Here is the transcript of our conversation with DotMusic Founder Mr. Constantine Roussos last week. Thanks to Constantine for making time to talk with us and give our listeners some terrific insight on the future of the DotMusic gTLD.
INTERNET LAW TALK – MAY 30, 2013
David: Hi everybody. This is David Mitnick. President of DomainSkate. I’m really excited about our program today. I’m here with the founder of dotMusic, Mr. Constantine Roussos. Constantine, thanks for making time today.
Constantine: Very good. Thanks for having me.
David: I really appreciate it. DotMusic, for anybody that’s looking for more information about it, it’s located on the web at www.music.us. Constantine, we’re going to talk about your application and the docMusic registry. Maybe you could just give us a little bit of background about dotMusic and how you got involved with it or how you started it.
Constantine: Sure. I got started around 2005. I was looking at the entire music industry and overall the web in regards to search. I used to do a lot of search engine optimization and a lot of affiliate marketing for a lot of brands, and I noticed that the search did play a critical role for people to find what they’re looking for in the web. This is obvious. I mean Google’s dominance has become “search”. I saw it from human problems in regards to music especially. The biggest one being piracy and secondly, people not knowing which result is legal and which result is not legal. Even if you do buy something on the web and you do put some money in there, you don’t know if that money’s going to the artist or the representative and whether that page is licensed or not. So the idea was to just create a dotMusic address similar to dotEDU in terms of building trust and enabling music fans to know that when they go to a dotMusic address that it’s legitimate and it’s safe and that they are having a sincere and true interaction with the artist it had.
The other issue that I saw was all the premium domains were taken. So a band like Kiss… Kiss.com was taken. Eagles… Eagles.com was taken. All the big bands usually don’t have their name even like Queen, even artists like Justin Bieber doesn’t own Justinbieber.com.
Constantine: So that’s another big issue. The names were unavailable. When you look at search volume, music, particular music and lyrics and the combination, the longtail is the most searched keyword on the web and it’s not even slow. The problem gets even bigger when you start combining every artist name with every artist song and you add a term like mp3 or torrent then everything—nearly all the results are illegal. There’s a reason why that happens and mostly it’s because a lot of the big brands such as iTunes use the closest you have to download their software and it’s not search engine friendly. The other ones is Spotify, etc. There is a problem and there’s only a few hundred legal sites anyway. You’re competing with thousands and thousands of pirated websites. Because it’s easy to implement and it’s pretty easy for them to get a third-party advertising on their site and get paid every time someone clicks.
Constantine: There was a bunch of inherent problems so I thought dotMusic could solve this in a manner that would benefit the entire music community. We waited a long time and ICANN said in 2008, we’re launching this process so we decided that in order to build this trust and create the adoption of the entire community, we have to apply for a community-based application. In order to do that, we decided that we need to be transparent. We need to go out there, talk about what we’re trying to do, discuss with the community about all our policies, which policies were important to the music community and we did do a lot of outreach. That’s kind of how we started this.
David: Wow. That’s really interesting. I’m curious about back in 2005. You were obviously way ahead of the curve. What was the reception for you in terms of your idea about dotMusic at that time?
Constantine: Obviously, you have to understand there’s been a lot of issues with people names whether it’s a fan taking a brand’s name or quite a lot of cyber-squatting going on as well.
Constantine: Of course, I’m a pretty much unknown guy from Cyprus that comes up with this idea and the reception was obviously who is this guy? What is he trying to do? You have to put in the context that the entire music community has been under a lot of changes given Napster and the Internet etc. Someone coming in creating a new problem, in their mind, it was obviously, you need to convince them. You have to earn your trust in order for you to be received well. You have to understand like they do have a lot of sincere and valid issues going on and of course, they need to take any such big initiative into serious consideration because it a fact that it dotMusic. It affects their entire community. The main questions with everything is how do you create this trust and how do you listen to the community and build the policies that are right for that community and that would benefit that community. That was always, just the question that we had going into this.
Of course, we’ve exchanged that our policies, some things were not implementable. We were talking about creating accredited associations where they would be like verifying the associations but that posed a host of other problems. First of all, some associations with members don’t have a database to verify again to inconsistencies, then some feared that you don’t want to share member information with their parties with some proprietary issues there and implementation problems. Some didn’t even have members. They just have users and how would you create a consistent system to verify that.
