The witness list in next week’s US Congressional hearing into .sucks and ICANN accountability does not feature .sucks or ICANN.
The eight witnesses are largely drawn from outspoken critics of both ICANN and Vox Populi, either companies or trade associations and lobby groups. It’s stacked heavily in favor of intellectual property interests.
The hearing is titled “Stakeholder Perspectives on ICANN: The .sucks Domain and Essential Steps to Guarantee Trust and Accountability in the Internet’s Operation”.
With hindsight, the “Stakeholder Perspectives” bit gives away the fact that the judiciary subcommittee holding the hearing is more concerned with listening to ICANN’s critics than ICANN itself.
Mei-lan Stark, a senior intellectual property lawyer from Fox and 2014 president of the International Trademark Association, tops the list.
A critic of the new gTLD program, in 2011 Stark told Congress that the first round of new gTLDs would cost Fox “conservatively” $12 million in defensive registration fees.
It will be interesting to see if any Congresspeople confront Stark about that claim, which appeared like a gross overstatement even at the time.
One company that has been enthusiastically embracing new gTLDs — as an applicant, registry, defensive and non-defensive registrant — is Amazon, which has VP of global public policy Paul Misener on the panel.
Amazon has beef with ICANN for siding with the Governmental Advisory Committee over the battle for .amazon, which Amazon has been banned from obtaining, so it’s difficult to see the company as an overly friendly witness.
Next up is John Horton, president of LegitScript, the company that certifies legitimate online pharmacies and backs the .pharmacy new gTLD.
LegitScript is in favor of greater regulation of the domain name industry in order to make it easier to shut down potentially dangerous web sites (though opponents say it’s more often more interested in protecting Big Pharma’s profit margins). This month it called for a ban on Whois privacy for e-commerce sites.
Steve Metalitz, counsel for the Coalition for Online Accountability (a lobbyist for the movie and music industries) and six-term president of the ICANN Intellectual Property Constituency, is also on the list.
Jonathan Zuck, president of ACT The App Association (aka the Association for Competitive Technology, backed by Verisign and other tech firms) is on the list.
NetChoice director Steve DelBianco is also showing up again. He’s an ICANN hearing mainstay and I gather with this appearance he’ll be getting the final stamp on his Rayburn Building Starbucks loyalty card. That means a free latte, which is always nice.
Internet Commerce Association counsel Phil Corwin is a surprise invitee. ICA represents big domainers and is not a natural ally of the IP side of the house.
Bill Woodcock, executive director of Packet Clearing House, rounds off the list. PCH might not have instant name recognition but it provides Anycast DNS infrastructure services for scores of ccTLDs and gTLDs.
The committee hearing will take place at 10am local time next Wednesday.
A second hearing, entitled “Stakeholder Perspectives on the IANA Transition” will be held four hours later by a subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce committee. The witnesses for that one have not yet been announced.
It’s going to be a busy day for ICANN bods on Capitol Hill.
The US Congress is to hold a hearing to look into the .sucks gTLD and ICANN accountability.
A hearing entitled “Stakeholder Perspectives on ICANN: The .sucks Domain and Essential Steps to Guarantee Trust and Accountability in the Internet’s Operation” has been scheduled by the House Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet
It will take place in Washington DC next Wednesday, May 13.
The list of witnesses does not yet appear to have been published.
I would guess we’d be looking at, at the very least, somebody senior from ICANN, somebody senior from .sucks registry Vox Populi, and an intellectual property lawyer.
It was ICANN’s Intellectual Property Constituency that complained about .sucks’ sunrise policies and fees, causing ICANN to refer the matter to US and Canadian trade regulators.
The title of the House hearing suggests that the .sucks controversy will be inextricably tied to the broader issue of ICANN accountability, which is currently undergoing a significant review as ICANN seeks to split permanently from US government oversight.
That’s not great optics for ICANN; I’m sure the organization would rather not have its performance judged on what is quite an unusual edge case emerging from the new gTLD program.
Fashion retailer Mango, which owns its own dot-brand gTLD, has been found guilty of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking after allegedly doctoring evidence in a .uk cybersquatting case.
The company, which runs .mango, lost a Nominet Dispute Resolution Service complaint against New Zealand-based domain investor Garth Piesse over mango.co.uk and mango.uk.
It’s only the sixth RDNH finding in 13 years of DRS history.
Mango tried to buy the domain using a pseudonym and, when Piesse asked for “six figures”, filed the DRS instead.
Piesse claimed in what appears to have been a well-argued defense that the person attempting to buy the domain on Mango’s behalf did not identify Mango as the would-be buyer.
