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Chapter 8 General-use JP Domain Name and establishment of JPRS


The five years from 1997 to 2002 was the period during which the Internet rapidly became widespread and commercialized. JPNIC and the services related to JP domain names changed significantly in response to these changes. In this chapter, we look at this five-year period in which JPNIC as a newly incorporated association created a new JP domain service in response to the market needs and promoted privatization of the domain name business.

Limitations imposed by the organization’s form as an incorporated association

As a result of long discussion and preparation, JPNIC became an incorporated association in March 1997. But this particular organizational form raised several new challenges as the Internet rapidly expanded.

The first challenge was that the registration and management of domain names had begun shifting into a commercial service. This shift was occurring mainly in gTLDs such as .com, .net and .org.

The Internet had developed rapidly from its original status as a tool for interchange and sharing of information into an essential foundation supporting communication and business. As search engines began to emerge and the creation of home pages became popular, the role of domain names grew from that of a simple identifier used in communication with other organizations over the Internet into a vital tool for online self-expression and trading.

In this period of drastic expansion in domain name demand, the JP domain was slow to sufficiently respond to the changing needs. The gTLD services, which had been commercialized fairly quickly, were expanding in Japan as powerful competitors, requiring an organizational restructure that could allow flexible judgments and provide services, responding promptly to the changing market needs.

The second challenge was that the scale of the required system became larger due to the expansion in services, and mid- to long-term large scale investment and development became necessary.

In the early days of JPNIC’s domain name and IP address management, people involved in the organization as board and committee members wrote programs for the system on a voluntary basis. Those programs were maintained and enhanced by JPNIC staff members familiar with programming.

However, the number of applications to be processed increased rapidly. The increase in the amount of data and the need for greater automation created a demand for high database performance, but JPNIC faced a limitation on the development carried out by a group of programmers acting as individuals. It therefore became necessary to create services backed by a sound organization and quality standards, and this required a major investment of time and money.

Unfortunately, “single-year accounting” was the basic rule of an incorporated association, making it difficult to amass internal reserves or make large investments over several years.

The third challenge was that the ratio of JP domain name business to the overall business of JPNIC was expected to become too large if the situation remained as it was.

The JP domain name business provides services for a charge, and was therefore classified as a “profit-making business” under the public interest corporation accounting standard. However, the applicable supervisory guidelines for organizations of this nature at that time required profit-making businesses to change over from public interest corporations to private-sector corporations. Because the number of registered domain names had consistently doubled in size, it was just a matter of time before the expansion of the profit-making business would become a problem under these guidelines.

An incorporated association is not a good fit in a competitive market where commercial companies provide services. What was needed, then, was a structure with the impetus to realize and promptly meet the market demand, in other words, an organization that had awareness of the market and provided better services continually by establishing mid- and long-term investment plans. It was considered more suitable to adopt the corporate status of a stock company in order to respond to the social demands in a competitive environment. Therefore, JPNIC moved towards establishing JPRS and introducing the concept of General-use JP Domain Names, which will be described below.


At that time, it was necessary to submit documents and go through an evaluation process to register an organizational type JP domain name, and it took several days to complete the procedure. Further, an organization could register only one domain name, and the name could not be transferred (passed on). This strict rule was very effective in deterring actions that might result in troubles or disputes, for example registering domain names for reselling purposes. However, it was actually not a convenient method for people wanting to provide information divided by services using a domain name for each service.

On the other hand, in the case of gTLDs (three domain names, .com, .net and .org, could be registered without restriction at that time), the type of qualified organization was not specified, and any individual could register a domain name. Moreover, there was no limitation on the number of domain names that a registrant could register. Documents were not required in the procedure, and as soon as a registrant provided the necessary information online, they could start to use the domain name. Thanks to this convenience, the number of registrations of gTLD names increased rapidly in the Web site creation boom.