They were great ideas. I thought they were great ideas but they were not implementable. We have to make a lot of changes given the feedback that we got. Because in the end, you can say this and this and this, but when you’re talking to the community and they say hey, we don’t want to do this and because of this issue, you look back and you’re like okay, these are valid arguments. How did I not think about these things?
David: You changed a lot of things.
Constantine: Also the other issue is if you do the accredited association verification which we’re trying to get that as one of our major policy in 2011, how do you include fans and do-it-yourself artists…by definition, they do not belong to any associations and I think it’s problematic when you have to ask a music community member to join an association or an organization in order to get a domain name. Again, we didn’t think about these issues but the more we spoke to the community, the more we understood that we have to make it easy for people to register if they’re legitimate constituents of the music community without these legal implications that would negatively affect them.
David: Gotcha. Understood. Well, that’s really interesting. You’ve obviously put a lot of thought into it and from 2005, you’re extremely ahead of the curve here. I’m interested and sort of related to some of the points that you’re making in terms of changing policies, I’m thinking about how the dotMusic extension is going—what it’s going to bring to the community. What kind of innovations do you see dotMusic bringing to the artist community in terms of having an extension that represents them so directly.
Constantine: I think the primary benefit all comes from the policies and how the registry intends to launch. I think it’s all in the launch and whether it gets adopted by the entire community and the industry. I think it was important to create the policies that would accommodate that. Also was to realize that when you launch an extension, you have the opportunity of launching it under a clean slate. Once people start registering the domains, you can’t retake them back. We have the two considerations. The first consideration was how do we write the policies that facilitate creating the industry standards and music community adoption which could be used by for example search engines to say, okay, dotMusic we know is legitimate and it could be uniquely identify the signal for search engines to show that these are legitimate results. That way, there’s no excuse for Google or whoever it is to have other illegal sites above a dotMusic address. I think that benefits those search engines as well because they’re providing the most meaningful and relevant results to the users.
Incorporating policies I think are very, very useful. We look at the dotEDU model and even though it’s just the United States (Inaudible 12:15) that are accredited, the main benefit there is you go to a dotEDU site that it’s pretty much trusted and it’s gone through a process to get that address. It was ranked pretty high in the search results, but when you look them from a search engine optimization perspective, I know that a few years ago a lot of people there would be a lot of work into trying to get a link from a dotEDU pointing to their site or a dotGov website. The reason why is because first they had a lot of inbound links coming in because they were trusted. It would help the search engine like it.
The goal is how do we create the policies that would help enable one, people linking to dotMusic site because they’re relevant and meaningful and two, creating value and how do you create value created with building trust and building the right policies would accommodate legitimate results.
David: So in that sense, I sort of have two questions related to what you just said, when you’re talking about this. The first, regarding search because there have been some comments by some of the search engine folks saying that there’s not going to be an effect on search and in terms of the new gTLD. It sounds like from what you’re saying is that actually, there’s going to have to be some…if you’re going to have these trusted sites let’s say like dotMusic and legitimate bands having domains in these sites that there’s going to have to some accommodation in terms of how they rank these and if dotMusic goes and does a great job of running it’s business that it’s going to affect the search. Is that how you can see it?
Constantine: I’ll tell you that the search engine guys are precisely correct about what they’re talking about. Because just the extension alone will not get you a rank higher and I think it’s the right way to do it. The genius about the behind Google is the fact that using their pay drive methodology is that they have others wait your site. So it’s something like Wikipedia where people continue to link to Wikipedia on the web. It gets a lot of references. It’s like when you go read a book, let’s say a scientific book and you look at the back of the book and it has hundreds of references which the author used to write the book. A site the same as that. It’s all about the references and the more references, the more credible your book is. It’s same with the link or may I say in this case, the Google. How do you build the ecosystem with dotMusic to one, create the trust, get links from others pointing to your site naturally (Inaudible 15:39) and obviously, official sites or artists you get links whether it’s Google press or some other music blog sites, even fans with their Facebook or Twitter or whatnot. We did incorporate a lot of these things in our model in regards to dotMusic. It’s how do we facilitate legitimacy using what we know about what Google likes and what Bing likes and what the search engines like which is highly relevant pages.
