ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee does not plan to advise against the release of two-character domain names in new gTLDs.
In fact, judging by a GAC discussion at ICANN 51 in Los Angeles yesterday, the governments of many major nations are totally cool with the idea.
Under the standard Registry Agreement for new gTLD registries, all two-character domains (any combination of letters, numbers) must not be sold or activated in the DNS.
The blanket ban was designed to avoid clashes with two-letter ccTLD codes, both existing and future.
ICANN left the door open for registries to request the release of such names, however, and many companies have formally applied to do so via the Registry Services Evaluation Process.
Some registries want all two-character domains released, others have only asked for permission to sell those strings that do not match allocated ccTLDs.
There seems to have been an underlying assumption that governments may want to protect their geographic turf. That assumption may turn out to be untrue.
Representatives from the United States, Netherlands, Spain, Denmark, Australia, Austria and Iran all said yesterday that the GAC should not issue formal advice against the the two-character proposals.
No governments opposed that apparent consensus view.
“The use of the ‘US’ two-letter country code at the second level has not presented any technical or policy issues for the United States,” US rep Suzanne Radell said.
“We, in fact, do not require any approval for the use of US two-character country codes at the second level in existing gTLDs, and do not propose to require anything for new gTLDs,” she said.
She even highlighted domains such as us.com and us.org — which are marketed by UK-based CentralNic as alternatives to the .us ccTLD — as being just fine and dandy with the US government.
It seems likely that the GAC will instead suggest to ICANN that it is the responsibility of individual governments to challenge the registries’ requests via the RSEP process.
“What we see at the moment is that ICANN is putting these RSEP requests out for public comment and it would be open to any government to use that public comment period if they did feel in some instances that there was a concern,” Australian GACer Peter Nettlefold said.
I’ve not been able to find any government comments to the relevant RSEP requests.
For example, Neustar’s .neustar, which proposes the release of all two-character strings including country codes, has yet to receive a comment from a government.
Many comments in other RSEP fora appear to be from fellow dot-brand registries that want to use two-letter codes to represent the countries where they operate.
ICANN is ramping up its focus on contractual compliance in the midst of calls for domain industry offenders to “go to jail”.
CEO Fadi Chehade yesterday revealed that he has has promoted chief contracting counsel Allen Grogan to the newly created role of chief contract compliance officer.
Grogan, who Chehade has worked with off and on since 1991, will report directly to him. Maguy Serad, who has been heading compliance under Chehade for the last couple of years, will now report to Grogan.
In a session with the GNSO Council at the ICANN 51 public meeting in Los Angeles yesterday, Chehade said the appointment was part of a new “strategic, analytical” approach to compliance.
It was hinted that the compliance focus may form part of Chehade’s address at the formal opening ceremony of ICANN 51 later today.
Ron Andruff of the Business Constituency made the “jail” comments in response.
“We need to see action, we need to see teeth,” he said. “We never see any really strong action taken and it’s time we did. It’s time we saw people go to jail for doing things, lose their contracts for doing things.”
“We’ve lived through 15 years of ICANN with all manner of transgressions, some very serious ones, but they all get slid off to the side and there’s never any mention of it,” he said.
“Should someone be the recipient of extremely strong actions — losing their contract, being thrown out the community — that would send a signal,” he said.
Andruff appeared to be relating comments made by the Intellectual Property Constituency’s Kristina Rosette, at a private Commercial Stakeholders Group meeting earlier that day.
However, Rosette was quick to take to Twitter to deny she’d said anything about jail time.
Um, I never said anything about people going to jail for compliance breaches. Yikes.
— Kristina Rosette (@kristinarosette) October 12, 2014
Chehade, in reply to Andruff, agreed with the need for action but clarified what he plans to do.
“It doesn’t mean to create a police force, that’s not what we need,” he said. “What we need is thoughtful, analytical analysis.”
“It doesn’t mean we’re going to take the job of all the global consumer protection agencies,” he said earlier in the session.
The notion of ICANN having the power to directly jail somebody is of course laughable — all of its power comes from its contracts with registrars and registries.
However, it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that ICANN could refer registrars to law enforcement should it come across suspected illegality in the course of its compliance investigations.
ICANN Compliance currently employs 21 people and deals with 5,000 complaints per month, Chehade said.
In the last year, the number of breach, suspension and termination notices against registrars has been on the increase.
Uniregistry has won the .cars new gTLD at auction.
Donuts withdrew its competing application for the string this week. Third candidate DERCars’ application is still showing as active on ICANN’s web site.
However, Uniregistry CEO Frank Schilling confirmed to DI that his company has won the contention set.
The automobile-related gTLD space is quite congested and, one might argue, confusing.
