Domain name owners who do not respond to cybersquatting complaints could automatically have their domains suspended, if the World Intellectual Property Organization gets its way.
That’s according to the latest ICANN documents to be released under its Documentary Information Disclosure Policy, following a request from the Internet Commerce Association.
The documents relate to the still controversial Uniform Rapid Suspension policy, a supplement to the existing UDRP for dealing with “clear cut” cases of cybersquatting.
The URS will be binding on all new gTLDs, but ICANN recently admitted that it’s been unable to find an organization willing to administer URS cases for the planned $300 to $500 filing fee.
Rather than implement URS with a $1,000 to $1,500 fee instead, ICANN plans to host two community summits to try to figure out ways to rearchitect the scheme to make it cheaper.
These changes could well mean fewer safeguards for domain registrants.
According to an email from WIPO released in response to ICA’s DIDP request, WIPO declined to host these summits unless ICANN agreed, in advance, to Draconian rules on default.
WIPO’s Erik Wilbers wrote (pdf):
it would seem unlikely that these stakeholders would now feel able to commit to the rather fundamental changes we believe to be in everyone’s interest – notably a shift to the proposed respondent-default basis without panel, subject to appropriate safeguards. We would consider an express prior commitment to such a shift, including the requisite Board support, as a pre-condition to a fruitful meeting on the URS.
In other words, WIPO thinks domain names should be suspended without expert review if the domain owner does not respond to a trademark owner’s URS complaint.
ICA counsel Phil Corwin is naturally not happy about this, writing in a blog post this weekend:
WIPO would only consent to hosting URS Summits if their result was largely pre-ordained – in which event, we ask, why bother holding the Summits at all? … This imperious demand should be dismissed out of hand by members of ICANN’s Board should it ever reach them.
That the structure of URS is still open for debate at this late stage of the game is an embarrassment, particularly given the fact that it’s been well-understood for some time that URS was unrealistically priced.
The new DIDP documents reveal that even the idea of summits to resolve the apparently intractable problems were a Band-Aid proposed almost accidentally by ICANN staff.
ICANN, it seems, is engaged in policy fire-fighting as usual.
The current hope is for URS to be finalized and a provider be in place by June 2013. It’s a plausible timetable, but I’m less convinced that a system can be created that is fair, useful and cheap.