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Will ICANN drop anti-terror rule from new TLD process?

Kevin Murphy, July 19, 2010, Domain Policy

ICANN has been chastised for prohibiting terrorists from applying for new top-level domains. Really.

Abdulaziz Al-Zoman of SaudiNIC has written to the organization to worry about the fact that “terrorism” has been added to the list of forbidden activities for new TLD applicants.

The word made its first appearance in version four of the Draft Applicant Guidebook, and was harshly criticized during the ICANN board’s public forum in Brussels last month.

Al-Zoman is primarily concerned that there is no definition of “terrorism” in the DAG.

While the international community is extensibly [sic] divided on who is a terrorist and who is a freedom fighter, and notwithstanding ICANN’s lack of definition whatsoever in the DAG 4 on terrorism, it is a surprise to me to see ICANN involving itself in the area of terrorism while its mandate is only being a global technical coordinator.

He has a point, of course.

Hamas is the probably the best example today: an elected government with a paramilitary wing, classified as a terrorist organization by the US and UK, among others.

In the old days, we could have used the IRA as an example: a bunch of extremists blowing up English pubs, backed by American money.

During the public comment forum in Brussels, ICANN’s Kurt Pritz gave every indication that the word “terrorism” will be yanked or defined in the next DAG. From the transcript:

I agree with you that certain terms, and especially that one that is so sensitive, either requires — it should be removed or it should be — you know, it should have additional definition.

He was responding to a somewhat hyperbolic statement from Khaled Fattal, CEO of the Multilingual Internet Names Consortium, which is worth quoting (again from the transcript).

For ICANN to invoke the term “terrorism” in this arbitrary manner threatens ICANN’s ability to effectively undertake its mandate of being the global technical coordinator of the Internet. It would also challenge its legitimacy as a global public service provider in the eyes of the international community if it continues on this path, but most importantly, alienate many of the international community.

Moreover, it raises many concerns as to whether ICANN is succeeding at truly internationalizing itself.

Furthermore, the arbitrary inclusion of terrorism as a measuring stick without any internationally recognized law or standard is wrong and if acted upon it can be understood or seen by Muslims and Arabs as racist and profiling.

Strong stuff.

Now, ICANN’s painted itself into a bit of a corner. To placate its critics, it can either adopt a definition of terrorism, or it can drop the word entirely.

The former idea is probably unworkable – Wikipedia’s attempt to define “terrorism” under international law is over 4,500 words – and the latter could lead to interesting headlines.

ICANN GIVES THUMBS UP TO TERROR DOMAINS

I think I’ll leave that one for Fox.

RapidShare has no rights to “rapid”, says WIPO

Kevin Murphy, July 14, 2010, Domain Policy

RapidShare, the file-sharing service that recently embarked upon a spree of UDRP filings against domain name registrants, has lost its first such case.

A WIPO panelist denied the company’s claim on RapidBay.net, saying it had “not proved that they have any trademark or service mark rights in the expression ‘rapid bay’, or in the word ‘rapid'”.

RapidShare therefore failed to prove that “RapidBay” was identical or confusingly similar to its RapidShare trademark, and the complaint was thrown out.

The decision does not bode well for the company’s ongoing UDRP claims over rapid4me.com, rapidownload.net, rapidpiracy.com and rapid.org, among others.

Rapid.org’s registration, in particular, would appear to be safe, if the panelist in that case follows the same line of reasoning.

That will no doubt please the many people visiting my previous post recently, apparently looking for an explanation of why Rapid.org, a forum for sharing mainly copyrighted works, recently started bouncing to Bolt.org.

RapidShare has in recent months filed a couple dozen UDRP complaints against people who have registered “rapid” domains and are using them to help people find pirated material on the service.

RapidShare files UDRP claim on Rapid.org

Kevin Murphy, July 7, 2010, Domain Policy

RapidShare, confidence bolstered by a number of recent UDRP wins against domains that contain its trademark, has now turned its attention to some more dubious challenges.

The German file-sharing service has lately filed UDRP claims on the domains rapid4me.com, rapidownload.net, rapidpiracy.com and rapid.org, none of which contain its full “rapidshare” trademark.

