ICANN has finally confirmed the date for its groundbreaking meeting with its Governmental Advisory Committee, and it doesn’t look like great news for new top-level domain applicants.
The GAC and ICANN’s board of directors will meet for a two-day consultation in Brussels, starting February 28, according to an announcement late yesterday.
Attendees will be tasked with identifying the problems the GAC still has with the Applicant Guidebook, and trying to resolve as many as possible.
The devil is in the detail, however. ICANN stated:
This meeting is not intended to address the requirements/steps outlined in the Bylaws mandated Board-GAC consultation process.
This means that, post-Brussels, a second GAC consultation will be required before the ICANN board will be able to approve the Guidebook.
Under ICANN’s bylaws, when it disagrees with the GAC, it has to first state its reasons, and then they must “try, in good faith and in a timely and efficient manner, to find a mutually acceptable solution.”
ICANN appears to have now confirmed that it has not yet invoked this part of the bylaws, and that Brussels will not be the “mutually acceptable solution” meeting.
The best case scenario, if you’re an impatient new TLD applicant, would see the second consultation take place during the San Francisco meeting, which kicks off March 13.
The board would presumably have to convene a special quickie meeting, in order to officially invoke the bylaws, at some point during the two weeks between Brussels and San Francisco.
That scenario is not impossible, but it’s not as desirable as putting the GAC’s concerns to bed in Brussels, which is what some applicants had hoped and expected.
The GAC is currently writing up a number of “scorecards” that enumerate its outstanding concerns with the Guidebook.
Mark Carvell, the UK representative, has been tasked with writing the scorecard for trademark protection. Other scorecards will likely also discuss, for example, the problem of objecting to TLD applications on “morality and public order” grounds.
ICANN’s board, meanwhile, is due to meet this coming Tuesday to agree upon the “rules of engagement” for handling disagreements with the GAC under its bylaws.
When these rules are published, we should have a better idea of how likely a San Francisco approval of the Applicant Guidebook is.
Surprisingly, the ICANN announcement yesterday makes no mention of ICM Registry’s .xxx TLD application, which is the only area where the board has officially invoked the bylaws with regards the GAC’s objections.
The Brussels meeting, ICANN said, will be open to observers, transcribed live, and webcast.