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Bladel quits as Council chair as GoDaddy ruled “ineligible” for election

Kevin Murphy, June 14, 2017, Domain Policy

GNSO Council Chair James Bladel has resigned, after it emerged that GoDaddy, his employer, is not eligible for office under registrar rules.

He will continue to occupy the post on an interim basis until a new election is held.

Bladel was elected to represent the Registrars Stakeholder Group on the Council back in 2013 and was elected by the Council as chair in late 2015.

However, the RrSG has just discovered that he’s actually ineligible for elected office under its charter because GoDaddy is also a dot-brand registry.

The RrSG charter states that in order to avoid conflicts of interest, a registrar that also has a Specification 9 exemption from the registry Code of Conduct in an ICANN registry conduct may not hold office.

GoDaddy signed its .godaddy registry agreement, which includes the Spec 9 exemption, in July 2015. The gTLD is not currently being used.

GoDaddy is of course the largest registrar in the industry, but it appears its ability to wield power in ICANN’s policy-making bodies now appears to be hamstrung by its foray into new gTLDs.

Bladel’s resignation is not expected to have any significant impact on GNSO Council work.

He’s been reappointed by the RrSG executive committee on an interim basis until elections can be held for a replacement. His term is due to expire in November anyway.

Should ICANN get breastfeeding areas? Have your say!

Kevin Murphy, June 12, 2017, Domain Policy

ICANN has launched a survey of community members’ views on gender, apparently trying to figure out whether it has a sexism problem.

The short, anonymous quiz, published today, asks a bunch of reasonable questions about gender diversity at ICANN’s physical meetings and online interactions.

The organization wants to know if you think your gender has had any influence on your participation at ICANN, and whether you think it could in your future in the community.

It wants to know if you think ICANN is too male-dominated, whether gender is a barrier to progression, and whether you feel represented by current leadership.

The survey also throws up a few questions I found a little surprising.

Should ICANN be holding “educational” sessions on gender diversity? Should it have “mandatory” diversity “quotas”? Should its meetings have breastfeeding areas? Would people who don’t identify as either gender have difficulty ascending to leadership positions?

Founded in 1998, ICANN is the organization tasked with coordinating certain of the internet’s unique technical identifiers.

ICANN scraps remote meeting hubs

Kevin Murphy, June 7, 2017, Domain Policy

ICANN is doing away with remote participation hubs for its thrice-yearly public meetings.

The organization said yesterday that the hubs were barely used and often hit technical barriers.

For avoidance of doubt, we’re not talking about remote participation here, we’re just talking about the “hubs” that various community members would set up in their home nations for locals who for whatever reason could not attend meetings in person.

Basically, they were a bunch of guys in a room somewhere in the southern hemisphere, watching the live meeting video stream and occasionally streaming their own wonky video and crackly audio into the primary meeting location in order to say, ask a question.

The first ones I’m aware of were in 2010 for the Nairobi meeting, when some Europeans and North Americans didn’t want to travel due to terrorism concerns, but ICANN formally started financially supporting them a couple years ago.

Two of the meetings since then did not have hubs. The mid-year Policy Forum in Helsinki didn’t have one last year, and the Hyderabad meeting couldn’t have them due to the ship fire that destroyed ICANN kit.

In January this year, ICANN said it would only pay for remote participation if the remote hubs could rustle up more than 25 participants each. There were also technical requirements that had to be met.

That seems to have been a tall order, so it looks like Copenhagen will be the last meeting ICANN will pay for these hubs.

There’s nothing stopping bunches of guys gathering together around Adobe Connect screens and participating that way, of course.

ICANN finds no conflict of interest in .sport decision

Kevin Murphy, June 5, 2017, Domain Policy

ICANN has rejected claims that the .sport gTLD contention set was settled by an arbitrator who had undisclosed conflicts of interest with the winning applicant.

Its Board Governance Committee last week decided that Community Objection arbitrator Guido Tawil had no duty to disclose his law firm’s ties to major sports broadcasters when he effectively eliminated Famous Four Media from its fight with SportAccord.

Back in 2013, SportAccord — an applicant backed by pretty much all of the world’s major sporting organizations — won the objection when Tawil ruled that FFM’s fully commercial, open-registration bid could harms its members interests.

FFM complained with Requests for Reconsideration, Ombudsman complaints and then an Independent Review Process complaint.

It discovered, among other things, that Tawil’s law firm was helping broadcaster DirecTV negotiate with the International Olympic Committee (one of SportAccord’s backers) for Olympics broadcasting rights at the time of the Community Objection.

The IRP panel ruled in February this year that the BGC had failed to take FFM’s allegations of Tawil’s “apparent bias” into account when it processed Reconsideration requests back in 2013 and 2014.

So the BGC reopened the two Reconsideration decisions, looking at whether Tawil was required by International Bar Association guidelines to disclosed his firm’s client’s interests.

In a single decision (pdf) late last week, the BGC said that he was not required to make these disclosures.

In each of the three claims of bias, the BGC found that the connections between Tawil and the alleged conflict were too tenuous to have required disclosure under the IBA rules.

It found that the IOC and SportAccord are not “affiliates” under the IBA definition, which requires some kind of cross-ownership interests, even though the IOC is, judging by the .sport application, SportAccord’s most valued supporter.

The BGC also found that because Tawil’s firm was representing DirecTV, rather than the IOC, the relationship did not technically fall within the disclosure guidelines.

For these and other reasons, the BGC rejected FFM’s Reconsideration requests for a second time.

The decision, and the fact that FFM seems to have exhausted ICANN’s appeals mechanisms, means it is now more likely that SportAccord’s application will be allowed to continue negotiating its .sport Registry Agreement with ICANN, where it has been frozen for years.

.music and .gay CPE probe could end this month

Kevin Murphy, June 5, 2017, Domain Policy

An ICANN-commissioned investigation into the fairness of its Community Priority Evaluation process for new gTLDs could wind up before the end of June.

In an update Friday, ICANN also finally revealed who is actually conducting the probe, which has been slammed by affected applicants for being secretive.

A tentative timeline sketched out in the update means applicants for gTLDs including .gay and .music could find their applications closer to release from limbo in just a few weeks.

ICANN revealed that FTI Consulting’s Global Risk and Investigations Practice and Technology Practice have been looking into claims ICANN staff meddled in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s supposedly independent CPE reviews for the last several months.

FTI is reviewing how ICANN staff interacted with the EIU during the CPE processes, how the EIU conducted its research and whether the EIU applied the CPE criteria uniformly across different gTLDs.

ICANN said that FTI finished collected material from ICANN in March and hopes to have all the information it has asked the EIU for by the end of this week.

It could deliver its findings to ICANN two weeks after that, ICANN said.

Presumably, there would be little to prevent ICANN publishing these findings very shortly thereafter.

ICANN has been harangued by some of the applicants for .music, .gay, hotel, .cpa, .llc, .inc, .llp and .merck, all of which have been affected by controversial CPE decisions and have been delayed by the investigation, for months.