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Governments expand gTLD objection shortlist

Kevin Murphy, April 2, 2013, 14:30:04 (UTC), Domain Policy

With the start of its meetings in Beijing just a couple of days away, ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee has handed out clues as to which new gTLDs it might object to.

The GAC says that 20 specific bids have already been put forward by one government as potential recipients of GAC Advice, but that there are nine broad categories of concern.

Some of the categories seem to obviously apply to certain narrow types of gTLD, while others are broad enough to catch almost any bid the GAC doesn’t like the look of.

Any application that receives adverse GAC Advice at the end of the Beijing meeting faces, at the very least, a prolonged approval process along the lines of what .xxx had to endure.

The worst-case scenario is rejection of the bid by the ICANN board of directors.

These are the GAC’s categories, along with some educated guesses about which strings they could apply to:

  • “Consumer protection” — could apply to anything, depending on how well-lobbied the GAC has been by a particular interest group. Any gTLD that could implausibly be argued to increase the risk of counterfeiting may show up here. A liberal interpretation could well capture .music or sports-related strings.
  • “Strings that are linked to regulated market sectors, such as the financial, health and charity sectors” — Dozens of applications, such as those for .lawyer, .doctor, .health .bank, and .charity — will fall into this category.
  • “Competition issues” — This most likely applies to applications for category-killer dictionary words where the applicant is already a dominant player in the relevant market, such as Google’s bid for .search or Amazon’s for .book.
  • “Strings that have broad or multiple uses or meanings, and where one entity is seeking exclusive use” — Again, this could apply to the many controversial “closed” gTLD applications.
  • “Religious terms where the applicant has no, or limited, support from the relevant religious organisations or the religious community” — I suspect that the the Vatican’s application for .catholic is less at risk than a Turkish company’s bid for .islam. Any Islam-related domains are likely to fail the “support” test, given the lack of centralized control over the religion.
  • “Minimising the need for defensive registrations” — A category that seems to have been specially created for .sucks.
  • “Protection of geographic names” — Most probably will be used to kill off DotConnectAfrica’s application for .africa and Patagonia Inc’s application for .patagonia. But will Amazon’s dot-brand bid also fall foul?
  • “Intellectual property rights particularly in relation to strings aimed at the distribution of music, video and other digital material” — If the GAC buys into the lobbying and believes that an unrestricted .music or .movie gTLD would increase piracy, expect objections to some of those bids. The GAC doesn’t have to provide a shred of evidence to support its Advice at first, remember, so this is not as ludicrous a possibility as it sounds.
  • “Support for applications submitted by global authorities” — This is a newly added category. If the GAC is proposing to submit advice in support of one application in a contention set, there’s no mechanism ICANN can use to ensure that he supported applicant wins the set. The Advice may turn out to be useless. Certain sports-related applications are among those with “global authority” backing.
  • “Corporate Identifier gTLDs” — Not, as this post originally speculated, dot-brands. Rather, this applies to the likes of .inc, .corp, .llc and so on.
  • “Strings that represent inherent government functions and/or activities” — Expect military-themed gTLDs such as .army and .navy to feature prominently here. Could also cover education and healthcare, depending on the government.

The GAC also plans to consider at least 20 specific applications that have been put forward as problematic by one or more governments, as follows:

Community name where the applicant does not have support from the community or the government: 1

Consumer protection: 2

Name of an Intergovernmental Organisation (IGO): 1

Protection of geographic names: 9

Religious terms: 2

Strings applied for that represent inherent government functions and/or activities: 3

Support for applications submitted by global authorities: 2

ICANN plans to formally approve the first batch of new gTLDs, with much ceremony, at an event in New York on April 23, but has said it will not approve any until it has received the GAC’s Advice.

The GAC is on the clock, in other words.

While it’s been discussing the new gTLDs on private mailing lists since last year’s Toronto meeting, it’s already missed at least self-imposed deadline. The information released today was due to be published in February.

While the ICANN Beijing meeting does not officially begin until next Monday, and the rest of the community starts its pre-meeting sessions at the weekend, the GAC starts its closed-session meetings this Thursday.

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Comments (1)

  1. Dave Tyrer says:

    With reference to ‘consumer protection’, ‘regulated market sectors’, ‘competition’, ‘exclusive use’ and ‘intellectual property rights’ another major issue with the proposed closed gTLDs is emerging.

    That is, exactly who precisely is excluded from a string and what prior rights those entities possess.

    I think my first awareness of the profound significance of this came after reading the US Postal Service’s objection to a closed string proposal for .mail on the ICANN closed generics forum. Excerpt:

    “The Postal Service also notes that the operation of a (dot)mail registry in a closed manner would potentially restrict its rights and interests in the following ways:

    “(1) the USPS would not be able to obtain a Sunrise Registration for terms which are otherwise eligible… For example, the Postal Service owns a longstanding registration for Priority Mail®, but would not be able to secure a second level registration for http://www.prioritymail.mail...

    “(2) UDRP remedies would be restricted. For example, in connection with the USPS registration for Priority Mail®, if a (dot)mail closed registry launches and a third party that is an approved business partner of the closed registry (as provided for in one of the (dot)mail closed applications) obtains a registration for http://www.priority.mail... in bad faith, the USPS, even if able to prove all the necessary elements in a UDRP proceeding, would not be able to obtain the transfer of the infringing domain without qualifying as an ‘approved business partner’ of the registry owner…”

    So even though US Postal owns a mark for Priority Mail® they theoretically will not be able to purchase Priority.mail, nor even obtain that name via UDRP in the event that name is operated by some kind of fraudster.

    Moving on to such regulated categories as cited by DomainIncite: “.lawyer, .doctor, .health, .bank, and .charity” and the like, the question arises as to why regulators and governments and organizations and NGOs like the Fed, Bank of England, UNICEF, the Red Cross, the FBI, Reserve Bank of Australia etc etc will apparently all be prohibited from registering names in any of the closed generics. Even the regulators who regulate those industries will be excluded.

    Take a look at this edited excerpt from the American Insurance Association’s objection to Progressive Casualty Insurance Company’s (since withdrawn) application to operate .insurance as a closed string:

    “…it is clear… that the applicants do not intend to obtain and operate these gTLDs for the benefit of the larger community, but instead to gain exclusive control of a key industry term for a TLD to the exclusion of the other companies (and trade groups) in the community. Accordingly… granting such closed generic TLDs would have a significant anti-competitive effect on this industry. In addition, the government agencies that regulate the business of insurance will also be excluded from using these insurance-based TLD strings or similar gTLD strings.”

    ————————————————-
    Q U O T E

    “…The government agencies that regulate the business of insurance will also be excluded from using these insurance-based TLD strings…”

    AMERICAN INSURANCE ASSOCIATION
    ————————————————-

    The possibilities and implications go on and on.

    As another specific example, I looked at the Weather Channel’s application to operate .weather as a closed string. Hypothetically, organizations like NASA and the Met Office and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration etc etc will all be prohibited from registering a .weather domain. Hypothetically, peoples’ lives could be put at risk if for example, the best possible information wasn’t available at NorthSea.weather.

    I’ve published more about the public interest aspect of all this at SuperMonopolies:

    http://www.supermonopolies.com/dot_misc_1.html

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