ICM Registry Wins Review of .XXX Application, Hopes To Offer Names in 2010

Posted in: Domain Names at 23/02/2010 23:15

ICM Registry, the applicant for .XXX generic Top Level Domain, hopes to begin offering .XXX domain names in 2010 following an independent review of its application to, and subsequent refusal by, ICANN.

The rejection of ICM Registry's application was always controversial, however the first ICANN Independent Review Process decision since the process was introduced six years ago voted two to one to advise the ICANN Board to reconsider the .XXX gTLD at its next meeting.

The review panel found that ICANN's handling of ICM Registry's application to run the .XXX top level domain violated ICANN's Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation, as well as international and California law. It should be noted that the holdings of the Independent Review Panel are advisory in nature and that they do not constitute a binding arbitral award.

ICANN's CEO Rod Beckstrom has been prompt in noting the decision and that ICANN will address the issue at its next meeting. However others have been critical saying ICANN needs to approve the .XXX gTLD and move on.

"The solution is simple," said Liz Williams succinctly on the ICANN blog commenting on Beckstrom's statement on the decision, and summing up what others said. "Give ICM its contract to which it was entitled years ago and move on with the very best improvements that you could make to ICANN -- being absolutely accountable for past errors and getting the future right. That is what your legacy will be."

Interestingly, Kieren McCarthy has noted that the current ICANN chair, Peter Dengate Thrush originally wanted to vote in favour of approving ICM's application and was critical of the approval process and was very critical "of the reasons given in the Board resolution for not allowing dot-xxx, and even goes so far as to say that they presented a 'particularly thin argument,'" McCarthy notes. At the time Dengate Thrush said "I'm going to vote against this resolution and, in fact, I sought to move a motion in favor of adopting this applicant."

ICANN and ICM were notified of the decision by the American Arbitration Association's International Center for Dispute Resolution on 19 February 2010. The Independent Review Panel, which was constituted pursuant to ICANN's Bylaws, found that the ICANN Board's vote on ICM's application on 1 June 2005 reflected the Board's determination that the application "met the required sponsorship criteria," and that reconsideration of that finding by the Board was "not consistent with the application of neutral, objective and fair documented policy," as required by ICANN's Bylaws.

The Panel found "grounds for questioning the neutral and objective performance of the Board" during the registry agreement negotiations with ICM, and further suggested that the Board, motivated in part, by "[t]he volte face in the position of the United States Government" had breached "its obligation not to single out ICM Registry for disparate treatment." Additionally, the Panel declared unequivocally that, in light of its founding history and global responsibilities, ICANN must operate in conformity with relevant principles of international law. The Panel determined that within an IRP, the actions of ICANN's Board must be reviewed objectively and should not be afforded special deference. As a result of all of these holdings in ICM's favour, the Panel declared ICM the prevailing party in the dispute and assigned responsibility to ICANN, recommending they pay approximately $478,000 to cover the costs of the process.

ICMs's Chairman, Stuart Lawley, described the decision as "a victory for ICM Registry and for the ICANN model of private sector management of the Domain Name System." According to Lawley "ICANN established the review process as part of its system of accountability to all 5970537 Internet stakeholders. As an aggrieved party, we invoked ICANN's procedures, expended a lot of resources, and fought hard for our rights. The Panel took its job very seriously. The Panellists studied everything that the parties submitted and listened to the witnesses very carefully during the course of a week long hearing in Washington, D.C. And they have now issued a detailed ruling in ICM's favour. We believe that ICANN's new leadership has the vision to embrace the decision as an opportunity to strengthen the ICANN model and comply with the rule of law. We commit to working with them in partnership and cooperation to that end. We are eager to execute a registry agreement, complete the build out of our business, and implement the vision that started all of this over 6 years ago. Too much time has been lost and resources wasted -- from both sides -- already."

ICM Registry has also started to take reservations for .XXX domain names on their website.

So now it's over to ICANN to consider the issue at their Nairobi meeting in March.

For more reading see:
icann.org/en/irp/icm-v-icann/irp-panel-declaration-19feb10-en.pdf [decision]



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