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ICANN to return to South Africa in 2013

Kevin Murphy, August 31, 2012, Domain Policy

The location of ICANN’s second meeting in 2013 has been revealed as Durban, South Africa.

A proposal submitted by the local ccTLD manager, .za Domain Name Authority, was approved by the ICANN board of directors earlier this week.

It’s the second time ICANN has hosted one of its thrice-yearly public meetings in the country; in 2004, Cape Town was the venue.

The Durban meeting will run from July 14 to July 19 2013. It’s the third upcoming meeting on ICANN’s calendar after Toronto (October) and Beijing (April 2013).

Durban, a popular tourist destination, is South Africa’s third-largest city, with a population of about half a million almost four million.

Satellite policy expert named ICANN director

Kevin Murphy, August 31, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN has named Olga Madruga-Forti, an Argentinian telecoms policy expert, as the newest member of its board of directors.

Selected by this year’s Nominating Committee, Madruga-Forti will take over from R. Ramaraj when his second term ends at the Toronto meeting this October.

According to the biography provided by ICANN, she has extensive experience of telecommunications policy, particularly related to satellite, in both public and private sectors.

She currently works for ARSAT in Buenes Aires as international counsel. She’s previously worked for Iridium, Loral and the US Federal Communications Commission.

ICANN pointed out that she represents telcos at the International Telecommunications Union, a relevant data point, perhaps, given the WCIT conference coming up in December.

Madruga-Forti ticks one of the Latin-American boxes on the ICANN board.

NomCom has also reappointed two other directors for second terms on the board: Gonzalo Navarro (Latin-America) and the reliably contrarian George Sadowsky (North America).

New leadership members of three ICANN supporting organizations have also been selected by NomCom.

Jennifer Wolfe of the intellectual property law firm WolfeSBMC, which counts new gTLD applicants Microsoft, Procter & Gamble and Kraft Foods among its clients, has been appointed to GNSO Council.

I believe she’s destined to replace Carlos Dionisio Aguirre when his term is up later this year.

Canadian Alan Greenberg and Frenchman Jean-Jacques Subrenat have been reappointed to the At-Large Advisory Committee.

Mary Wong, who currently sits on the GNSO Council representing non-commercial stakeholders, has been appointed to the ccNSO Council.

The full biographies of all 2012 NomCom appointees can be found here.

The .patagonia problem

Kevin Murphy, August 29, 2012, Domain Policy

Argentina has escalated its complaint with ICANN about the new gTLD application for .patagonia.

Ambassador Alfredo Morelli of the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has written to ICANN’s leadership to let them know that .patagonia “should not be used as a closed brand gTLD”.

An American clothing company that goes by the name of Patagonia Inc has applied for .patagonia, which it intends to use as a dot-brand, but Patagonia is also a region of South America.

Argentina’s Governmental Advisory Committee representative told ICANN’s board in Prague this June that the government would not stand for a geographic term for part of its country being used in this way.

But Argentina has a problem.

The new gTLD program rules, as spelled out in the Applicant Guidebook, give special protection to geographic strings, but only if they appear on certain lists.

Rather than create its own list of geographic strings, ICANN instead deferred to established international standards, such as ISO 3166.

Patagonia, as far as I can tell, does not appear on any of these lists. (The DI PRO database compares all applied-for strings against protected geographic names.)

While it’s undoubtedly the name of a region, covering parts of Argentina and Chile, it does not appear to be the name of the kind of administrative division covered by ISO 3166-2.

Judging by the Applicant Guidebook, ICANN’s Geographic Names Panel would therefore not designate .patagonia as geographic and the applicant would not have to secure government support for its bid.

It’s not clear from the Guidebook how much flexibility, if any, the panel will get to make subjective decisions with edge cases like this.

However, so much of the program that had been thought finalized is today apparently still open for negotiation that I wouldn’t be surprised if the rules are changed or reinterpreted.

While the .patagonia application has so far attracted almost 300 negative comments from internet users, it is not the only dot-brand to ruffle feathers in Argentina.

There has been a smaller outcry over the Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s application for .cba, which apparently matches the abbreviation of the Argentinian Province of Cordoba.

The string “CBA” does not appear to be protected by the Applicant Guidebook either, and I’ve not seen any official concerns raised by governments yet.

I think there’s a strong chance the .patagonia application is dead, even if it is not officially deemed geographic.

The GAC will almost certainly object, and even if the objection does not have consensus the ICANN board will have a big reason to reject the bid.

New gTLD typo policy coming today?

Kevin Murphy, August 28, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s board-level new gTLD program committee may vote today on a policy for enabling new gTLD applicants to correct errors in their applications.

Many of the 1,930 applications contain mistakes of varying degrees.

Some are obvious, such as typos in the applied-for string — .dotafrica springs to mind — and copy-paste errors made by large portfolio applicants that reference strings in the wrong application.

The trick for ICANN is figuring out which change requests are genuine while excluding attempts to game the system in light of new competitive information emerging post-Reveal Day.

According to an update issued last night, ICANN staff have come up with a set of seven criteria to decide whether any of the dozens of changes that have been requested should be permitted.

The criteria, which have not yet been revealed, are subject to approval, ICANN said.

But the ICANN board of directors is due to meet today, and it seems likely that its new gTLD program committee — made up of non-conflicted directors — will also have a session.

It’s quite possible that the criteria will be rubber-stamped today and published later this week.

ICANN also said last night that it plans to overhaul its new gTLD microsite shortly to make information easier to find, which will be welcomed by many applicants and observers.

The Clarifying Questions pilot, a test-run for a more formal process later this year, has also started. I understand the 50 selected applications received their questions late last week.

Another webinar for applicants has also been scheduled for next week.

Malaysia to get new Arabic ccTLD

Kevin Murphy, August 23, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s board of directors is set to approve مليسيا., the Arabic name for Malaysia, at a meeting next week.

Delegation of the internationalized country-code top-level domain is listed on the board’s consent agenda for next week’s meeting, meaning it’s likely to be a case of simply rubber-stamping the decision.

It will be the 40th IDN ccTLD to enter the root, not including test zones, under ICANN’s Fast Track program.

With the notable exception of Russia’s .РФ, IDN ccTLDs have been commercially underwhelming.

The redelegation of Rwanda’s .rw, currently delegated to NIC Congo/Interpoint SARL, is also on ICANN’s board consent agenda for the August 28 meeting.

There are no issues related to the new gTLD program on the agenda.