Please direct all inquiries regarding CADNA membership to email@example.com.
Yesterday, ICANN affirmed that Whois is a "strategic priority" – one that is highlighted in the organization's operating plans and budgets, written about on blog.icann.org, and discussed at ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé's roundtables with industry.
The affirmation came during an ICANN webinar on Whois policy. This comes on the heels of some new Whois guidelines that are cropping up, like the Registrar Accreditation Agreement's Whois Accuracy Program Specification.
This specification will require registrars to validate and verify emails or phone numbers included in Whois data. But even as ICANN looks to improve compliance with existing policy, it's also reexamining the purpose of Whois – what was called a "clean slate" approach during the webinar.
The first item on that clean slate is a definition of "accuracy" for Whois. Webinar participants raised the need to define "accuracy" several times, mostly in the context of information and reporting portals and automated tools. However, this definition is important for the broader discussion on the purpose of Whois. An opinion on what constitutes "accurate" Whois data will depend on what you think Whois should be used for.
Defining accuracy is going to fall to the Internet community, and, as with anything ICANN related, a multitude of opinions and concerns will be voiced.
For CADNA, "accurate" Whois data would allow law enforcement and brands to pursue bad actors taking advantage of consumer confusion. "Accurate" Whois data requires putative cybersquatters to have a little more skin in the game. It also eliminates cybersquatters’ tendency to hide their identity as they wreak havoc. We're happy the issue is getting the attention it deserves and look forward to the next round.
A bill that affirms the stance of the United States on Internet governance, H.R. 1580, passed out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee this week. You may remember Congress unanimously passing a resolution on Internet governance this past December, Sen Con Res 50, which aimed at "expressing the sense of Congress regarding actions to preserve and advance the multistakeholder governance model under which the Internet has thrived." H.R. 1580 , which states that, "it is the policy of the United States to preserve and advance the successful multi-stakeholder model that governs the Internet" makes Congressional sentiment more concrete by turning it in to policy.
CADNA is encouraged by the fact that the Hill is paying attention to Internet governance and looking to make its positions more concrete. To encourage Congress, CADNA sent a letter to the Committee commending its efforts.
“As a voice for brand owners, CADNA appreciates your commitment to the preservation of an innovative and safe Internet for businesses and consumers alike,” the letter read. “National laws can provide solutions where ICANN policies fall short. Updated legislation is crucial to our economic prosperity and security. Strengthening the 1999 Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), for example, will better deter cybersquatters in an expanded domain space.”
Much work remains, however. With a multistakeholder Internet governance model comes a responsibility for each stakeholder to positively contribute to a safe and flourishing Internet. So it follows that the U.S. government should stay informed and active on Internet governance where appropriate. One way that the government can have a positive impact is to take a look at existing laws to see which can be updated to keep pace with the changing online landscape. Laws created when the Internet was a different place – just a few years ago - might not address thorny challenges brand owners and consumers face today.
In a recent letter to Dr. Stephen Crocker, the Chairman of ICANN’s Board of Directors, Lawrence Strickling recognized the progress that ICANN has made with regard to law enforcement and contract compliance in the New gTLD Program.
As The Hill reported on September 22, the Senate passed Resolution 50 early Saturday morning, prior to adjourning for a recess ahead of the presidential elections. S.Con.Res.50 is “a concurrent resolution expressing the sense of Congress regarding actions to preserve and advance the multi-stakeholder governance model under which the Internet has thrived.”
On Wednesday, May 30, CADNA attended a seminar hosted by the Free State Foundation, titled "The Multi-Stakeholder Private Internet Governance Model: Can it Survive Threats from the UN?" The seminar addressed threats to the survival of the current multi-stakeholder privatized Internet governance model, posed by competing government-control models put forward in the United Nation's International Telecommunications Union and other international venues.
The seminar featured an impressive panel of speakers: Richard C. Beaird, Senior Deputy United States Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, State Department; Robert M. McDowell, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission; Randolph J. May, President, the Free State Foundation; Jacquelynn Ruff, Vice President, International Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs, Verizon; Gigi B. Sohn, President, Public Knowledge; and Richard S. Whitt, Director and Managing Counsel for Public Policy, Google.
Many of the remarks from the speakers focused on the connection between the Internet and the economy, with Dr. Beaird opening by remarking that the Internet is vital to innovation and economic growth. Commissioner McDowell was in agreement, stating that light regulation has allowed the Internet to flourish and that the creation of an international body to regulate the Internet would actually be counter-productive, as the Internet has become an essential tool for commerce, economic growth, and development.
There was also broad consensus across the speakers that the issue of Internet governance is a bi-partisan issue and one that can only be solved with public and private sector cooperation. In his statement, Mr. Whitt remarked that global engagement will be the key and this can't become "the U.S. against the world". Ms. Sohn urged the audience that we must work with our allies, while Ms. Ruff stated that Verizon is already participating in this type of cooperation in an effort to ensure that the Internet remains globally seamless and unimpeded.
The seminar also focused on the upcoming World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) to be held in December 2012, at which Internet governance issues are expected to be addressed. Such preparations in advance of this conference will be vital to successfully making a case in defense of the preservation of the Internet's current multi-stakeholder model, despite its flaws. As evidenced by this seminar, letting control fall into the hands of a group like the ITU would be far worse.
To watch a video of the event, please go here.
We are now in the second week of ICANN’s new gTLD application period. According to a news release issued by ICANN, the first week saw 25 applicants successfully register in its TLD Application System, or TAS. As ICANN promised, the New gTLD Program is up and running exactly on schedule.
January 12, however, did not mark any sort of ending for those groups who, like CADNA, are continuing to push for constructive and achievable changes to the New gTLD Program. The fact that ICANN published yet another updated version of the New gTLD Applicant Guidebook late in the evening on January 11 shows just how willing it is to continue to make tweaks and adjustments to its policies, even this late in the game.
