ICANN president Rod Beckstrom has come out swinging against the latest attack on its new top-levels domains program, promising to “vigorously defend” it.
In his response to a harshly critical missive from the Association of National Advertisers, Beckstrom calls ANA’s claims “either incorrect or problematic in several respects”.
I think “firmly worded” would be an appropriate way to characterize his letter (pdf).
In it, he notes that the new gTLD program has been on the cards since 1998, and has been developed over several years using input from the entire ICANN community, including ANA itself.
He further states that some of the complaints outlined by ANA president Bob Liodice show a lack of research.
As I noted in my interview with Liodice yesterday, ANA seems to think cybersquatting at the top-level will be enabled unless companies defensively apply for their “.brand” gTLDs.
Beckstrom said that these statements “demonstrate a lack of understanding of Program details”.
The letter suggests that companies have no choice but to apply for their own gTLDs. Operating a gTLD means assuming a number of significant responsibilities; this is clearly not for everyone. Indeed, it is hoped that those without an interest in making a contribution to expanded choice or innovation in the DNS will not apply. One clear directive of the consensus policy advice on which the program is built is that TLDs should not infringe the existing legal rights of others. The objection process and other safeguards eliminate the need for “defensive” gTLD applications, because where an infringement of legal rights can be established using these processes, an application will not be approved.
The response goes on to outline some of the mandatory second-level trademark protection mechanisms that have been included in the program’s Applicant Guidebook.
ICANN is arguably on shakier ground here – making use of these mechanisms is still going to cost brand owners time and money, which is the basis of ANA’s objections.
The question now is whether Beckstrom’s responses will be enough to get ANA to call off the dogs.
He has offered to talk to ANA to “to discuss how the ANA might participate more actively in the policy development activities and other ICANN processes going forward”.
That’s specifically not an offer to get into negotiations with ANA about the contents of the Guidebook or to delay the launch of the program.
That was never going to happen, particularly not in response to a thirteenth-hour complaint from an organization that hasn’t commented on the program for the last two years.
Liodice said yesterday that unless ICANN agrees to suspend the program, ANA plans to lobby the US Congress, its Department of Commerce, and may sue.
Reaction from the domain name industry to Beckstrom’s letter has so far been predictably positive.