ICANN’s GNSO Council today narrowly voted to approve controversial special brand protections for the Olympic and Red Cross movements in the new gTLD program.
The vote this afternoon was scheduled as an “emergency” measure after the Council’s dramatic showdown at the ICANN public meeting in Costa Rica earlier this month.
Then, the Non-Commercial Stakeholders Group forced a deferral of the vote on the grounds that ICANN’s proper bottom-up policy-making processes had not been followed.
Today, a virtually identical motion barely squeaked through, turning on just a single vote after all six NCSG councilors abstained in protest.
It was a fairly tense discussion, as these things go.
“This is a sham of a proposal cooked up by a couple of lobbyists and shoved down the GNSO’s throat and that’s why I’m abstaining,” said Robin Gross, sitting in for absent councilor Wendy Seltzer.
“I’m abstaining to avoid the downfall of the GNSO Council,” said fellow NCSG councilor Rafik Dammak.
Essentially, the non-coms are upset that the decision to give special protection to the Olympics, Red Cross and Red Crescent appeared to be a top-down mandate from the ICANN board of directors last June.
(The board was itself responding to the demands of its Governmental Advisory Committee, which had been lobbied for special privileges by the organizations in question.)
ICANN policies are supposed to originate in the community, in a bottom-up fashion, but in this case the normal process was “circumvented”, NCSG councilors said.
Rather than bring the issue of special protection to the GNSO constituencies of which they are members, the IOC and Red Cross went directly to national governments in the GAC, they said.
The motion itself is to create a new class of “Modified Reserved Names” for the new gTLD program’s Applicant Guidebook, comprising solely of strings representing the Olympic and Red Cross.
Unlike the current version of the Guidebook, the International Olympic Committee and Red Cresent and Red Cross would actually be able to apply for their own brands as gTLDs.
The Guidebook would also give these Modified Reserved Names the same protection as ICANN itself in terms of string similarity – so Olympus might have a problem if it applies for a dot-brand.
Of course, the GNSO Council resolution does not become law unless it’s approved by the ICANN board of directors and implemented by staff in the Applicant Guidebook.
With the March 29 and April 12 application deadlines approaching, there’s a limited – some might say negligible – amount of time for that to happen if the GNSO’s work is to have any meaning.
That said, ICANN chair Steve Crocker said on more than one occasion during the Costa Rica meeting that he wants the board to be more flexible in its scheduling, so it’s not impossible that we’ll see an impromptu board meeting before Thursday.