CADNA is continuing to explore new avenues through which to incorporate its proposed changes into the new gTLD policy, working with stakeholders within the U.S. government and with various ICANN policy-making groups. We are also redoubling our efforts to improve the 1999 U.S. Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), with the purpose of decreasing instances of cybersquatting, both in new gTLDs as well as in existing ones. Our work isn’t done, and we look forward to welcoming any new groups who would like to join us in our efforts.
On Thursday, December 8, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation will host a full committee hearing on "ICANN's Expansion of Top-Level Domains."
According to the Committee's website, the hearing will "examine the merits and implications of this new program and ICANN’s continuing efforts to address concerns raised by the Internet community." In fulfilling its role as an advocate for brand owners in both U.S. and international legislation, CADNA has been working with Commerce Committee leaders to prepare for the hearing. CADNA has provided the Committee with background information on the New gTLD Program, and has discussed various issues that may be raised during the hearing.
We understand that the Commerce Committee has selected witnesses from across a broad spectrum of interests to provide testimony at the hearing, including representatives from ICANN, the non-profit sector and the private sector. Members of the FairWinds team will be attending the hearing, and we will post a recap here on the blog later this week.
For those that will be in or around our nation's capitol on Thursday, the hearing will take place at 10:00 am at the Russell Senate Office Building room 253. Others can stream the hearing via a live webcast from the Commerce Committee's website.
On the heels of the "What's at Stake: The Reality of ICANN's New gTLD Program for Brands" conference, CADNA has submitted a proposal to ICANN asking the organization to make the New gTLD Program less detrimental to brands. Specifically, the proposal consisted of the following request:
"We ask that the ICANN Board request an Issues Report to formally initiate a policy development process to determine when the next round of new gTLD applications will occur, thereby affirming its commitment to opening a second round in a timely manner."
We believe that disclosing when it will open a second round will increase the level of transparency around the controversial new gTLD policy, but more importantly, will go a long way in relieving the anxiety many brands feel around the New gTLD Program. Right now, many brands feel forced into applying in order to remain competitive, especially considering that it is widely known that other applicants have little to gain from openly sharing their plans to apply or not. This has created a sense of chaos around the first application round.
We're looking forward to hearing ICANN's response to the proposal, and hopefully working with ICANN in the future to improve the New gTLD Program.
DotAsia, the Registry Operator for the .ASIA generic top-level domain (gTLD) recently submitted a proposal to ICANN to allow the sale of one- and two-character second-level .ASIA domains. The proposal seeks to amend the registry's original contract with ICANN, approved in 2006, which explicitly restricted the sale of all single and two-character domains. If approved, the new proposal will mean yet another, albeit familiar, headache for businesses: a sunrise period during which trademark owners will have the opportunity to register their marks before the general public. Given that .ASIA has failed to take off with Internet users, for those brand owners primarily known by one and two character monikers like GE and GM, registration with .ASIA will most likely amount to a defensive maneuver.
According to ICANN’s data, domain registrations in .ASIA have steadily declined from a high of 250,000 registrations in the spring of 2009, to under 200,000 in June 2011. Compare that to .COM, which is pushing 100 million registrations. DotAsia's proposal to expand its domain space into single and two-character domains isn’t likely to generate a significant number of new registrations or vastly increase .ASIA’s market opportunities. However, the sunrise period for trademark holders will guarantee DotAsia a small, but fresh revenue stream as companies move to protect their names.
.ASIA’s struggles are a sign that not all gTLDs are created equal. The newer gTLDs (released after 2000) like .ASIA, .JOBS. and .TRAVEL, have historically faced an uphill battle to gain footing among Internet users because they lack daily relevance and are too broad to convey an immediate understanding of what they offer. Combined, those three gTLDs total just 261,847 registrations—that represents just 0.27% of .COM domain registrations. The success of gTLDs is a particularly relevant concern as the application period for ICANN’s New gTLD Program draws closer. Organizations applying for a category-term gTLD need to consider the appeal of their potential new string and also have a clear vision for how they plan to use it.
While narrower in scope, branded new gTLDs, such as .CANON (Canon, Inc. has publically expressed interest in acquiring a new gTLD), bring with them the force of their brands as well as immediate consumer understanding. Because branded gTLDs will likely be closed to outside registrations, their success will not depend on the number of domain registrations sold. Rather, evaluations of branded gTLDs will focus on how they are leveraged to add value to Internet user experience. Category-term gTLDs, meanwhile, will need a solid outreach campaign in order to attract and retain domain registrations—or else risk joining .ASIA in the ranks of languishing, irrelevant gTLDs.
A few weeks back, we wrote about the upcoming expiration of the IANA contract between the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and ICANN. At that point, the NTIA had announced that it will be accepting proposals from potential new contractors between early November and early December of this year.
Now, the NTIA has officially issued its Request for Proposal, and it includes a few marked changes from previous iterations of the IANA contract. For one, it includes much more stringent language requiring the contractor disclose any conflicts of interest.But perhaps most surprising to some is the fact that the NTIA will now require the new contractor to be a wholly U.S. owned an operated firm or fully accredited U.S. college or university. Previously, the NTIA had only required that the contractor maintain a physical address in the U.S.
ICANN has been responsible for managing the IANA functions since 1998, but this responsibility is technically separate from its policy-making activities. If another organization is awarded the IANA contract, it could impact the way the New gTLD Program plays out. This is because the new contractor must provide documentation that proves ICANN followed its own policies to delegate and re-delegate gTLDs, as well as how the delegated gTLDs support the global public interest.
Of course, the potential strength or weakness of that provision depends on what entity is ultimately awarded the IANA contract – ICANN or another organization.