For example, I’ll tell you some of our policies are let’s say, use policies. Where we will not be allowing parking pages unless it’s done for a legitimate purpose but not for the purpose of speaking as them and people clicking away.
Constantine: Another policy is “has to be music only” content. The content has to be related somehow to music so you can’t put content unrelated to music, for example, porn. You can’t do it. We added these policies to facilitate the highest relevant result and then we have a premium domain strategy as well. So a domain like let’s say Rock.music or Rap.music genre or a profession like Lawyer.music or whatnot, those are going to be used by the community. I would say the best way to describe it is a dynamic directory where when one gets a dotMusic address, they will be placed in premium domains. They will place themselves to the membership ID and we’ll have moderators running those properties.
Another issue that we saw which is critical was internationalizing music. If you go out to find music from a country like Chile or let’s say Kenya, it’s really hard to find that. Well, some of the music that you’ll find is Western music. One of our policies was for these country extensions and languages, let’s say, France.music or Australia.music. Those will be run by their founding, perhaps their ministries of culture or their arts council or their music export offices. We’ve done outreach to those and also music information offices. That way, in other words, the people that view were the expert of that music from that country will be moderating that extension and that premium domain. If you’ll look at our supporters you can see a lot of music information offices, ministries of culture, music export offices, etc.
We’ve put so much detail in this dotMusic launch that it all comes down to relevancy in creating an ecosystem where everyone benefits. Why should I get a dotMusic address? Hey, people can find you on a premium domain and as soon as you do purchase the domain, you’ll be found in the search results within hours or days because you’ll be found on the premium domain as well.
Our premium domain, I mean, it hasn’t been done before. Our goal is to create a community. It has to be legitimate. For us auctioning domains is very—premium domains, is not a good policy.
David: Gotcha. Interesting because it would, you know, if it’s not linking to something that’s relevant, if you’re not supporting for example the example you used Chile.music, if it’s not bringing artists and music from that community into the dotMusic space or if it’s not deemed relevant, then it’s not really enhancing your model.
Constantine: Right. Even if you do a search on the internet about discovering that kind of music, there’s not really any centralized, consistent, may I say, domain or property that does that. It’s really hard—music discovery is very difficult especially when you start getting into languages. I think it would be a really cool think to connect the community in this matter and that’s why our goal is to connect music locally whether it’s with cities or countries managed by the right people that are actually in the middle of pushing that kind of music from their region as opposed to some people that are not capable. I wouldn’t be capable to know what’s coming out of Uruguay or some other country but the ministries of culture and with people that deal with music export offices in those countries will.
So that is meaningful to them and it provides meaningful content, and again, this is something that Google will like. To answer that question, again, the search engine guys are right. Just having a TLD is not going to increase your search result. It’s how you build it.
David: I mentioned in the vetting portion, you talked about not being able to put up a parking site on a dotMusic website. How would that get policed?
Constantine: In terms of the police, we have policies and again, the community does have strength in the policing and we’ll be doing some sort of policing randomly.
Constantine: But of course, we will be implementing quite a lot of stuff in regards to copyrights etc. We’re building some technology that builds in fingerprinting. That will be one that the creators could use. We would have a spider going around the entire ecosystem and also the community members, because again, competition’s good. If people are competing against each other, they wouldn’t want a pop page or some page that’s not relevant to what they’re…
Constantine: They could just say hey, this is going on and it kind of sucks. I mean, you look at the entire Wikipedia model. This why having moderators and also the entire community involved does create tremendous value. We can do as much as we can do with technology. But again, no technology is as smart as the actual person who can obviously identify if this is right or wrong. We will be adding a whole bunch of mechanisms and it is a community-led effort and we will be working with the scommunity on a lot of these issues.
We do have policies in regards to copyright and takedowns. Those are in place in regards to dotMusic. I think it’s extremely important.
David: That’s for sure.
Constantine: We do have things like name selection policies which other don’t have. So a name selection policy is if your name is let’s say, John Smith, you cannot register your name as Michael Johnson. You have to be John Smith or an abbreviation of John Smith or your aka or you can’t just be making up names if they’re not legitimate. If they’re not like your artist name of your aka or an abbreviation or your actual name. This is part of the legitimacy part like you don’t want people squatting on other people’s names.
David: That would be devastating.
