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GAC Faces Scathing Complaints Over New gTLD Advice

ICANN new generic Top Level Domains logoICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee is facing scathing complaints from several applicants including Minds + Machines and United TLD about the Safeguards Applicable To All New gTLDs that were released as part of their Communiqué issued during the ICANN meeting in Beijing in April.

Minds + Machines in their submission to ICANN said they are:
deeply concerned by the lack of enunciated principles underpinning the Communiqué or any reference to ICANN by – laws , to the GNSO role in originating ICANN policy, or to the GAC’s previous advice on new gTLDs, which in places plainly contradict the advice in this section. Previously issued GAC Communiqués called for transparency of process, support for the multi – stakeholder model, support of the ICANN by-laws, and an insistence that applicants deserve to know the rules and process of the new gTLD program prior to application.

The Minds + Machine submission goes on to say they are most troubled that “the GAC Beijing Communiqué as enunciated in Section IV.1.b unilaterally expands the role of the GAC from an advisory committee, with a remit of providing advice on policy originating in the GNSO, into a policy-making body from which other members of the ICANN community are excluded. If GAC advice were followed, the new gTLD program would be changed from an objective process in which qualified applicants are granted new gTLDs into a ongoing subjective regime in which new policies and rules can be issued by the GAC on ad-hoc basis without reference to principles, rationales, or access to any appeal by affected parties – it would turn the multi-stakeholder model on its head.” Minds + Machines then recommends the Board resist the GAC’s “efforts to re-invent itself as a permanent upper house at ICANN with policy-making and veto-issuing powers that it can exercise at will, based on whatever criteria the GAC determines at the time.”

While Minds + Machines supports some of the Safeguards the GAC has outlined, they also note that:
if the Communiqué’s overreach is troubling in principle, the application of it to specific strings is terrifying in practice. We are concerned that any principles that charitable observers might discern are undermined by the choice of applications to which these principles might apply. As an example, .kids is flagged as needing safeguards for children, but .baby is not. Industry observers have recounted in detail the seemingly haphazard nature of the GAC’s categorization and choice of strings.

And then “in sum, while the Communiqué addresses several issues which should rightly concern everyone in the ICANN community, it does so in an unsystematic and confusing way, without adequate enunciation of the principles supporting its pronouncements, without reference to ongoing efforts in the GNSO, and in contradiction of the GAC’s previously stated positions. Furthermore, in arrogating to itself the role of a permanent oversight body which functions without transparency and without review, and which claims a policy-making function in violation of ICANN by-laws, the GAC Communiqué threatens the multi-stakeholder model.”

Meanwhile United TLD is equally concerned about the Communiqué. In their submission to ICANN, the company gives five reasons why the Safeguards should be rejected, including that they are concerned about three of the “Safeguards” the Communiqué calls for believing “that the GAC Advice requiring implementation of these three additional Safeguards is equivalent to imposing ‘subsequent additional selection criteria’ after the initiation of the evaluation process and therefore must be rejected.”

Further, United TLD believes the “three Safeguards completely change the nature of the new TLDs from being generic and widely available, to being ‘sponsored’ TLDs restricted only to those individuals who must prove their status or credentials entitling them to register domain names with certain extensions.”

In conclusion United TLD say they respect “ICANN’s multi-stakeholder policy development process and the role that the GAC plays in this process. For the reasons given, however, United TLD urges the Board not to require new registry operators to implement Category 1 Safeguards , Nos. 3-8 , and the Category 2 Safeguards.”