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ICANN Not Currently Planning to Place URS Providers Under Contract by Philip Corwin, Internet Commerce Association

Internet Commerce Association logoOn Wednesday, October 3rd ICANN held a ninety-minute webinar on implementation of the Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) rights protection mechanism (RPM) for new gTLDs.  More than a hundred individuals participated.

In response to a question posed by ICA Counsel Philip Corwin, ICANN executive Kurt Pritz stated that ICANN was looking to the current UDRP model, in which ICANN accredits arbitration providers to extinguish or transfer domains without placing them under a standard and enforceable contract – but that the contract issue could be discussed further during the URS implementation briefing session scheduled for Thursday, October 18th at the Toronto ICANN meeting. (Note: Under the current model an adverse URS decision would lead to domain suspension and non-resolution, but not to transfer).

Corwin pointed out the STI-RT consensus URS model unanimously adopted by the GNSO Council and the ICANN Board specifically recommended that URS providers be placed under contract. ICA has long taken the position that since ICANN’s only real power is derived from contract enforcement, that developing a standard contract is the only way to assure uniform administration of the URS and prevent forum shopping by complainants.

The webinar discussed a list of potential alterations of the URS model based upon the assumption that the current model cannot be offered at the desired price target of $300-$500 per filing. But, other than the perhaps self-serving feedback of existing UDRP providers, ICANN has no documentation or analysis justifying that assumption. The Request for Information (RFI) soliciting bids from potential URS providers was just issued on September 24th and bids will not be received late November.

As the webinar proceeded there appeared to be a consensus among participants that a new working group to consider modifications should not be convened until the actual price of providing decisions in the slam dunk, black-and-white instances of cybersquatting targeted by URS was tested in the marketplace by competitive bidding – and that, even then, it might be better to subsidize the cost at least in the short term rather than consider significant alterations

Of course, market testing will require responses from a broad range of potential providers. In this regard, Corwin asked whether ICANN was proactively making qualified arbitration providers beyond the ranks of existing UDRP providers aware of the RFI and encouraging their bids. ICANN executive Olaf Nordling responded “We will, we’ll try, but it’s not like we have a massive market”, a not altogether encouraging perspective. However, toward the end of the webinar Kurt Pritz stated that ICANN agreed with the need for publicizing the opportunity presented by the RFI and would work with its communications group toward that end.

The majority of the call discussed a number of possible URS changes under the broad categories of limiting panelist involvement, automation and simplification, financial subsidy, and an additional appeals mechanism via an ombudsman. However, other than a general agreement that webinar participants were unenthusiastic about forming a working group to consider changes before the RFI responses illuminated real world pricing, and that at least short-term financial subsidization was worth considering as an alternative to delay and controversy–inducing changes, no clear consensus emerged on any potential alterations of the current model.

ICA will continue to monitor this issue closely and plans to be an active participant in the Toronto URS session.

This article by Philip Corwin from the Internet Commerce Association was sourced with permission from:
internetcommerce.org/URS_contracts