Constantine: There are two things that we noticed about the entire…all these launches that the new TLD’s that we saw over the years because a lot of the policies even the current policies or these enhanced safeguard that GAC talking about and a bunch of other people are talking about. A lot of the policies the applicants have incorporated, I think copyright is another big issue for ICANN in their guidebook. It’s not even mentioned once. It’s mostly trademark related. When you look at something like copyright, you need to make sure that that’s protected to the max or as much as you can do. When you look at the applications of a lot of people, I say most of the people, again, it’s not their fault because ICANN says these are the guidelines that you have to meet. These are the requirements and requirements have no copyright enhanced safeguard that are strong enough.
Most of the applicants look their applications and again, most of their policies are not proactive but reactive. The best example, I’ll put it in music terms. When you go online, ask anyone to go online and put an artist’s name followed by the word mp3. Let’s say, Justin Bieber mp3 or Eagles mp3 or whatnot. The chances are than 90% of the results that you’ll find are pirated results. At the bottom of that page, you’ll see a DMCA takedown notice. A DMCA takedown notice, that by the artist’s representative, they have to fill out this form or whatever they have to do, meet some criteria for the DMCA safe harbour and send that to Google or whatnot to take it down.
If you look at Google’s transparency reports and you look at music something like the RIAA or whatnot, last week, they came out and said that they had 20 million takedown requests.
Constantine: Again, these are all reactionary, right? It’s not proactive.
David: I actually did what you mentioned. I found exactly what you said.
Constantine: Just put any artist, I mean, this is part of the issues here and lot of people don’t realize what happened. I mean, if you click on those sites, the chances are you’ll find advertisers that you know. This is where people get confused. They’re like okay, this guy that we know is advertising on them. The problem is that advertising—most of these advertisers have no idea they’re on a pirated website because again, no one knows it’s a pirated website until the artist sends a DMCA notice saying this page, not the domain, the page where this contest is hosted on, is illegal. This cat and mouse game tha happens. Again, this is going to happen for something like dotMusic.
I look at a recent case of dotPW that came out. There was quite a lot of abuse on there and it just served as an indication that it if you’re going to have these policies that are reactive, that’s not good enough for a copyright. They need to be proactive. In other words, they have to be implemented in the beginning in the policy.
David: That’s really interesting and related, you mentioned GAC, the Government Advisory Committee, and a recent letter that you had responding to their sort of their Beijing Communiqué, and we don’t have that much time but I thought it was really interesting what you were talking about regarding some of the funding aspects of having something that’s open to the community. If you could just—we don’t have much time but if you could just sort of talk about that and how important dotMusic could be to the artistic artist community from a monetary perspective in terms of having an open TLD.
Constantine: I think it’s important that every constituent especially from emerging countries, you know, to have an opportunity to have a dotMusic and be able to do whatever they want to do to serve their music purpose and just have the right to do whatever they want to do. However, I believe…this is the issue, you could have one that’s closed, just as long as there’s some other alternatives as well. I mean, there’s some applicants that applied for dotMusic, dotSong, and dotTunes then its all closed. The repercussions if that gets passed and they’re the final winner for dotMusic, dotSong, dotTunes, then it ensures that no one, no music, for a constituent can ever register a music themed domain name. I think that’s pretty negative. Of course, if it’s a brand, for example, Googles branding [.chrome] for example, or Amazon is branding .kindle, that’s better. That’s okay.
David: We are going to get cut off in just a second. Thank you so much for making time. I could talk to you for a very long time and I hope that we can chat again in the future about dotMusic and the process. This has been really enlightening and really fun. I’m sorry we only had a half an hour.
Constantine: Time passes really quickly that’s for sure.
David: It does. It passes really quickly. But I hope that we can talk again and we’re going to be watching the dotMusic application and would love to chat in the future about what’s going on and how it’s moving.
Constantine: Sure. I hope in the end that dotMusic will be governed by the music community under a multi stakeholder governance and not be under one corporate and that’s the best way to do this. There’s a lot of value attached to that as I indicated earlier.
David: We really appreciate your time. It’s very compelling arguments that you make and I think dotMusic certainly seems to loom large right now in terms of the applications and we’ll be watching. Thank you again for your time. We look forward to talking to you in the future.
Constantine: Thanks for having me...