Political infighting between sections of the Generic Names Supporting Organization seems to be responsible for the GNSO Council’s failure to elect a new chair yesterday.
Rumor has it that Contracted Parties House pick James Bladel, a VP at Go Daddy, only lost because of ructions in the Non-Contracted Parties House.
I stress these are just rumors — nobody with any first-hand knowledge of the situation was prepared to go on-record with me today — but they come from multiple sources.
As I reported earlier today, Bladel failed to secure the support of over 60% of the NCPH — the threshold to be elected chair — despite having the unanimous support of the CPH.
Roughly 47% of the NCPH chose to vote for “none of the above” instead, resulting in the GNSO Council now lacking a chair.
But I gather that this was not a diss against Bladel, his employer, or the CPH per se.
Rather, the story I’m hearing is that some councilors gave an empty chair their votes as a result of disagreements between the commercial and non-commercial sides of the NCPH.
Some say a deal had been made under which NCPH candidate Heather Forrest would receive at least 60% of the vote in round one, but some voters reneged on the deal, meaning she was knocked out of the running.
I don’t know if that’s true or not, but what it implies is that some votes that would have otherwise gone to Bladel in round two of voting were withheld, essentially out of spite.
Bladel only needed one additional NCPH vote to hit his 60%.
If this sounds like childish bickering, you may be right, but it wouldn’t be the first time a GNSO constituency has disrupted the council in order to make a point.
The last time that happened to a significant degree was over three years ago, when non-commercial users exploited a timing issue to protest new rights protection mechanisms for the Olympics, risking the new gTLD program timeline.
That led some at the time to predict the “death” of the GNSO.
That’s not happening this time. If anything, the wagons are circling.
Hastily reappointed council vice chair Volker Greimann, who became de facto chair at least for today, described the current situation as “business as usual” today, pointing out that ICANN bylaws envisaged and accounted for this kind of power vacuum.
The next vote on the chair’s position will take place at least a month from now.
ICANN’s multistakeholder GNSO Council has been left embarrassingly rudderless after its members failed to elect a new chair.
The unprecedented result saw Go Daddy VP of policy James Bladel lose an election to “none of the above” yesterday.
Under GNSO rules, there are two candidates for chair. One is nominated by the Contracted Parties House (registries and registrars), the other by the Non-Contracted Parties House (intellectual property interests, ISPs, non-commercial users etc).
Bladel was the CPH candidate. He stood against Australian academic Heather Forrest, on the council representing the Intellectual Property Constituency.
To get elected, a candidate must get 60% of the vote from both houses.
In the first round of voting, conducted via secret ballot, Bladel won 100% of the CPH vote and 47% of the NCPH vote.
Forrest was then eliminated for the second round, which meant Bladel proceeded to a second round of voting: him against “none of the above”.
Council members took 15 minutes out to discuss among themselves what to do.
When they returned, Bladel’s CPH support remained unchanged, but he had only managed to get 53.85% of the NCPH vote.
If my calculations are correct, Bladel essentially missed the 60% threshold by a single vote.
That means the GNSO Council no longer has a chair.
The interregnum will last at least a month.
Each house now has until November 5 to make new nominations. The election will then be re-run “no sooner than 30 days” from yesterday.
In the meantime, the two vice chairs are running the show. The CPH said its current vice chair Volker Greiman will remain in the role while a new chair is being elected. The NCPH has not yet appointed a vice chair.
This morning, the CPH issued a statement that read in part:
Like many in the GNSO Community, the Contracted Party House is disappointed in the unprecedented outcome of the Council election. It is particularly unfortunate that this scenario occurred at a time when ICANN is in the global spotlight.
Throughout the election process, the common theme has been an agreement amongst all Councilors that either candidate would have made a competent and effective GNSO Chair. However, the qualifications of both candidates were ultimately disregarded.
In recent history, GNSO chairs have been drawn from the registries and registrars.
Since 2009, the chairs have been Jonathan Robinson (Afilias), Stephane Van Gelder (then Group NBT, a registrar), Chuck Gomes (Verisign).
This trend did not escape the notice of GNSO members, who quizzed Bladel and Forrest on Sunday on whether they would be able to give fair treatment to both houses on the Council.
Both candidates gave gracious responses. Bladel said:”The chair does not get extra votes when it comes to decisions. The chair does not have his votes taken away; his or her votes taken away. So really this is a question of optics.”
Twitter wants to get its hands on some new gTLDs but doesn’t want to wait.
Having missed the first round of new gTLD applications back in 2012, the company is now keen on getting .twitter and other strings both branded and generic.
“We’re interest in round two,” Twitter trademark counsel Stephen Coates said as ICANN’s business constituencies met the board of directors today.
“We have several interesting opportunities to develop around that space,” he said. “We are interested in both brands and generics.”
The problem for Twitter, and every other would-be gTLD applicant, is that ICANN isn’t even talking in broad terms about when the next round will be.
The absolute minimum that must happen is that ICANN must complete a review of round one, focusing on “Competition, Consumer Trust and Consumer Choice”. This CCT review is mandated by ICANN’s Affirmation of Commitments with the US government.
Almost three years after the first round opened, the volunteer team that will carry out the CCT review has not even been assembled yet.
There are a number of other factors that may or may not wind up on the critical path — such as reviews of rights protection mechanisms and security and stability at the DNS root.
Coates said he would like a “bifurcated” review process leading to two separate second application rounds.
“I would advocate for bifurcating the review process, which I think is very important, especially around RPMs,” he said. “But also bifurcating the round process, treating dot-brands differently than generic names.”
I think this outcome is unlikely.
