Tag Archives: National Telecommunications and Information Administrat

NTIA Asks ICANN, Nicely, To Consider Poor, Beleaguered Trademark Holders

Various arms of the US government have been asking ICANN to reconsider and even delay the introduction of new generic Top Level Domains, however the National Telecommunications and Information Administration has been reticent to criticise the organisation and has generally offered ICANN support. Until now.While not asking ICANN to stop the introduction of new gTLDs, the NTIA’s Lawrence Strickling has written to ICANN (here and here) suggesting that as they move forward with the programme’s introduction, he urges the organisation “to consider implementing measures: (i) to minimise the perceived need for defensive registrations; (ii) to implement promptly ICANN’s existing commitments for law enforcement and consumer protection; and (iii) to ensure better education of stakeholders.”The Strickling letter seems to be saying to ICANN that while we support the introduction of new gTLDs, to stop some US marketing and advertising organisations, albeit often with a global membership, complaining please publicly at least take into account their concerns.The NTIA has obviously been receiving the same barrage of complaints that several US government departments, politicians and even ICANN has been receiving mainly relating to trademark issues from the very same organisations that virtually ignored six years of ICANN’s consultation.Expanding on the points in the letter, the NTIA says that following “recent discussions with stakeholders, it has become clear that many organisations, particularly trademark owners, believe they need to file defensive applications at the top level.” The NTIA suggests “it appears that this possibility might not have been fully appreciated during the multistakeholder process on the belief that the cost and difficulty of operating a top-level registry would constrain companies from filing defensive registrations.”The NTIA also suggests ICANN should consider “whether there is a need to phase in the introduction of new gTLDS” once ICANN has been able to assess the total number of applications.Their third point notes that “it has become apparent that some stakeholders in the United States are not clear about the new gTLD programme” and Strickling urges ICANN “to engage immediately and directly with these and other stakeholders to better educate them on the purpose and scope of the program as well as the mechanisms available to address their concerns.”One could possibly read this to say the dunces that have failed to be engaged in the development process for new gTLDs despite ICANN’s multistakeholder approach need to have their hands held and explained the process. Or in the case of the Association of National Advertisers, who submitted comments around 1998 during ICANN’s extensive consultation, conveniently forgot about the whole thing for three years until after the programme was approved, some help with their amnesia.These complaints have been pursued by the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse, who unlike of the several organisations that have recently started voicing their concerns, have been involved in the process for some years.CADNA has strong reservations about the introduction of new gTLDs, the organisation wants to work with ICANN to address the issues they see.”CADNA looks forward to working constructively with ICANN, the Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Congress to make the policy better,” said Josh Bourne, President of CADNA. “With ICANN set on moving forward with the New gTLD Programme in less than two weeks, there are certain clear, straightforward changes that could be made to the policy that will improve it for businesses and the Internet community at large.”CADNA has a number of requests for ICANN including announcing when the next round of applications for new gTLDs will be, a lessening of the burden on trademark owners and improving consumer protection, “consider adopting a pricing structure where a single applicant applying for multiple gTLDs pays a reduced rate for the subsequent gTLD applications” and allowing non-profits wanting to apply for their gTLDs to participate in the Applicant Support Programme.CADNA also says The US Congress should take much-needed action to improve the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act and for the NTIA, that if ICANN is awarded the new IANA contract following its expiration in March 2012, its structure and policy development process should also be subject to an audit.

Q. What Unites Esther Dyson And YMCA? A. Opposition To New gTLDs

A representative of the Young Men’s Christian Association of the United States of America (YMCA) and Esther Dyson will appear before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation a full committee hearing on ICANN’s expansion of top level domains today (Thursday).Others who will be appearing include ICANN’s Kurt Pritz, Fiona Alexander from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), Dan Jaffe from the Association of National Advertisers and the Coalition for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight.While it is predictable that Jaffe will rant against the introduction of new gTLDs, it is to be hoped the committee will ask why the organisation has only belatedly come to the party in opposing new gTLDs.The proposal for new gTLDs has been around since the mid-2000s and the ANA has even submitted comments on the proposal around 2008. Something Robert Liodice, the organisation’s president and CEO, forgot when writing his ill-informed letter to ICANN’s CEO and president in August 2011. Embarrassingly for the ANA and Liodice, Beckstrom refuted many of the issues noted in their letter and outlined how comments including the ANA’s had been taken into account when formulating new gTLD policy.Esther Dyson is an oddity. She was ICANN’s inaugural chair and has become a vocal opponent of new gTLDs, in an article she wrote for the Project Syndicate in August that new gTLDs do not “actually create any new value.””The value is in people’s heads – in the meanings of the words and the brand associations – not in the expanded namespace. In fact, the new approach carves up the namespace: the value formerly associated with Apple could now be divided into Apple.computers, apple.phone, ipod.apple, and so on.”Dyson believes “this sounds confusing [and] that is because it is.”Possibly, on the face of it, strangest appearance will be from Angela Williams, the General Counsel of the YMCA in the US. Kieren McCarthy on his dotNXT blog has dug a little deeper. McCarthy notes that the reason they are appearing is solely because of the intellectual property lobby.”The YMCA turned up for the first time at an ICANN meeting at the most recent meeting in Dakar just over a month ago,” wrote McCarthy. “Incredibly its representative, Michael Carson, immediately became the person in charge of both communication and membership for the newly formed Not-for-Profit Operational Concerns Constituency (NPOC).””Michael’s sudden elevation is thanks to the NPOC’s chair, Debra Hughes. Debra represents the Red Cross but is viewed by some in the ICANN constituency she represents – the non-commercial stakeholders group – as a Trojan Horse for intellectual property interests.”

