Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

US wants veto power over new TLDs

Kevin Murphy, January 29, 2011, 18:30:22 (UTC), Domain Registries

The United States is backing a governmental power grab over ICANN’s new top-level domains program.

In a startling submission to the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee, a copy of which I have obtained, the US says that governments should get veto power over TLDs they are uncomfortable with:

Any GAC member may raise an objection to a proposed string for any reason. If it is the consensus position of the GAC not to oppose objection raised by a GAC member or members, ICANN shall reject the application.

In other words, if Uganda objected to .gay, Iran objected to .jewish, or Egypt objected to .twitter, and no other governments opposed those objections, the TLD applications would be killed off.

The fate of TLDs representing marginal communities or controversial brands could well end up subject to back-room governmental horse-trading, rather than the objective, transparent, predictable process the ICANN community has been trying to create for the last few years.

The amendments the US is calling for would also limit the right to object to a TLD on “morality” grounds to members of the GAC, while the current Applicant Guidebook is much broader.

The rationale for these rather Draconian proposals is stability and “universal resolvability”.

The worry seems to be that if some nations start blocking TLDs, they may well also decide to start up their own rival DNS root, fragmenting the internet (and damaging the special role the US has in internet governance today).

The US also wants TLDs such as “.bank” or “.pharmacy” more closely regulated (or blocked altogether) and wants “community” applications more strictly defined.

In the current ICANN Applicant Guidebook, any applicant can designate their application “community-based”, in order to potentially strengthen its chances against rival bids.

But the US wants the Guidebook amended to contain the following provisions:

“Community-based strings” include those that purport to represent or that embody a particular group of people or interests based on historical components of identity (such as nationality, race or ethnicity, religion or religious affiliation, culture or particular social group, and/or a language or linguistic group). In addition, those strings that refer to particular sectors, in particular those subject to national regulation (such as .bank, .pharmacy) are also “community-based” strings.

In the event the proposed string is either too broad to effectively identify a single entity as the relevant authority or appropriate manager, or is sufficiently contentious that an appropriate manager cannot be identified and/or agreed, the application should be rejected.

In practice, this could potentially kill off pretty much every vertical TLD you can think of, such as .bank, .music and .hotel. How many industries have a “single entity” overseeing them globally?

While the goal appears to be noble – nobody wants a .bank or .pharma managed by hucksters – the Community Objection procedure in the Guidebook arguably already provides protection here.

The US also wants the policy allowing the vertical integration of registries and registrars reining in, for TLD applicants to justify the costs their domains will incur on others, and a dramatic overhaul of the trademark protection mechanisms in the Guidebook.

In short, the US wants the new TLDs program substantially overhauled, in ways that are certain to draw howls of protest from many in the ICANN community.

The document does not appear to be official GAC policy yet. It could well be watered down before the GAC meets the ICANN board in Brussels at the end of February.

ICANN said earlier this week that it plans to approve a Guidebook “as close as practically possible” to the current draft, and heavily hinted that it wants to do so at its San Francisco meeting in March.

But if many of the US recommendations were to make it through Brussels, that’s a deadline that could be safely kissed goodbye.

Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Comments (15)

  1. andrew says:

    Nice find. I suspect someone will file a lawsuit against ICANN between now and the next board meeting in March to try to halt new gTLDs.

  2. JS says:

    Is this part of the 12 scorecards to be discussed in February ?

  3. gpmgroup says:

    “In the event the proposed string is either too broad to effectively identify a single entity as the relevant authority or appropriate manager, or is sufficiently contentious that an appropriate manager cannot be identified and/or agreed, the application should be rejected.”

    This should be the key principle in all gTLD applications. No entity should be allowed to secure a gTLD where they can use it compete against their competitors in the same vertical who have to compete from the second level.

    What happens if?

    Toyota secures .cars how does BMW, Ford or Mercedes feel about it?

    Or Rupert Murdoch buys a company that has been allocated .news?

    Or Microsoft wins a .search at auction? They might be happy to let Google register google.search if they can point video.search and news.search to Bing.

    ICANN really hasn’t thought this through. The fact that the Governments whose day to day business has nothing to do with the hands on running of the Domain Name System can point out multiple and fundamental failings in the GNSO’s proposal for new gTLDs has to raise serious questions.

  4. Louise says:

    Icann wants to allow a free-for-all among the Registrars to buy, sell, and trade dot coms and dot nets, is why it’s in a hurry to introduce new tlds! It can console Registrants who have lost their dot coms: “Hey, there are plenty of extensions to choose from!”

    Verisign’s BTAPPA, pdf format

  5. michelle says:

    I know that the adult entertainment industry has been heavily lobbying the federal government in its opposition to the proposed .xxx sTLD. So, the US government has had an opportunity to see the problems in the application process play out in real life.

    The Free Speech Coalition has been arguing that the “sponsorship” community for .xxx does not “embody a group . . . based on historical components of identity;” ICM cannot possibly identify a single authority; and, it is too contentious. Yet, the ICANN board is hell bent on passing this thing.

    So, it looks like it will come down to USA v ICANN. My money’s on the USA.

  6. John Berard says:

    Kevin,

    There are 190 countries on the planet and, right now, one Internet. The argument shaping up has more to do with the way technology makes borders less relevant (trademarks and mores are but two examples of border-based realities).

    In light of the increasing clarity and breadth of government statements, the argument is becoming less coded and covert. That’s one step closer to resolution, no?

  7. […] original US position, which was was leaked last month, read: Any GAC member may raise an objection to a proposed string for any reason. If it is the […]

Add Your Comment