U.S. Supreme Court Dismisses Domain-Name Fee Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has given a legal victory to Network Solutions Inc. (NSI) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), upholding a lower court decision that had dismissed charges that domain-name registration fees were excessive and violated antitrust laws.

The court action, on Monday, concerned a 1997 lawsuit filed by six parties that had registered domain names. A federal appeals court last May sided with the defendants on nine of the 10 counts, but agreed with the plaintiffs that some $46 million NSI had collected from customers was illegal. NSF wanted to use this money for Internet improvements.

Registering a domain name had cost $100 for two years prior to early 1998, but when the NSF stopped seeking the additional fee, $30, the two-year registration fee was reduced by that amount. NSF said its decision not to collect the fee wasn't the result of the lawsuit, but the fact that there was sufficient money in the Internet infrastructure fund to meet its goals. In 1998, Congress retroactively authorized the collection of the fee.

Herndon, Va.-based NSI spokesman Brian O'Shaughnessy said the issue only tangentially involvedthe company. "We never had control over the money; the money essentially went to the NSF."

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