The European Commission has issued a list of 58 new gTLD applications it considers problematic, thumbing its nose at ICANN’s procedures for handling government objections to new gTLDs.
The list, sent to all applicants this afternoon, draws in several applications that were not already subject to Early Warnings from other GAC nations, including .sex, .sexy and .free.
Remarkably, the cover letter says that the gTLDs are not “Early Warnings” as described by the ICANN Applicant Guidebook and says the Commission may continue to work outside the established process in future:
The position outlined in this letter is without prejudice to any further action that the Commission might decide to undertake in order to safeguard the rights and interests of the European Union and of its citizens.
For the sake of clarity, the Commission does not consider itself legally bound to the processes, including the means of recourse, outlined in the new gTLD Applicant Guidebook and/or adopted by ICANN, unless a legal agreement between the latter and the Commission exists.
While that’s little more than a statement of fact — governments are of course free to do whatever they want in their own jurisdictions — it’s giving applicants much more reason to be nervous.
Even if they don’t receive GAC Advice against their applications, the EC may decide to take other action against them.
The fact that the letter also explicitly states that the warnings are definitely not official Early Warnings — meaning applicants on the list won’t even qualify for the extra refund if they drop out — sends a worrying signal that the EC is not in the mood to play by ICANN’s rules.
As for the list itself, the Commission’s letter states that it’s “non-exhaustive” and that it focuses on bids that “could possibly raise issues of compatibility with the existing legislations (the acquis) and/or with policy positions and objectives of the European Union”.
The fact that the list contains ICM Registry’s .adult and .sex applications, but not its identical .porn bid, seems to confirm that the list does not cover all the gTLDs the Commission has a problem with.