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Euro govs livid as ICANN takes .wine off ice

Kevin Murphy, June 22, 2014, 10:53:46 (UTC), Domain Policy

The new gTLD applications for .wine and .vin are now live again, raising the ire of European governments.

ICANN chair Steve Crocker has written to the European Commission, along with the governments of France, Spain and the US that the three applications are once again being processed.

That’s after a 60-day temporary freeze, ostensibly in order to give the governments more time to push applicants for geographic indicator protections, expired earlier this month.

Geographic indicators are terms such as “Champagne” and “Bordeaux” which are protected under European law — they have to be produced in those regions — but not in the US and other non-EU countries.

France is expected to point to the .wine controversy as evidence of how ICANN is deficient as an organization.

“The problem is it is totally opaque, there is no transparency at all in the process,” Axelle Lemaire, minister for digital affairs, told the Financial Times today.

France also reckons ICANN’s decision will impact transatlantic trade negotiations unrelated to the domain name industry, the FT reported.

Lemaire’s comments about transparency are odd, given that pretty much the entire debate — whether in person at ICANN meetings or through correspondence — has been put on to the public record by ICANN.

The issue seems to be rather than the ICANN process does not give national governments a means to push their agendas onto the industry unless all participating governments agree.

The Governmental Advisory Committee was unable to come to a consensus on .wine and .vin — EU states wanted strong protection for GIs, but the US, Canada and Australia disagreed.

Lacking GAC consensus, ICANN had no mandate to act on requests for individual government requests.

But when its board decided to move ahead on the new gTLDs in March, the GAC noted that its process for making the decision may have broken its bylaws.

The EC, UK, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Luxembourg and Switzerland then filed formal Requests for Reconsideration with ICANN, asking for the decision to be overturned.

Those RfRs were rejected by ICANN’s Board Governance Committee a month ago.

Last week Crocker wrote to governments on both sides of the debate to confirm that, with the 60 days expired and no outstanding GAC advice, .wine and .vin will proceed to contention resolution and contracting as normal.

The letters are all pretty much the same, with Crocker explaining the process to date and suggesting again that ICANN be not be the best forum for governments to hash our their disagreements over GI protections.

Crocker told (pdf) EC vice president Neelie Kroes:

should the GAC be in a position to provide any additional advice on this issue, we would welcome it. Similarly, should governments succeed in resolving these issues in other global trade fora such as the WTO [World Trade Organization] that, too, will be taken into account.

Expect the debate to continue this week at ICANN 50, the public meeting that kicked off in London yesterday.

The EU and its most-affected member states are not going to let this die.

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Comments (4)

  1. Rubens Kuhl says:

    Europe changed its tactic for this issue: they are now agreeing (in speech, at least)) with the US that ICANN is not the forum for these discussions. What they are trying to do though is to make ICANN to wait for those discussions before contracting with .wine/.vin. It’s a clever tactic, but it remains to be seen if it will work or not.

  2. Nicola says:

    “Geographic indicators are terms such as “Champagne” and “Bordeaux” which are protected under European law — they have to be produced in those regions — but not in the US and other non-EU countries.”

    They are also protected for wines and spirits outside of the EU through the WTO TRIPS agreement (http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/trips_e/gi_background_e.htm), but the WTO hasn’t agreed to extend beyond wines and spirits.

  3. Tony Dag says:

    Kevin,
    Friendly suggestion…
    Would be useful if, going forward, you define certain acronyms on first use. I know the industry is ripe with acronyms and certainly don’t need to define the obvious ones. But in this article, I would have written, “Geographic Indicators (GIs)…” to define. Even more useful since “indicators” isn’t caps, not an obvious acronym. Food for thought. Cheers.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      I see where you’re coming from. I do occasionally use parentheses to explain acronyms, but not as a matter of house style.

      There are so many acronyms, as you point out, that the articles could quickly become cluttered and unreadable.

      I’ll keep it in mind for the less frequently used ones though, cheers.

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