My name is Elliot Noss. I'm the CEO and president of Tucows Inc. I'd like to thank you all for giving me the opportunity to appear here today.
I'd like to start by thanking the totality of you. Perhaps it is third time lucky, but it appears that on the third pass we have copyright reform or are at least close to it, and it looks as though it will present a fair balance for all involved. I think you all deserve a lot of credit and a lot of recognition for that.
I certainly have views up and down the elements of the legislation, but I want to contain my remarks today to a couple of key areas where we at Tucows have a specific window on the world, and I want to share some parts of our existence with you.
Tucows is a company that's been around since the dawn of the Internet. The website started in 1993. We've been partnering with service providers around the world as a Canadian company since 1995, since the dawn of the Internet. We invented wholesale domain registration. Today we are by far the largest domain name registrar in Canada, with over 1.7 million domain names registered to Canadians and, importantly, over 2,300 Canadian customers.
I'm going to spend some time describing for you who our customers are and why they matter in this discussion.
Our customers are best known as web hosting companies, ISPs, telcos, and cablecos, but there is a huge swath of that 2,300 that isn't often enough talked about or understood, and those are smaller web hosting companies, web designers, VARs, and integrators who across their businesses employ tens of thousands of Canadians.
We have about 12,000 service provider partners, but I'm just talking now about the 2,300 in Canada. These are the companies that essentially put small businesses, users, artists, and creators online and enable them to actually take advantage of all the great benefits that the Internet brings.
Sometimes, sadly, my customers are called by another insidious term: “enablers”. It is extremely important to understand the characteristics of the bulk of small business today, the bulk of users today. We all know that there is a transition in the economy to self-employment; when I'm talking about “users” now, I'm talking about people who have a daytime job and are starting a home business, people who are creators or aspiring creators themselves. They need help getting online and they need help using the tools to take best advantage of being online, whether it's registering a domain name, building and launching a website, having a Facebook page to promote what they're doing, or having a Twitter account, etc. A typical customer of ours might help 50 or 100 small businesses and end-users, and when we talk about enabler provisions, those are the people who are just simply not understood.
I love the fact that large telcos and ISPs can be well represented in the policy field and in the legal field. Tucows is a fairly small company, with $100 million in revenue. We're not very big, but we can handle what we get in terms of incoming issues around intellectual property and copyright complaints; those small businesses that I'm talking about, the ones that are the backbone of getting small business online, simply can't, which means that any enabler legislation that is too broadly drafted.... Frankly, the enabler legislation that we're seeing in front of us is the first I've seen that's narrow enough to actually give the bulk, the backbone, of that supply side for business a chance.
That was the first part that I'm going to talk about that we have intimate knowledge of, and I'm not talking about the most intimate knowledge just in Canada, but in the world. Tucows is the world leader in wholesale Internet services. We are known throughout the world as the best and biggest partner for service providers in the Internet economy, so I'm giving you a Canadian view, through a Canadian company, of a global position.
We have nearly 10% of the domain names in the generic domain names base. That also means that we see another element uniquely, which is the day-to-day practices by which intellectual property rights holders and their legal departments employ their tactics.
I'm going to give you a little window into our world.
In 2011 Tucows had over 300 complaints about intellectual property abuse. Exactly zero of them came to anything.
I want to make sure you don't think that means there is nothing wrong going on in our namespace. We have 10% of the problems if we have 10% of the registrations. We are regularly working with law enforcement and rights holders around things like phishing, child pornography, drugs, etc., but what we see as the typical practice for intellectual property rights holders, sadly, is to yell and threaten first and to do everything they can to intimidate.
I have to deal in the ICANN context, which is the global domain name regulator, so I deal with intellectual property representatives from around the world—WIPO, etc. When I raise this issue with them, they don't deny it and they don't question it; they describe it as good practice. They say, “We are simply representing our clients' interests, as we should be.”
I don't question that, but when you all are looking at the enabler legislation that you're going to put into this bill, you need to remember that those are sharp knives. Those small businesses—the five-man or 10-man web hosting shop, or the two-man web design shop—are not going to be able to do anything but fold like a cheap tent when they're confronted with demands.
I want to circle around to the top and thank you all again. I want to note for you that the Internet is the greatest agent of positive change that the world has ever seen—greater than the printing press, and certainly greater than television or the telephone. It is a platform for the future. Balanced public policy here won't be felt in three months or in a year; it'll be felt in five years and 10 years.
Canada, right now, has a rich creative landscape. I'm going to give you all a free tip. You're obviously interested in this subject matter. If any of you have teenage daughters, I'm going to kill two birds with one stone for you: take your daughter to see the Justin Bieber movie Never Say Never. There are two reasons: one, she will love you for it; two, you will see what is acknowledged by Guy Kawasaki, a Silicon Valley legend, as the greatest movie on social media made to date. Canada's biggest recording star didn't get there because of labels; he got there because of user-generated content and a free and open Internet and the platform that all of that creates.
I know that I'll be the only person speaking about the tens of thousands of employees of those thousands of small businesses who represent millions of Canadian users in saying, “You've got a balance now; please keep it”.