The French government has expressed its anger over the new generation of Internet domain names.
It has hit out at Icann, the American body responsible for regulating web addresses around the world, over fears that allowing anyone to create specialised domain names may harm the integrity of international trade, especially concerning highly-regarded products such as French wine and champagne.
The government is concerned about the .vin and .wine domain names announced by Icann in order to help individuals and companies make their websites stand out; which fall foul of France’s historically fierce protection of its output.
Only certain French regions are allowed to officially produce Champagne, for example, with the same rules applying to certain types of wines, such as Beaujolais and Burgundy.
Axelle Lemaire, France’s minister for digital affairs, told the Financial Times: “The problem is Icann is totally opaque, there is no transparency at all in the process.
“These decisions could imperil the current talks on the transatlantic trade partnership by forcing the imposition of a model by the means of technical discussions on internet naming.”
Earlier this year the US agreed to give up ultimate control of Icann and worldwide discussions are under way for what should replace it.
Ms Lemaire says France wants the body to be overseen by a “general assembly” including governmental representation on a “one country, one vote” basis.
Following the outcry, the European Commission, along with the UK and Spain has joined France’s call for Icann to halt the release of the two domain names, with support also coming from vintners in California’s Napa Valley. France is also calling for a wider shake-up of Icann which would allow states other than the US, which has agreed to give up total control of the body, to have a say in how it is run.
Napa Valley representative Linda Reiff, said: “The importance of protecting winegrowing place names is critical to all winegrowing regions of quality; it is not solely a European issue.
“Internet users could indeed be deceived into believing that they are buying a genuine product with specific qualities and characteristics, when they are in fact getting an imitation.”