Even for JP domain names, it was considered necessary to provide a highly convenient service satisfying users’ needs while maintaining reliability and security. However, to remove the limitation of the “one domain name per organization” rule and allow domain name transfer, measures had to be taken to prevent actions that might result in troubles or disputes regarding domain names. This had already been a big problem for gTLDs with high flexibility, and ICANN established the “Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP)” in August 1999, as explained in Chapter7.

A DRP is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) intended to be quicker and easier than court proceedings, for adjudicating disputes related to domain names that are claimed to be registered or used for malicious purposes. DRP sets clear and limited criteria to judge alleged misconduct. A procedural restriction of the DRP is that the panelists may examine only the written responses submitted by the complainant and the registrant. A complainant can only petition for transfer or cancellation of a domain name, and if a complainant seeks other remedies, including compensation, a court action is required separately.

In the discussions over the introduction of a DRP, the circumstances for gTLDs and the JP domain were totally different. In the case of gTLDs, domain name disputes were a big social problem, and the debate started to solve it, leading to the creation of UDRP. On the other hand, JP domain name was originally in a state where disputes did not occur easily. So the discussion sought a measure to control disputes with an aim to realize a service with greater availability and a higher degree of flexibility.

JPNIC set up “JP Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy Task Force (DRP-TF)” in December 1999 and started to deliberate on localization of the UDRP, with sufficient consideration for the Japanese legal system and the mediation and arbitration system, while in principle following the UDRP formulated at ICANN and maintaining international consistency[177] [178].

As a result, the “JP Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (JP-DRP)” was enacted in October 2000, and the Arbitration Center for Industrial Property (presently the Japan Intellectual Property Arbitration Center) was accredited as the dispute resolution service provider[179][180].

Subsequently, on the back of the transfer of .JP registry to JPRS, the three responsibilities of the JP-DRP were taken on by three separate parties in a so-called division of powers: JPNIC would develop dispute resolution policy, the accredited dispute resolution provider would handle disputes, and JPRS would implement the decisions (JPRS).

As the JP-DRP enabled control and ex-post processing of disputes, transfer of the JP domain names, which had basically been prohibited from the viewpoint of deterrence of domain name disputes, was liberalized. Furthermore, the JP-DRP paved the way to the introduction of “General-use JP Domain Names,” a new domain name space free from the restriction of “one domain name per organization.”

One of the main objectives of the JP-DRP is to resolve disputes when a case arises, but another important aim is to deter the occurrence of disputes in the first place. There are around 10 complaints a year in the JP-DRP, which proves that it contributes greatly to control the occurrence of domain name disputes[181].

General-use JP Domain Name

The Organizational Type JP Domain Name, corresponding to each organization type, was a basic structure of the JP domain name. However, the demand for the use of domain names for various applications in addition to those for organizations was growing stronger.

JPNIC published “JP Domain Name Grand Design 1999 (strawman proposal)” in January 1999[182].

It states the following:

The Internet has been growing remarkably in recent years and is taking root as a communication infrastructure in society. In this environment, the usage method of the Internet is changing and diversifying, and demand for domain names is also changing and diversifying. In order to respond to the changing demand, review of registration policies and domain name structure will be necessary. In addition, to respond to the diversifying demand, it is necessary to bring variety to domain name registration services and provide a range of choices to users with measures such as balancing comprehensiveness and simplicity of the services.
There is a demand for registering domain names for the entities that are difficult to legally define such as products, services or events. Therefore, we will consider expanding the domain name structure to respond to the demand.

--- JP Domain Name Grand Design 1999 (strawman proposal)

JPNIC considered expanding the domain name space by increasing the second level domain (2LD/SLD) at that time. The “dotJP Task Force” was set up in February 2000, and the new design was published as “new JP domain name” in May 2000[183] [184]. The characteristics of the proposed new JP domain name were as described below.

