ICANN concluded its week-long meeting in Nairobi on Friday 12 March with a number of notable and controversial decisions. The board meeting, the traditional final happening at its meetings held three times per year around the world, voted to defer a decision on the .XXX Top Level Domain and to scrap the Expressions of Interest Proposal for new generic TLD applicants. However they did vote to create a Trademark Clearinghouse and Uniform Rapid Suspension System to protect trademark holder’s rights in new gTLDs. But the decisions from the ICANN board were given a poor mark by Milton Mueller writing on the Internet Governance blog.
The proposal for the .XXX TLD, for adult websites, has been resurrected following an independent review that was concluded in February. The review found the decision to reject .XXX was unfair and should be reconsidered. The .XXX proposal has been hanging around ICANN for some years now, having first been approved in 2005 and then rejected two years later.
Then in 2008 ICM Registry, the .XXX applicant, filed a complaint with the Independent Review Panel (IRT). The IRT, independent of ICANN but recognised in its bylaws, concluded in its report that the decision to reject .XXX was unfair and should be reconsidered.
At the board meeting on Friday the board directed ICANN’s CEO and general counsel to finalise a report of possible process options for further consideration. This report is to be made available with options for public comment within 14 days to enable the community to provide input on the board processes.
The report will be posted for public comment and then further consideration by the board at its 38th meeting in Brussels in late June.
Expressions of Interest Process for New GTLDs
The ICANN board, in a surprise decision to many, decided to cancel the idea of calling for Expressions of Interest (EoI) for new generic Top Level Domains. It was expected ICANN would call for EoIs to gauge support for new gTLDs. This followed the call for ICANN staff to present options for the potential impact of such a process at the previous meeting in Seoul, South Korea, in December 2009.
ICANN decided that the potential benefits of proceeding with an EOI were outweighed by the costs of potential delay to the new gTLD programme.
Commenting on the decision, Rod Beckstrom, ICANN’s CEO and president, said the EoI process would have “added another step, another process, another set of community discussions and debate.”
The implementation process for new gTLDs is taking much longer than anticipated with dates for when ICANN expected to be taking applications being pushed back several times. This has created problems for would-be applicants.
Also on new gTLDs, the board decided that there will be no co-ownership of registries and those acting as registrars for any new gTLD.
Trademark Clearinghouse and Uniform Rapid Suspension System
In another development linked to new gTLDs, ICANN has agreed to establish a Trademark Clearinghouse and a Uniform Rapid Suspension System. The Trademark Clearinghouse is to be a means of protecting the rights of trademark holders in any new gTLDs that are created while the Uniform Rapid Suspension System is to be the process for suspending domain name registrations considered to be trademark abuses in new gTLDs.
“In forming this trademark clearinghouse, we’ve listened to our community about providing trademark protection,” said Peter Dengate Thrush, ICANN’s Chairman of the Board. “We’ve also adopted an extremely rapid process by which people or organisations can challenge trademark infringement.”
The board has asked for final versions to be developed for inclusion in version four of the Draft Applicant Guidebook.
Internationalised Domain Names and gTLDs
ICANN is backing away from the rule that any new gTLD string has to be at least three characters, voting in its board meeting to reconsider the requirement following public comment that this would limit the utility of Internationalised Domain Names (IDN) gTLDs in some regions of the world. A revised policy is expected in the next draft (version four) of the Draft Applicant Guidebook.
Earlier in the week at the meeting, the ICANN’s CEO and president, Rod Beckstrom made some controversial comments on DNS security.
“The domain name system is under attack today as it has never been before. I have personally consulted with over 20 CEOs of the top registries and the top registrars globally, all of whom are seeing increasing attacks and complexity of attacks and who are extremely concerned,” Beckstrom said.
However Chris Disspain, chairman of the Country Code Name Supporting Organization (ccNSO) council, was none too impressed. Disspain called Beckstrom’s comments “inflammatory”, saying:
“Your inflammatory comments to governmental representatives regarding – in your view – the precarious state of the security of the DNS, have the potential to undermine the effective and productive relationships established under ICANN’s multi-stakeholder model.
“This could cause great concern among governments regarding how elements of critical internet resources are operated and managed in their countries.
“We suggest that ICANN work with all relevant internal and external stakeholders to develop a clear analysis of the current mechanisms in place to ensure the ongoing security of the DNS. As a first step, we urge you to share with us and other stakeholders the underlying facts or studies that originally led you to make your statements.”
An interview with Rod Beckstrom on the board decisions is available from:
Writing on the Internet Governance blog, Milton Mueller says he would give ICANN “an A for effort. But on substance? Give them an F. On the .xxx issue, the Board chose to ignore its independent review panel and refused to rectify what was officially determined to be unfair and discriminatory treatment. On the vertical integration issue, it issued a needlessly biased and poorly worded resolution that was an attempt to clarify things but probably did the opposite. True to form, the board devoted most of its attention to bending over backwards to accommodate trademark interests at the expense of market diversity, as most of the resolutions passed refer to various aspects of how to protect trademark owners from the horrifying prospect of letting people register names under new TLDs. And in response to complaints that it had set the fee bar for new gTLDs too high, the Board issued a vague instruction to its Advisory Committees and Supporting Organizations ‘develop a sustainable approach to providing support to applicants requiring assistance in applying for and operating new gTLDs.'”
For more of Milton Mueller’s analysis of the outcomes of the ICANN meeting in Nairobi, check out: