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Community proposes way to replace US oversight of ICANN

Kevin Murphy, December 2, 2014, Domain Policy

The process of removing the US government from management of the DNS root system took a significant step forward today, with the publication of a community proposal for a transition.

The Cross Community Working Group, which convened itself earlier this year, has published a proposal to replace the US with a new contracting company and a bunch of committees.

The DNS community has been tasked with coming up with a way to transition stewardship of the IANA functions from the US National Telecommunications and Information administration, which said in March this year that it intends to relinquish its historic, but largely symbolic, Damoclean role.

After discussions which by any measure of ICANN policy-making have been forcibly swift, the 119-member CWG has now presented two broad options.

The first, a description of which forms the bulk of its report, would see ICANN overseen by a new, lightweight non-profit company managed by multi-stakeholder committees.

The other, which doesn’t get much airplay in the document, would see ICANN simply take over the NTIA’s responsibilities entirely. Accountability would be provided by enhanced accountability processes within the existing ICANN structure.

Under the primary proposal, the CWG was keen to avoid creating something ICANN-like to oversee ICANN, due to the complexity and cost, but it also decided that ICANN remains the best place to house the IANA function for the foreseeable future.

It’s proposed a new company, known currently as “Contract Co”, that would be replace the NTIA as the party that contracts with ICANN to run IANA. It would have “little or no staff”.

The contract itself would be developed and overseen by a Multistakeholder Review Team, comprising people drawn from each area of the ICANN community.

The precise make-up of this MRT is still open to discussion and will be, I suspect, the subject of some pretty fierce debate as the various competing interest groups wrestle to have themselves with the strongest possible representation.

Like the NTIA, the MRT would have the power to pick another entity to run IANA in future, should ICANN screw up.

A new Customer Standing Panel would comprise executives from gTLD and ccTLD registries — the “customers” of IANA’s naming functions — and would have the job of relaying the concerns of registries to the MRT, keeping ICANN accountable to its primary users.

Finally, there’d be an Independent Appeals Panel. Any IANA decision — presumably including the delegation or redelegation of a TLD — could be appealed to this IAP. This function would very probably be outsourced on a case-by-case basis to an existing arbitration body.

Is this worrying? Arbitration panels handling new gTLD disputes haven’t exactly inspired confidence in their ability to provide consistent — or even rational — decisions over the last year or so. Should the last word on what goes into or stays out of the DNS root really go to the same folk who think .通販 and .shop are too confusingly similar to coexist on the internet?

There doesn’t appear to be anything massively surprising in the proposal. When ICANN or its community try to solve a problem the answer is usually a new committee, and the ideas of MRTs, CSPs and IAPs do seem to mirror existing structures to an extent.

The whole thing can be downloaded and read over here.

There’s a December 22 deadline for comment. It will be submitted to the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group by the end of January, with a view to getting a final proposal to the US government next summer in time for the hoped-for September 30 handover date.

ICANN meetings in for big shake-up, more dancing

Kevin Murphy, November 24, 2014, Domain Policy

Could you tolerate an eight-day ICANN meeting?

Could you get all your work done in just four days?

Would you be happy to wait up to nine months between Public Forums?

Do you want to see more regional dancing during ICANN opening ceremonies?

These are question you’re going to have to start asking yourself, because come 2016 ICANN meetings are in for a big change.

Recommendations adopted wholesale by the ICANN board last week would scrap the three six-day meetings schedule and replace it with one six-day meeting at the start of the year, one four-day meeting in the middle and one eight-day meeting towards the end.

The first of the year would be formatted pretty much the same as all meetings are currently.

The second, however, would scrap formalities such as the opening ceremony, as well as the Public Forum and public board meeting. Instead, the focus would be on policy development work within and between advisory committees and supporting organizations.

The final meeting of the year, the AGM, would add two extra days to the regular schedule for outreach sessions and SO/AC policy-making. There would be two Public Forum sessions, one immediately after the opening ceremony on day three, the other on day six as usual.

As this would be the official outreach “event” of the year, the opening ceremony would usually have some display of local culture, such as music or dance. That was once a staple of ICANN meetings, but we haven’t seen much of it the last couple of years.

The shake-up was recommended in a report published by the Meeting Strategy Working Group in February and adopted in its entirely by the ICANN board last week.

The third meeting of the year would be “would have a focus on showcasing ICANN’s work to a broader global audience”, according to the report. It would have an anticipated attendance of over 2,000 people and would therefore likely be held in a large hub city.

The smaller (it is anticipated) second meeting, with its reduced focus on formality and outreach, would (contrarily) be able to visit cities with smaller facilities, perhaps in parts of the world ICANN has not been able to visit before, the report says.

To be honest, I’m not really sure whether what’s been adopted will be any better than what’s in place today.

