal was under such pressure that the talks eventually broke down. ICANN was fully aware of the situation. A decision to delegate these strings under these circumstances would therefore be a provocation. It would illustrate once again ICANN’s lack of independence and the unlimited power of the domain names industry. It would be an affront to the EU and a clear signal that the multi-stakeholder model is just an illusion. It is clear that there is a need to reform the Internet governance and that the management of the Internet should be entrusted to an independent organisation”.
As previously announced, European and national organisations representing GI wines are ready to engage in information campaigns to discourage winemakers from buying domain names ending in “.wine” and “.vin” (boycott). It will also alert consumers to the risks involved in buying products from these websites (no link between the products offered and the region mentioned, counterfeiting etc.). “We feel that we are witnessing the establishment of a globally organised extortion scheme. The wine sector has been denouncing this phenomenon for the past months. .wine and .vin are just two examples among many others. We will pass from 20 domain names to a 1000, and this will pose risks for brands, companies, local authorities, GIs etc. The probably of being racketed are exponential. ICANN and the domain name industry will profit from this situation”.
EFOW asks Member States to identify websites that will be in breach of EU law and to provide for measures to neutralise them. “We also expect the European Commission to be more proactive in future trade negotiations, in particular with the US. If the decision is to delegate the “.wine” and “.vin” in violation of international rules on the protection of GI, it will send a very negative signal to the ongoing discussions between the EU and the US on the TTIP”.