Uniregistry’s .cars will compete with Google, which has an uncontested application for the singular .car, and DERCars which stood uncontested for the now-delegated .autos.
Uniregistry previously won the four-way fight for .auto at auction but has yet to contract with ICANN.
An applicant for .gay has lost its chance to get exclusive rights to the new gTLD, partly because the self-defined gay community it wants to represent is not “gay” enough.
Dotgay LLC is one of four applicants, and the only “Community” applicant under ICANN rules, for .gay.
But the company yesterday failed in its attempt to pass a Community Priority Evaluation, scoring just 10 out of 16 available points and failing to reach the required 14-point passing threshold.
Most of its points were lost on the “Nexus between Proposed String and Community” criteria, where 4 points were available but Dotgay scored zilch.
The CPE panel concluded that the gay community described in the Dotgay application was too broad to be described by the string “gay”, because it includes lots of people who aren’t gay — such as transgender people or heterosexual campaigners for gay rights.
Under the CPE rules, applicants can score the maximum points if their chosen string “matches” the name of the community. Partial points can be won if it “identifies” the community.
The panel decided that it did neither:
Included in the application’s community definition are transgender and intersex individuals as well as “allies” (understood as heterosexual individuals supportive of the missions of the organizations that comprise the defined community). However, “gay” does not identify these individuals. Transgender people may identify as straight or gay, since gender identity and sexual orientation are not necessarily linked.8 Likewise, intersex individuals are defined by having been born with atypical sexual reproductive anatomy; such individuals are not necessarily “gay”. Finally, allies, given the assumption that they are heterosexual supporters of LGBTQIA issues, are not identified by “gay” at all. Such individuals may be an active part of the .GAY community, even if they are heterosexual, but “gay” nevertheless does not describe these individuals
Because “gay” was not found to identify the applicant-defined community, Dotgay lost 3 points. A knock-on effect was that it lost another 1 point for not “uniquely” identifying the community.
The applicant lost another two points on the “Community Endorsement” criteria — one point for not being backed by an organization recognized as representing all gays and another because the application had received informal objections from at least one significant community member.
The CPE decision means that rival applicants Top Level Design, Rightside and Minds + Machines are back in the game.
The .gay gTLD, assuming there are no successful appeals against the CPE, is now likely headed to auction.
The music industry-backed application for the new gTLD .music today suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of a Community Priority Evaluation panel.
The Far Further (.music LLC) application scored a pitiful 3 out of 16 possible points in the evaluation, missing the required 14-point passing threshold by a country and western mile.
CPE is a way for applicants representing genuine communities to avoid an auction. If one applicant in a contention set wins a CPE, all the others must withdraw their applications.
But in this case the CPE panel went so far as to accuse the applicant of attempting to get its hands on a nice generic string by creating a new community, rather than by representing an existing one:
The Panel determined that this application refers to a proposed community construed to obtain a sought-after generic word as a gTLD. Moreover the applicant appears to be attempting to use the gTLD to organize the various groups noted in the application documentation, as opposed to applying on behalf of an already organized and cohesive community.
The application was backed by dozens of music industry trade groups and (by inference) thousands of their member associations and millions of individual members, spread over 150 countries.
But that wasn’t enough to persuade the CPE panel that “music” is even a “community” within the meaning of the ICANN new gTLD program’s Applicant Guidebook:
While the Panel acknowledges that many of the members in the proposed community share an interest in music, the AGB specifies that a “commonality of interest” is not sufficient to demonstrate the requisite awareness and recognition of a community among its members.
The panel pointed to the existence of legions of amateur musicians — estimated at 200 million — that do not identify with the community as defined in Far Further’s new gTLD application, which is restricted to the four million or so members of the application’s backers.
The panel found therefore that “there is no entity mainly dedicated to the entire community as defined by the applicant, nor does the application include reference to such an organization”.
The very fact that the Far Further application included reference to 42 trade groups, covering different facets of the music industry, seems to have counted against it. One overarching body dedicated to “music” in its entirety may have been enough to win the applicant some points.
The fact that the panel decided the community did not exist had a knock-on effect in other parts of the evaluation.
Has the community been around for a long time? No, because the community doesn’t exist. Is it a big community? No again, because the community doesn’t exist. And so on.
The only places Far Further managed to pick up points were on its registration policies, where it had promised to restrict registration to certain community members, and on community endorsement.
There are eight applicants for .music in total. One other, regular DI commenter Constantine Roussos’ DotMusic Limited, is also a Community application that is eligible for CPE.
It’s always seemed highly improbable that any .music applicant could pass CPE, but it’s looking even less likely for DotMusic after today’s result for Far Further.
.music, it seems, is heading to auction, where it is likely to fetch big bucks.