Application rules that give preference to one type of application over another invite exploitation. It happened in the 2003 sponsored TLD round and it’s happening with “community” and “Specification 13” applications in the current round too.
ICANN should resist attempts to turn the organization into a content regulator responsible for fighting piracy, counterfeiting and terrorism.
That’s according to CEO Fadi Chehade, speaking in Dublin yesterday at the opening ceremony of ICANN’s 54th public meeting.
His remarks have already solicited grumbles from members of the intellectual property community, which are eager for ICANN to take a more assertive role against registries and registrars.
Speaking to a packed auditorium, Chehade devoted a surprisingly large chunk of his opening address to the matter of content policing, which he said was firmly outside of ICANN’s remit.
He presented this diagram, breaking up the internet into three layers. ICANN plays in the central “logical” section but has no place in the top “societal” segment, he said.
“Where does ICANN’s role start and where does ICANN’s role stop?” Chehade posed. “It’s very clear Our remit starts and stops in this logical yellow layer. We do not have any responsibility in the upper layer.”
“The community has spoken, and it is important to underline that in every possible way, ICANN’s remit is not in the blue layer, it is not in the economic/societal layer,” he said. This is a technical organization.”
That basically means that ICANN has no responsibility to determine which web sites are good and which are bad. That’s best left to others such as the courts and governments.
Chehade recounted an anecdote about a meeting with a national president who demanded that ICANN shut down a list of terrorism-supporting web sites.
“We have no responsibility to render judgement about which sites are terrorists,” he said, “which sites are the good pharmacies, which sites are the bad pharmacies, which sites are comitting crimes, which sites are infringing copyrights…”
“When people ask us to render judgement on matters in the upper layer, we can’t.”
With that all said, Chehade added that ICANN should not shirk its duties as part of the ecosystem, whether through voluntary measures at registries and registrars or via contractual enforcement.
“Once determinations are made, how do we respond the these?” he said. “I hope, voluntarily.”
He gave the example of credit card companies that voluntarily stop doing business with web sites that have been reported to be involved in crime or spam.
The notion of registrars adhering to a set of voluntary principles was first floated by ICANN’s chief compliance officer, Allen Grogan, in a blog post earlier this month.
It was the one bone he threw to IP interests in a determination that otherwise came down firmly on the side of registrars.
Grogan had laid out a minimum set of actions registrars must carry out when they receive abuse reports, none of which contained a requirement to suspend or delete domain names.
The Intellectual Property Constituency appeared to greet Chehade’s speech with cautious optimism, but members are still pushing for ICANN to take a stricter approach to contract compliance.
In a session between the IPC and the ICANN board in Dublin this morning, ICANN was asked to make these hypothetical voluntary measures enforceable.
Marc Trachtenberg disagreed with Chehade’s credit card company example.
“The have an incentive to take action, which is the avoidance of future potential costs,” he said. “That similar incentive does not exist with respect to registries and registrars.”
“In order for any sort of voluntary standards to be successful or useful, there have to be incentives for the parties to actually comply with those voluntary standards,” he said.
“One possibility among many is a situation where those registries and registrars that don’t comply with the voluntary standards are potentially subject to an ICANN compliance action,” he said.
It’s pretty clear that this issue is an ongoing one.
Chehade warned in his address yesterday that calls for ICANN to increase its policing powers will only increase when and if its IANA contract is finally divorced from US government oversight.
Grogan will host a roundtable tomorrow at 10am Dublin time to discuss possible voluntary mechanisms that could be created to govern abuse.
The At-Large Advisory Committee has yanked backing for a key ICANN accountability proposal.
The ALAC, on of ICANN’s policy advisory groups, this afternoon voted unanimously “to withdraw support for the Membership model” at ICANN 54 in Dublin.
The Membership model is a proposal out of the Cross Community Working Group on Accountability (CCWG) that would change ICANN’s legal structure to one of formal membership, where a Sole Member gets legal rights to enforce accountability over the ICANN board of directors.
The model has some fierce support in the CCWG, but over the last few days in Dublin the group has started to explore the possibility of a “Designator” model instead.
That would be a weaker accountability model than one based on membership, but stronger than the “Multistakeholder Enforcement Mechanism” proposed by the ICANN board.
ALAC chair Alan Greenberg said in a statement to the CCWG mailing list:
In its formal response to the CCWG-Accountability proposal issued in August 2015, the ALAC said that it could support the model being proposed, but preferred something far less complex and lighter-weight, and that we saw no need for the level of enforceability that the proposal provided. Moreover, the ALAC had specific concerns with the budget veto and the apparent lack of participation of perhaps a majority of AC/SOs.
In light of the reconsideration of a designator model by the CCWG, along with the recommendations of the Saturday morning break-out sessions, the ALAC felt that a revised statement was in order. Accordingly we decided, by a unanimous vote of the 14 ALAC members present (with 1 not present), to withdraw support for the Membership model.
I want to make it clear that this is not a “red line” decision. Should a Membership model become one that is generally advocated by the CCWG, and supported by a supermajority of Board directors (who ultimately MUST support any changes that they will be called upon to approve, else they would be in violation of their fiduciary duty), then the ALAC reserves its right to support such a model.
The move revises the battle lines in the ongoing accountability debate. It’s no longer a simple case of CCWG versus ICANN board.
Dublin is a crunch time for the accountability proposals.
The clock is ticking — if the ICANN community cannot agree on a consensus proposal soon it risks delaying the transition of the IANA functions from US government oversight and possibly killing off the transition altogether.
Yet, while the CCWG is making steady progress cleaning up remaining areas of disagreement, the differences between itself and the board are still as sharp as ever.