ICANN seems to have changed its mind about requiring Uniform Rapid Suspension providers to sign enforceable contracts, angering the Internet Commerce Association.
As we reported in May, the ICA claimed a victory when ICANN said in a written answer to its persistent inquiries that URS providers would be bound by contract.
An ICANN Q&A, referring to a question the ICA’s Phil Corwin asked at the ICANN meeting in Beijing, said:
[Q] As regards Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) providers, will there be a contract developed that goes beyond the non-enforceable memorandum of understanding? Will there be other URS providers?
[A] Yes, a contract is being developed and additional URS providers will be added.
It’s difficult to interpret that as anything other than “Yes, a contract is being developed.” The fact that the question draws the distinction between a contract and an MoU seems to remove any ambiguity.
But at the ICANN 47 meeting in Durban last week, ICANN appeared to backtrack on this position.
During a URS demo session, gTLD registry services director Krista Papac said that URS providers will only have to agree to an MoU.
“This breach of a written commitment is unacceptable,” Corwin later said at the Public Forum on Thursday.
In response, ICANN deputy general counsel Amy Stathos said:
An MoU is a contract. I recognize that you don’t necessarily recognize that as the full contract that you were contemplating or that had been contemplated. But that is a contract. And it calls and requires the URS providers to comply with all the rules and procedures that are in the Guidebook.
On Friday, ICANN then published a (hastily written?) document that sought to spell out its position on contracts for URS and UDRP providers. It says:
ICANN has carefully considered whether the introduction of contracts is feasible or useful in the scope of UDRP proceedings, and has determined that contracts would be a cumbersome tool to assert to reach the same outcome that exists today.
It goes on to address some of the concerns that the ICA and others have put forward in the past. The organization, which represents big-volume domainers, is worried that some UDRP providers find more often in favor of complainants in order to secure their business. Enforceable contracts, it says, would help prevent that.
ICANN said in its new position statement (pdf) that it has never seen behavior from UDRP providers that would require it to take action, but added:
Of course, there is always the future possibility that an issue of non-compliance will arise that will require corrective action. In recognition of that potential, ICANN commits that substantiated reports of UDRP provider non‐compliance with the UDRP or the Rules will be investigated.
Contracts, it said, would not stop forum shopping.