I’m pretty certain of one effect, however: if bombshells are dropped shortly after the first meeting of the year, you’re looking at somewhere between seven and nine months before you’ll be able to stand at a mic and yell at the ICANN board about it in public.

“Cyberflight” rules coming to UDRP next July

Kevin Murphy, November 18, 2014, Domain Policy

It will soon be much harder for cybersquatters to take flight to another registrar when they’re hit with a UDRP complaint.

From July 31 next year, all ICANN-accredited registrars will be contractually obliged to lock domain names that are subject to a UDRP and trademark owners will no longer have to tip off the registrant they’re targeting.

Many major registrars lock domain names under UDRP review already, but there’s no uniformity across the industry, either in terms of what a lock entails or when it is implemented. Under the amended UDRP policy, a “lock” is now defined as:

a set of measures that a registrar applies to a domain name, which prevents at a minimum any modification to the registrant and registrar information by the Respondent, but does not affect the resolution of the domain name or the renewal of the domain name.

Registrars will have two business days from the time they’re notified about the UDRP to put the lock in place.

Before the lock is active, the registrants themselves will not be aware they’ve been targeted by a complaint — registrars are banned from telling them and complainants no longer have to send them a copy of the complaint.

If the complaint is dismissed or withdrawn, registrars have one business day to remove the lock.

Because these change reduce the 20-day response window, registrants will be able to request an additional four calendar days (to account for weekends, I assume) to file their responses and the request will be automatically granted by the UDRP provider.

The new policy was brought in to stop “cyberflight”, a relatively rare tactic whereby cybersquatters transfer their domains to a new registrar to avoid losing their domains.

The policy was approved by the Generic Names Supporting Organization in August last year and approved by the ICANN board a month later. Since then, ICANN staff has been working on implementation.

The time from the first GNSO preliminary issue report (May 27, 2011) to full implementation of the policy (July 31, 2015) will be 1,526 days.

You can read a redlined version of the UDRP rules here (pdf).

Judge blocks seizure of Iran’s ccTLD

Kevin Murphy, November 13, 2014, Domain Policy

ICANN has won a court battle, and avoided a major political incident, over an attempt by terrorism victims to seize ccTLDs belonging to Iran, Korea and Syria.

A District of Columbia judge ruled this week that while ccTLDs may be a form of “property” under the law, they’re not “attachable” property.

Attachment is a legal concept used when creditors attempt to seize assets belonging to debtors.

The ruling overturns a request by a group of terrorism survivors, led by attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, to have .ir, .sy, .kp, سور, and ايران. transferred to them in lieu of payment of previous court rulings.

Darshan-Leitner has previously secured US court judgments amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars against the three nations. Because the nations have not paid these penalties, she’s been using the courts to seize state-owned assets in the US instead.

But US District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled (pdf) earlier this week:

the country code Top Level Domain names at issue may not be attached in satisfaction of plaintiffs’ judgments because they are not property subject to attachment under District of Columbia law.

However, he added in a footnote:

But the conclusion that ccTLDs may not be attached in satisfaction of a judgment under District of Columbia law does not mean that they cannot be property. It simply means that they are not attachable property within this statutory scheme.

Drawing on “sparse” case law, Lamberth’s rationale appears to be that domain names are not a product, they’re a service. He wrote:

The ccTLDs exist only as they are made operational by the ccTLD managers that administer the registries of second level domains within them and by the parties that cause the ccTLDs to be listed on the root zone file. A ccTLD, like a domain name, cannot be conceptualized apart from the services provided by these parties. The Court cannot order plaintiffs’ insertion into this arrangement.

The ruling, which may of course be challenged by the plaintiffs, helps ICANN and the US government avoid a huge political embarrassment at a time when the links between the two are being dissolved and relations with Iran are defrosting.

Ebola 1 – ICANN 0 as Marrakech dumped for Singapore

Kevin Murphy, November 4, 2014, Domain Policy

Ebola has claimed its first Moroccan victim, in the form of ICANN 52.

The organization confirmed overnight that its next public meeting will not be held in Marrakech next February after all.

Instead, the ICANN community will head to Singapore, and the now-familiar halls of the Raffles Convention Center.

ICANN had previously said it was reconsidering Marrakech due to the worry of African travel restrictions in light of the Ebola virus, which has infected over 13,000 people in West Africa.

While Morocco, thousands of kilometers away, has not recorded any cases, there’s concern that large international gatherings, such as the African Cup of Nations or ICANN 52, could import the disease.

ICANN did not mention Ebola in its announcement today, however.

Instead, it said that is relocating the meeting to Singapore due to the overworked community’s desire to stick to its three-meetings-per-year schedule.

It will head to Marrakech in early 2016 instead.

The Singapore meeting will be held on the same dates — February 8 to 12 — at a location that will be familiar to regular ICANN travelers. ICANNs 41 and 49 have been held there in the last few years.