  • Registration at the second level in the form of ***.jp
  • The number of registered domain names per organization is not limited
  • Qualification for registration is not required (organizations or individuals are not discriminated)
  • Domain names are transferable
  • Simplified registration procedure

The “new JP domain name” was proposed as an easier-to-use domain name space to be introduced in addition to the existing Organizational Type JP Domain Name. The new space was also designed to allow the use of “Internationalized Domain Name (IDN),” for which JPNIC had been carrying out technical studies and international cooperation toward standardization. Eventually, the General-use JP Domain Name that could contain Japanese domain names (with Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana) was proposed. JPNIC made efforts toward the realization of the General-use JP Domain Name by posting the proposal for public comments[185] and discussing it with the community at offline meetings[186].

Establishment of JPRS

JPNIC published the service specifications of the General-use JP Domain Name on October 10, 2000. Then, at the JPNIC general meeting held on November 2 of the same year, it explained the plan to introduce the General-use JP Domain Name and to establish a new stock company that would provide the registry services for the new space.

But how was JPNIC to provide a better domain name service responding to social demands in the competitive market? JPNIC Working Group’s answer to this question was to establish a new stock company to which it would transfer the management and administration of domain names.

However, a number of questions were asked by the JPNIC members in the general meeting, as the explanation prior to the meeting had focused only on the service contents of the General-use JP Domain Name – the establishment of a new company was not adequately explained. It was not the intention of the JPNIC Board to bring the proposal to a vote without gaining sufficient understanding from the members, so it did not take a vote on that day and decided to postpone it to the next general meeting[187].

Following the deferment, the JPNIC Board explained the plan to members repeatedly, and finally it was resolved at the Extraordinary General Meeting of JPNIC held on December 22, 2000[188]:

  1. To establish a new company that would manage and administer the General-use JP Domain Name.
  2. To transfer the management and administration of Organizational/Geographic Type JP Domain Name to the new company after altering the JPNIC member structure and membership fee system.

Then at the close of the year, on December 26, 2000, the registration procedure of the “Japan Registry Service Co., Ltd. (now Japan Registry Services Co., Ltd.)” was completed at the Tokyo Legal Affairs Bureau. With that, JPRS as the new company was formally established.

Starting General-Use JP Domain Name Service

In parallel with the establishment of JPRS, preparation of a General-use JP Domain Name service was advanced.

On February 22, 2001, JPRS started the priority registration period, targeting the registrants of existing organizational/geographic type JP domain names and trademark holders. Then on April 2, it began the concurrent registration period, during which all applications were considered to reach the registry at the same time in order to avoid a rush of applications. These measures, taken prior to the first-come, first-served general availability, were designed by JPNIC for the purpose of avoiding confusion at the launch of the new domain name space[189] [190]. This mechanism became known all over the world as the “sunrise period,” and similar measures were taken by the other ccTLDs and gTLDs afterwards.

The general availability of General-use JP Domain Names started on May 7, 2001, and the operation of the new space on JP DNS commenced on the same day. This was the memorable day on which General-use JP domain names became available on the Internet.

Towards transfer of management and administration of JP domain name

The launch of General-use JP Domain Names was the first step for JPRS. However, JPNIC remained as the registry of the .JP top-level domain. JPRS had been operating the JP Domain Name service entrusted by JPNIC, so the next step was to transfer the role of .JP registry to JPRS.

JPNIC had an idea for a framework to ensure the public interest nature of .JP top-level domain management even after management was transferred to JPRS. In the framework, JPNIC would continue to take responsibility to ensure the public interest in .JP top-level domain by overseeing the JP domain name registry operation performed by JPRS and requiring correction as necessary; and if JPRS were to fail to perform the registry function, JPNIC would take responsibility for reassignment of .JP to a successor registry.

JPNIC defined the relationship between JPNIC and JPRS by concluding the “JP Domain Name Management and Administration Transfer Agreement” with JPRS. The agreement clearly states the establishment of the JP Domain Name Advisory Committee and data escrow as the duties of the registry. With these provisions in place, JPRS signed a contract with ICANN to be delegated the authority to manage and administer .JP top-level domain as the ccTLD registry.

