The Jew And The Carrot

The Battle for .Kosher in Cyberspace

By Michael Kaplan

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For months, top kosher certifiers have been battling over control of the word “kosher” in cyberspace. Now, the Internet’s organizing body — ICANN or the Internet Corporations for Assigned Names and Numbers for the uninitiated — has ruled that OK Kosher will own the rights to administer all dot-kosher web addresses.

Some of the Chabad-affiliated certifier’s top competitors, including the popular Orthodox Union aren’t happy about it, arguing that the move could lead to an unfair competitive advantage.

“We believe that kosher should not be owned by anyone,” Rabbi Moshe Elefant from the OU said. “It’s not like we’re trying to take this for ourselves. We believe kosher belongs to everyone, its not something that should be owned by only one entity.”

ICANN representatives have countered that by noting that the dot-kosher domain will be available to other kosher certification companies as well.

Rabbi Don Yoel Levy, CEO of OK Kosher, told the Jewish Week that the move was meant to keep dot-kosher out of the hands of business people.

“We felt it should be in the hands of a kashrus institution,” he said. “We purchased it to make sure it fell into the right hands. We’re willing to share with everybody,”

But Elefant says that ownership would allow OK Kosher to distribute domain names at their own volition.

OK Kosher paid a $185,000 application fee to gain rights to the domain and has also reserved 20 of the related domain names in advance. Keeping the rights will cost OK Kosher an additional $25,000 renewal fee.

OK Kosher did offer OU a partnership deal, but Elefant told the Jewish Week that the deal was unfair.

When the OU, signing on the behalf of five other major kosher organizations, and OK Kosher could not reach an agreement, they each reached out to co-signers to support their separate efforts. OK Kosher claims to have reached 45 backers from around the world, and OU says it has 11, according to the Jewish Week.

Elefant says the actual effects of OK Kosher control remain to be seen.

For now, opponents have filed an objection with ICANN to reconsider their decision.

“We do believe that we have a good argument, but I also can tell you that the OU is the largest kosher certification agency in the world and I think that we and our friends and colleagues who joined with us in this objection will all survive very well even if we lose,” Elefant said.


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