The Internet Commons : Encroached and Disputed Domain Names

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)613-638
Journal / PublicationInternational Community Law Review
Issue number5
Online published9 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


This article analyses the impact of China and, even more importantly, Chinese individuals on the governance of domain names, which form the fundamental structure of the Internet commons. Many commons exist in physical space, but increasingly, commons in digital space will be overexploited, and that is why the Internet and its interconnections, made of an unlimited number of domain names, need to be carefully regulated. Internet domain names are true economic assets which raise important legal issues in China and in the rest of the world. This article reviews the key developments in case law over the last decade with a focus on China. Interestingly, at least 35% of domain name disputes involve a Chinese responding party. The article shows that, despite being a major provider of users, China was never involved in the regulation and design of the Internet. In fact, China has rather emerged as a rule-shaker, given the large involvement of Chinese cybersquatters in the domain names case law. Fundamentally, this article shows that there is a tension between Internet control in China and global interconnection, which has had direct consequences for China's engagement with ICANN and other institutions in charge of DNS globally.

Research Area(s)

  • China's Internet Network Information Center, cybersquatting, digital rights management systems (DRS), Generic top level domains (gTLDs), Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP)