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Tech Giant Amazon Won Legal Battle For Its Domain Name But What Does That Mean For South America

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Online retail giant Amazon has prevailed in a controversial domain name legal battle with Amazon, the geographic region in South America. This past month, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) sided with Amazon to win the rights to the “.amazon” domain name.

The decision comes after a seven year dispute with more than a half dozen countries including Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil and Bolivia. The countries argue that Amazon should not have the rights to the name as it is also an important geographic region in their continent. They are also backed by the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organisation (ACTO), a group promoting the development of the Amazon Basin.

While Amazon is the world’s biggest online retailer, it’s also the name of the world’s largest rain forest.

The presidents of Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia- Martin Vizcarra, Ivan Duque, Lenin Moreno and Evo Morales , have called the decision “inadequate governance of the internet.” The core of their argument is a cultural and symbolic stance on what the term “amazon” represents.

The countries objecting Amazon’s move worry that a corporation symbolically taking control of a name associated with their heritage sets a precedent for future similar scenarios. They also worry they would lose tourism revenue and opportunities to use trip.amazon, hotels.amazon and other domain names.

The case sets “a grave precedent by prioritizing private commercial interests above the considerations of state public policies, the rights on indigenous people and the preservation of the Amazon,” Vizcarra, Duque, Moreno and Morales said in a joint statement.

Amazon had tried to get the countries to drop their challenge for years.

Amazon has had multiple attempts to get the ACTO to drop their complaint. One of these attempts included offering $5 million in gift cards to Brazil and Peru, the ACTO member states who originally filed the complaint. But the offers were declined.

Fahim Naim, a former category manager at Amazon, told Retail Dive that while this legal case might not be a big deal to some outside the U.S., it’s important in South America.

“I’m not sure the average U.S. customer is going to care enough, but from a South American perspective, Amazon is fighting with these seven or eight South American countries, you have the foreign minister of Brazil publicly objecting, and Amazon, by the way, just launched in Brazil,” Naim said. “I can imagine that, if you’re a Brazilian, throw in the whole angle that they are demeaning the rainforest, you’re less likely to consider shopping there.”

Many are criticizing the decision because of what the name represents to the various regions in South America.

Many are upset that an online retail giant like Amazon has continued to take over many properties, and now the name of a region. One user called the decision “colonial” and a “a slap in the face to early internet promises of global representation + shared power.”

The next move in the dispute will be a 30-day period of public comment.

ICAAN said that it “remained hopeful that additional time could lead to a mutually acceptable solution regarding those applications. But at this time the ACTO and Amazon “were unable to come to a mutually acceptable solution or agree on an extension of time for continued discussions.”

As part of Amazon’s agreement terms with the domain, the retailer will not register any .amazon domain names with “a primary and well-recognized significance to the culture and heritage of the Amazonia region.” It will also provide up to nine domain names for countries to use for non-commercial purposes to “highlight the region’s culture and heritage.”

While there have been disputes over domain names in the past. Rarely has a company faced off against multiple countries for a name.

“It’s not the classic issue of two different parties applying for the same name,” Rodrigo de la Parra, the regional vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean at Icann, told the New York Times. “The governments didn’t apply for .amazon — they only have concerns about its usage by a private company given its cultural and natural heritage for the region.”

READ: Here’s Why Housing Advocates Are Warning Against Amazon’s Impact On Affordable Housing

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