Jewish Groups Battle Over $17 Billion Kosher Domain Name

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A Brooklyn-based kosher-certification agency has created a hullabaloo among Jewish groups by trying to add the word “kosher” to the end of its Internet address.

OK Kosher Certification, a major Orthodox Jewish certification company, in November filed a request with Icann, the Internet’s organizing body, to register “dot-kosher” as a domain name. The company said in its application that it wanted the name to help it “promote kosher food certification in general, and OK Certification and its clients in particular.”

Icann – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – began accepting requests for generic top-level domains names, or gTLDs, in January 2012. The body is meeting in Duban, South Africa, this week to begin a major expansion of domain names, which are currently limited to country identifiers and 20 others, like “dot-com” and “dot-org.” The meeting may include a decision on who can operate and license dot-kosher Internet addresses.

Five other North American Orthodox Jewish organizations that deal with kosher certification, verifying that food is prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary law, have banded together to oppose OK Kosher’s application, saying the company seeks to profit from a sacred tradition that should not be over-commercialized. Last month, the Orthodox Union Kosher, Star-K Kosher, the Chicago Rabbinical Council, KOF-K Kosher Supervision and the Kashruth Council of Canada sent a strongly-worded letter to Icann urging it not to allow the use of “dot-kosher.”

Icann’s decision is likely to have a significant impact on the kosher certification industry, which the research firm Market Trend estimates is worth $14 to $17 billion. If OK Kosher is granted the domain name, it will have control over which websites can use it. The registration fee is $185,000.

OK Kosher Certification’s director, Rabbi Don Joel Levy, told Bloomberg that he has no intention of taking over the domain name, but his company’s rivals remain concerned.

In their letter, they urge Icann to apply the same logic to OK Kosher’s application that it used in rejecting “dot-islam” and “dot-halal” – Halal is the Islamic equivalent of kashrut. An Icann advisory panel last April recommended the Islamic domain names be avoided because of their religiously sensitive nature. The decision came after Saudi Arabia and other Muslim entities pressured Icann to reject a request by a company called Asia Green IT System for “dot-islam.”

Bloomberg reported that the two sides in the OK Kosher dispute met but were unable to reach an agreement. In the meantime, the five organizations behind the letter to Icann appealed to the United States Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker to intervene.

The “dot-kosher” domain name is not the only one being contested. The Internet giant Amazon failed recently in its attempt get access to “dot-Amazon,” due to objections by South American countries that the Amazon River flows through. Argentina also blocked a company from using “dot-patagonia,” given that the Patagonia region is located partially within its borders.

Kosher salmon filets sit on display inside a Costco store in New York.Credit: Bloomberg

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