NTIA Outlines Concerns On gTLD Registry/Registrar Cross-Ownership

ICANN logoThe National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency of the Department of Commerce, has expressed its concerns on cross-ownership of registries and registrars for existing and new generic Top Level Domains in a letter from its Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, Lawrence Strickling.

The letter contains advice from the agency’s Antitrust Division that says “ICANN should retain its prohibition on vertical integration for existing gTLDs” except where there is no likelihood market power can be abused.

The advice says that new gTLDs “should be permitted to adopt registry agreements that allow for cross ownership” unless it is determined by ICANN “that the gTLD is unlikely to possess market power.” However the Antitrust Division deems it unlikely any new gTLD will be in the position “to possess significant market power.”

The concerns were addressed in a letter to ICANN that contained some initial advice that was requested from the US Department of Justice Antitrust Division. The letter from Strickling notes that “[i]n addition, in the Affirmation of Commitments, ICANN committed to the global community that it would adequately address a number of items, including competition and consumer protection issues, prior to implementing the new gTLD program. In light of this obligation as well as the concerns raised by the European Commission in its letter to the ICANN Board on June 14, 2011, we recommend the ICANN Board carefully consider the concerns raised by competition authorities before taking action on proposals to make wholesale changes to restrictions on cross-ownership of registries and registrars for existing and new gTLDs.”

In their advice, James J Tierney, Chief of the Networks and Technology Enforcement Section at the Antitrust Division says that to make a competitive analysis of the proposed cross ownership changes would require “a more thorough examination of the potential consumer harms” and that a “full analysis of the harms and benefits of the cross-ownership is beyond the scope of” their letter. But they raise two competitive concerns that they say warrant serious scrutiny.

One relates to price caps or other regulatory restrictions can mean firms “evade such restrictions by integrating upstream or downstream”. The example they give in the context of new gTLDs is that “a gTLD subject to a price cap could develop or purchase a registrar, grant it an exclusive contract, and exercise its market power by increasing the registrar’s price. Second, cross-ownership may allow a registrar or registry to disadvantage its rivals, foreclosing competition and harming registrants.”

The Antitrust Division say they would “expect that removing cross-ownership restrictions would lead to substantial price increases for .com, .net and .org and would likely lead to price increases for .info and .biz.”

However for existing gTLDs such as .aero, .museum, .mobi and .tel the Antitrust Division believes “cross-ownership should presumptively be allowed” unless it is determined the TLD has market power.

Concerns are expressed on trademark holders, with the Antitrust Division saying ICANN “should require all new gTLDs to take steps to minimize external costs that defensive registration will impose on owners of domains that reflect brands or trademarks.”

The full text of the letter to ICANN is available on the NTIA site here and the ICANN site here.

US Government Reviews IANA And Flags Issues For Possible Change

The US government is seeking public comment to enhance the performance of the IANA functions in the development and award of a new IANA functions contract.The call comes via a Request for Comments from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, part of the Department of Commerce. The NTIA notes “this is the first time NTIA has undertaken a comprehensive review of the IANA functions contract since the award of the first contract in 2000.”The RFC flags some interesting changes to IANA, including the possible break-up of the IANA functions, saying that “in light of technology changes and market developments, should the IANA functions continue to be treated as interdependent?”Other issues considered important are the stability and security of the DNS and whether “the current metrics and reporting requirements sufficient?”The IANA functions have historically included the following:

  1. The coordination of the assignment of technical Internet protocol parameters
  2. the administration of certain responsibilities associated with Internet DNS root zone management
  3. the allocation of Internet numbering resources
  4. other services related to the management of the .ARPA and .INT top-level domains.

ICANN currently performs these IANA roles on behalf of the United States Government through a contract with NTIA. The contract between the US government and ICANN expires on 30 September 2011 so the NTIA is seeking public comment to enhance the performance of the IANA functions in the development and award of a new IANA functions contract.Comments are due on or before March 31, 2011.More information can be found at www.ntia.doc.gov/frnotices/2011/fr_ianafunctionsnoi_02252011.pdf