scotartt on Tue, 15 Feb 2000 19:39:50 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Wired News : Domain Dispute Hits a Dot

 From Wired News, available online at:,1294,34321,00.html

Domain Dispute Hits a Dot  
by Declan McCullagh  

8:00 a.m. 14.Feb.2000 PST 

It's one of the most remote places on earth, a flyspeck in a far corner of
the Pacific Ocean with no hotels, doctors, or airports.  Founded in 1790
by the mutineers of the HMS Bounty, the island is so inaccessible that the
local government warns potential visitors they could be stranded for weeks
until the next ship passes by.

Yet the natives of Pitcairn Island are determined to wire themselves to
the Internet. 

Some 48 of them last year signed a petition to revoke ".pn" from a fellow
islander who in 1997 somehow managed to acquire rights to register Web
sites under that top-level domain. The letter demanded the "management" of
.pn be yanked from the hands of Tom Christian, the great-great-great
grandson of 18th century buccaneer and island founder Fletcher Christian. 

The only two Pitcairn Islanders who did not join the protest reportedly
were Christian and his wife. 

On Friday, the Internet governing body that assigns top-level domains
finally gave Christian's neighbors -- everyone in this UK protectorate
lives in the village of Adamstown -- what they wanted. 

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ruled that "the
.pn top-level domain should be re-delegated as requested by the Pitcairn
Island Council and the petition of Pitcairn residents." 

On 9 February, the U.S. Commerce Department handed authority over this
aspect of domain name management to ICANN. The contract, which lasts until
30 September, previously was handled by the Internet Assigned Numbers
Authority at the University of Southern California. 

The decision caps a three-year struggle between Christian, the Pitcairn
Island government, and the UK, and demonstrates how even one of the
tiniest countries views the Internet as a way to attract tourists, money,
and international recognition. 

To date, less than 20 .pn domains appear to be working. Most of those are
owned by multinational corporations like Visa, Dockers, and Chanel that
are hoping to preserve their trademarks. Levi Strauss has reserved,,, and 

That's lackluster performance, even by Pacific island-state standards. 
Tonga, by comparison, sells ".to" domain names, and has registered over
20,000 at US$150 each for a two-year term. 

No wonder that ICANN concluded that Christian's co-ownership of .pn -- his
partner is a computer consultant in the Channel Islands -- were
particularly egregious. Nobody on the island in 1997 had an email
connection, and nothing's changed since. 

"The operation of the .pn domain by nonresident commercial interests in
this case appears to have thwarted these plans and is interfering with
introduction of the Internet to the Pitcairn Island community,"  IANA

Eventually officials in London got involved. Baroness Elizabeth Symons, UK
undersecretary of state, complained in 1998 that ICANN's predecessor still
had not taken back .pn, nearly a year after the local government on the
island had protested. As evidence, Symons pointed to guidelines in

The idea of a titled member of the British nobility citing technical
documents drafted by the Internet Engineering Task Force might be ironic,
but it certainly wasn't effective. IANA director Jon Postel's death in
October 1998 delayed the process, but it resumed in October 1999 when
Christian withdrew his objections. 

Other disputes are on the horizon. American Samoa's ".as" country code is
owned by an expatriate living in the Unites States, not by the Samoan

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