ICANN was established in 1998, and IANA (which managed delegation of TLDs) then became an ICANN function, making ICANN the authority of TLDs. Around that time, ICANN was promoting a procedure to contractually ensure the relationship with each TLD registry by executing a ccTLD sponsorship agreement. A ccTLD sponsorship agreement clarifies the roles and responsibilities of both ICANN and the ccTLD registry and clearly states that delegation of the ccTLD concerned is performed under the contract with ICANN.

The movement toward transferring the .JP registry from JPNIC to JPRS overlapped with the movement of ICANN to execute the sponsorship agreements, and so the sponsorship agreement for the .JP top-level domain became a model adopted by other ccTLDs afterwards and contributed significantly to the establishment of the ICANN structure[191].

A condition of signing the agreement with ICANN was that the Japanese government stated in writing that JPNIC had served as the .JP registry till then and that the process of this particular transfer to JPRS had been progressing without problem (this was the endorsement). It was decided that the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, which had attended the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) and had a profound understanding of domain names would take charge of this endorsement. The Internet policy of the Japanese government was stipulated in the IT Basic Law[192], which was enacted in January 2001 as follows:

the private sector shall take the leading role in principle, while the State and local governments shall implement measures centered on establishing an environment where the private sector can exert its full potential, including promoting fair competition and revising regulations and other measures which address the causes that obstruct the formation of an advanced information and telecommunications network society.

--- the IT Basic Law[192]

Under this principle, the Japanese government undertook to endorse the transfer of the.JP top-level domain management to JPRS and assume the role of ensuring the public interest of the .JP registry in collaboration with JPNIC.

On January 30, 2002, the government of Japan issued the endorsement letter to ICANN. On the following day (January 31), the transfer agreement was concluded between JPNIC and JPRS. And finally the ccTLD sponsorship agreement was executed between JPRS and ICANN on February 27. As such, JPRS became the registry for .JP, the ccTLD for Japan, on April 1, 2002[193].

In this way the framework was built, where JPRS as the stock company served as the .JP registry and pursued better services in the competitive market, while the government and JPNIC as the public interest organization collaborated to ensure that .JP top-level domain management was performed in the public interest.

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[177] Establishment of “Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy Task Force” (December 15, 1999)

“Initiation of the Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy Task Force (DRP-TF) – ICANN’s Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy and its localization for Japan -,” JPNIC Newsletter No.15, December 1999

[178] “Toward adoption of ‘JP Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy’ and ‘Rules for JP Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy’,” JPNIC Newsletter No.17, August 2000

[179] The Arbitration Center for Industrial Property (ACFIP) becomes the first recognized organization for dispute resolution (August 21, 2000).

[180] “The Establishment of the ‘JP Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (JP-DRP)’ and the ‘Rules for the JP Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy,’ and the revision of ‘Rules regarding domain name registration, etc.’”

JPNIC Newsletter No.18, December 2000

[181] Domain Name Resolution Policy (DRP)/List of cases

[182] “JP Domain Name Grand Design 1999 (strawman proposal),” January 18, 1999

[183] The proposed task force regarding the future JP domain name, June 15, 2000

[184] “About new JP domain name,” JPNIC Newsletter No.17, August 2000

[185] Request for comments on “General-use JP Domain Name Policy (draft)”

[186] Notice: an offline meeting regarding establishment of General-use JP Domain Name

[187] Minutes of the 10th General Meeting (Extraordinary General Meeting) of Japan Network Information Center

[188] Minutes of the 11th General Meeting (Extraordinary General meeting) of Japan Network Information Center

[189] “Background to introduction of General-use JP Domain Name and JPRS,” JPNIC Newsletter No.19 April 2001, its evaluation

[190] Japanese JP domain names – background to deployment and circumstances

[191] ccTLD Agreements (ICANN)

[192] Basic Law on the Formation of an Advanced Information and Telecommunications Network Society (enacted in November 2000, enforced in January 2001)

[193] “Execution of ccTLD sponsorship agreement (.jp) and transfer of management and administration of JP domain,” JPNIC Newsletter No.21 July 2002

History of JPRS