Further, he claimed that Mango deliberately tried to hide this fact from the DRS panel by scrubbing its negotiator’s email address from evidence it submitted.
While DRS panelist Tim Brown did not agree that this omission alone was enough to find RNDH, he agreed that Mango did not have “entirely clean hands”. He ruled:
The sequence of events in the present case appears to show that the Complainant attempted to buy
from the Respondent. When these negotiations failed the Complainant started proceedings under the DRS. As I have noted, the Complainant has relied on bare assertion and has provided a paucity of evidence to support its arguments.
Even a cursory reading of the Policy, Procedure and extensive guidance on Nominet’s website would quickly show that a matter concerning a clearly generic, dictionary term would require a higher standard of argument and evidence than is perhaps common. That the Complainant has failed to come anywhere close to providing sufficient argument or evidence is, in my view, strongly indicative that the Complainant pursued this dispute in frustration at the Respondent’s unwillingness to sell
for a price it was willing to pay, rather than because of the merits of its position in terms of the Policy’s requirements.
I conclude that the Complainant brought a speculative complaint in bad faith in an attempt to deprive the Respondent of the Domain Names. I therefore determine that the Complainant has engaged in Reverse Domain Name Hijacking.
Spain-based Mango has owned its trademarks for well over a decade, and Piesse only got his hands on the domains in question in 2013 and 2014.
Piesse, who owns about 18,000 domains, was able to show that Mango the brand is unheard of in New Zealand and that he has a track record of buying fruit-based .uk domain names.
Whois privacy services will become regulated by ICANN under proposals published today, but there’s a big disagreement about whether all companies should be allowed to use them.
A working group has released the first draft of its recommendations covering privacy and proxy services, which mask the identity and contact details of domain registrants.
The report says that P/P services should be accredited by ICANN much like registrars are today.
Registrars should be obliged to disclose which such services they operate or are affilated with, presumably at the risk of their Registrar Accreditation Agreement if they do not comply, the report recommends.
A highlight of the paper is a set of proposed rules governing the release of private Whois data when it is requested by intellectual property interests.
Under the proposed rules, privacy services would not be allowed to reject such requests purely because the alleged infringement deals with the content of a web site rather than just the domain.
So the identity of a private registrant of a non-infringing domain would be vulnerable to disclosure if, for example, the domain hosted bootleg content.
Registrars would be able to charge IP owners a nominal “cost recovery” fee in order to process requests and would be able to ignore spammy automated requests that did not appear to have been manually vetted.
There’d be a new arbitration process that would kick in to resolve disputes between IP interests and P/P service providers.
The 98 pages of recommendations (pdf) were drafted by the Generic Names Supporting Organization’s Privacy & Proxy Services Accreditation Issues Working Group (PPSAI) and opened for public comment today.
There are a lot of gaps in the report. Work, it seems, still needs to be done.
For example, it acknowledges that the working group didn’t reach any conclusions about what should happen when law enforcement agencies ask for private data.
The group was dominated by registrars and IP interests. There was only one LEA representative and only one governmental representative, and they participated in a very small number of teleconferences.
There was also a sharp division on the issue of who should be able to use privacy services, with two dissenting opinions attached to the report.
One faction, led by MarkMonitor and including Facebook, Domain Tools and fake pharmacy watchdog LegitScript, said that any company that engages in e-commerce transactions should be ineligible for privacy, saying: “Transparent information helps prevent malicious activity”.
Another group, comprising a handful of non-commercial stakeholders, said that no kind of activity should prevent you from registering a domain privately, pointing to the example of persecuted political groups using web sites to raise funds.
There was a general consensus, however, than merely being a commercial entity should not alone exclude you from using a P/P service.
Currently, registrar signatories to the 2013 RAA are bound by a temporary P/P policy that is set to expire January 2017 or whenever the P/P accreditation process starts.
There are a lot of recommendations in the report, and I’ve only touched on a handful here. The public comment period closes July 7.
Fraudster Neil Moore, who escaped from prison by cybersquatting, has reportedly been handed a seven-year sentence by a British court.
As we reported last month, Moore escaped from Wandsworth prison merely by sending an email ordering his release from an hmcts-gsi-gov.org.uk email address.
He’d registered the name, a typo of the genuine hmcts.gsi.gov.uk used by the UK court service, on a smuggled smartphone.
He was being held on remand for an unrelated fraud at the time.
Today’s sentencing follows Moore pleading guilty to eight counts of fraud (it doesn’t seem those were related to cybersquatting) and one count of wrongful escape from custody.