The sites in question all relate to sharing files (mostly copyrighted works) on RapidShare. Rapid.org bounces visitors to Bolt.org, a file-sharing forum for predominantly pirated content.

It’s a bit of a stretch to see how any of these domains could be seen to be confusingly similar to the RapidShare trademark. But not, I think, a stretch too far for many UDRP panelists.

Ironically, Rapid.org, which must be worth a fair bit on the aftermarket, was originally registered in 1997 by an IP-protection company.

RapidShare has filed dozens of UDRP claims over the last few months, initially targeting file-sharing sites that utilized rival services, before broadening its campaign to also hit RapidShare-centric sites.

RBS wins totally bogus UDRP complaint

Kevin Murphy, June 28, 2010, Domain Policy

The Royal Bank of Scotland has been handled control of the domain rbscout.com in a UDRP decision I have no trouble at all describing as utterly bogus.

RBS, naturally enough, owns a trademark on the term “RBS”. Its UDRP claim is based on the notion that a domain beginning with “rbs” is therefore confusingly similar.

For this to work, logically, the meaning of “rbscout” must be taken as “RBS cout”.

Cout?

The idea that the registrant actually had “RB scout” in mind does not appear to entered into the deliberation of the National Arbitration Forum panelist, Paul Dorf.

It took me all of two minutes with Whois and Google to determine that the registrant, The Auction Scout, is a player in the market for auctioning heavy machinery, and that RB, Ritchie Bros., is such an auctioneer.

There’s simply no way the registrant could have had RBS in mind when he registered the domain back in February.

So why did Dorf find evidence of bad faith?

Because the domain rbscout.com resolves to a default Go Daddy parking page, which displays advertising links to financial services sites including RBS’s own site.

So, just because Go Daddy’s algorithms are confused by the string “rbs” appearing in a domain, human beings would be similarly confused?

It defies common sense. Dorf should be ashamed of himself.

ICANN chair says new TLD guidebook could be final by December

Kevin Murphy, June 28, 2010, Domain Policy

Peter Dengate Thrush, chairman of the ICANN board, thinks there’s a chance that the Applicant Guidebook for new top-level domains could be ready by ICANN’s next meeting, set for Cartagena in early December.

The board resolved in Brussels on Friday to turn its September two-day retreat into a special meeting focussed on knocking the DAG into shape.

Shortly after the vote, Peter Dengate Thrush spoke at a press conference (emphasis mine).

Soon after the closing of the [DAG v4] public comment period was a regularly scheduled retreat for the board to go and do what boards do at retreats, and what we’ve decided today to do is to use that two-day retreat to see if we can’t make decisions on all the outstanding issues in relation to the new TLD program.

That’s probably reasonably ambitious, there may still be a couple left, but we want to get as many of them out of the way as we can. That means that when we come to the next ICANN meeting in Cartagena in December we hope to be very close if not actually able to hand out the Applicant Guidebook for that new process.

I asked him what outstanding issues needed to be resolved before the DAG can be finalized. Instead of a comprehensive list, he named two: IP protection and the Governmental Advisory Committee’s “morality and public order” concerns.

The IP issue is “close” to being resolved, he said, but “there may still be issues”.

On MOPO, he said there is “a potential conflict emerging” between GAC members who value free speech and those who are more concerned with their own religious and cultural sensitivities.

When I followed up to ask whether it was possible to reconcile these two positions, this is what he said:

What we’ve done is ask the GAC is how they would reconcile it… now they are saying that they can’t see how it can be done. We see that very much as a problem either for the GAC to change its advice, or to provide us with a mechanism whereby that can be reconciled.

The Brussels GAC Communique (pdf), has little to say on MOPO, delaying its advice until its official DAG v4 public comment filing.

MOPO has already created tensions between the GAC and the board. The conversation at their joint meeting on Tuesday went a little like this:

GAC: We don’t like this MOPO stuff. Please get rid of it.

BOARD: Okay. What shall we replace it with?

GAC: Erm…

BOARD: Well?

GAC: It’s not our problem. You think of something.

BOARD: Can you give us a hint?

GAC: No.

BOARD: Please? A little one?

GAC: We’ll think about it.

So can we expect the GAC to get its act together in time for Cartagena? That, too, seems ambitious.