US to give up control over ICANN

Kevin Murphy, March 15, 2014, Domain Policy

In what can only be described as an historic announcement, the United States government tonight said that it will walk away from its control of the DNS root zone.

ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade said during a press conference tonight that the organization has begun a consultation to figure out “accountability mechanisms” that will replace the US role as ICANN’s master.

The news comes in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations about US spying, but Chehade and ICANN chair Steve Crocker said that the changes would have been made sooner or later anyway.

So what just happened?

Earlier this evening, the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced its “intent to transition key Internet domain name functions to the global multistakeholder community.”

That’s basically referring to the IANA contract, the US government procurement contract under which ICANN has the ability to make changes — essentially by recommendation — to the DNS root zone.

The current version of the contract is due to expire next year, and the hope is that when it does there won’t be any need for a renewal.

Between now and then, the ICANN community (that’s you) is tasked with coming up with something to replace it.

It’s going to be the hottest topic at the ICANN 49 meeting in Singapore, which kicks off a week from now, but it’s expected to be under discussion for much longer than that.

Chehade said during the press conference tonight that the idea is not to create a new oversight body to replace the NTIA. We seem to be talking about “mechanisms” rather than “organizations”.

He also said that the US government has made it plain that any attempt to replace the US with an intergovernmental body (ie, the International Telecommunications Union) will not be considered acceptable.

Whatever oversight mechanism replaces NTIA, it’s going to have to be “multistakeholder” — not just governments.

The root zone is currently controlled under a trilateral relationship between the NTIA, ICANN and Verisign.

Essentially, ICANN says “add this TLD” or “change the name servers for this TLD” and, after the NTIA has approved the change, Verisign implements it on its root zone servers. The other root zone operators take copies and the DNS remains a unique, reliable namespace.

The NTIA has said that it’s going to withdraw from this relationship.

One question that remains is whether Verisign will retain its important role in root zone management.

Chehade appeared slightly (only slightly) evasive on this question tonight, spending some time clarifying that Verisign’s root zone management contract is not the same as its .com contract.

I assume this prevarication was in order to not wipe billions off Verisign’s market cap on Monday, but I didn’t really get a good sense of whether Verisign’s position as a root zone manager was in jeopardy.

My guess is that it is not.

A second question is whether the US stepping away from the IANA function means that the Affirmation of Commitments between the US government and ICANN also has its days numbered.

Apparently it does.

Chehade and ICANN chair Steve Crocker pointed to the ICANN board’s decision a few weeks ago to create a new board committee tasked with exploring ways to rewrite the AoC.

And they said tonight that there’s no plan to retire the AoC. Rather, the idea is to increase the number of parties that are signatories to it.

The AoC, it seems, will be ICANN’s affirmation to the world, not just to the US government.

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Donuts: “eco” registrants could get their names back

Kevin Murphy, March 14, 2014, Domain Registries

Registrants whose domains were deleted by Donuts this week could get their names back, should ICANN release them from its reserved lists in future, the company said today.

In an email to affected registrants, believed to number a few dozen, Donuts said:

We are actively lobbying ICANN to make the domain names you registered available to you. We hope to be successful and, though you are under no obligation to do so, we think it would be helpful if you voiced your opinion to ICANN about it directly.

To get these domain names to you as soon as possible, we are maintaining a record of your details in the event ICANN releases these names for registration. If and when ICANN does, we will contact you and have these names registered to you for free.

The only names affected by the screw-up were “eco” and “00″ at the second level in any of Donuts new gTLDs.

The company had accidentally removed both strings from its list of reserved names, making the domains available for registration.

The string “eco” is reserved because it matches the acronym of the Economic Cooperation Organization, an intergovernmental organization, while “00″ is reserved along with all two-character strings.

Whether “eco” is released will rather depend on whether the ICANN board of directors sides with the Generic Names Supporting Organization, which wants acronyms removed from the reserved list, or the Governmental Advisory Committee, which wants the protection to remain.

For “00″, it’s a slightly different story. There’s no move I’m aware of to relax the two-character rule, which is designed to protect current and future ccTLDs.

But it does seem a bit strange for numeric domains to be reserved in this way, given that there’s virtually no chance of a future nation being assigned a numeric country code by the UN.

It may not be impossible for “00″ to be released, but I think it might take a bit longer.

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French registrar gets Whois data waiver

Kevin Murphy, March 14, 2014, Domain Registrars

The French registrar OVH has been told by ICANN that it can opt out of a requirement to retain its customers’ contact data for two years after their domain names expire.

The move potentially means many more registrars based in the European Union will be able to sign the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement and start selling new gTLD domains without breaking the law.

OVH was among the first to request a waiver to the 2013 RAA’s data retention provisions, which EU authorities say are illegal.

ICANN said last night:

ICANN agrees that, following Registrar’s execution of the 2013 RAA, for purposes of assessing Registrar’s compliance with the data retention requirement of Paragraph 1.1 of the Data Retention Specification in the 2013 RAA, the period of “two additional years” in Paragraph 1.1 of the Data Retention Specification will be deemed modified to “one additional year.”

It’s a minor change, maybe, and many EU-based registrars have been signing the 2013 RAA regardless, but many others have resisted the new contract in fear of breaking local laws.

Now that OVH has had its waiver granted, it’s looking promising that ICANN will also start to allow other EU registrars that have requested waivers to opt-out also.

ICANN has been criticized for dragging its feet on this issue, and I gather the OVH is still the only registrar to have been given the ability to opt out.

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Common first name lost to URS complaint

Kevin Murphy, March 14, 2014, Domain Policy

The first controversial Uniform Rapid Suspension decision? Probably not.

An self-described “entrepreneur” from Texas has lost control of the domain dana.holdings after a URS complaint filed by Dana Holding, a vehicle component supplier. The domain has been suspended.

It’s the first URS case where the second-level string, in this case “dana”, has a hypothetical multitude of uses not related to the trademark holder’s brand.

The respondent, one Farris Nawas, said in his URS response:

Dana is a common Middle Eastern female name. My family is of Middle Eastern descent. My intention is to establish a holding company in my native country and not in the United States. Upon my registration of the domain name www.Dana.Holdings, I discovered that Dana Holdings is nationally registered in the United states. Out of Courtesy, I approached Dana Limited corporation myself to let them know that I have registered the domain name with the intention of starting my own holding company.

The National Arbitration Forum URS examiner, Darryl Wilson, didn’t buy it

While Nawas was not wrong about Dana being a common first name, I feel I’m on pretty safe ground saying the excuse about starting his own holding company was utter nonsense.

Nawas owns over 200 domains, most of which were registered during the first days of new gTLDs general availability and many of which appear to be cut-and-dried cases of outright cybersquatting.

He was called out by Forbes for registering tommyhilfiger.clothing. I’ve discovered he also owns such as names 4san.ventures and akfen.holdings, among others, which also seem to match company names.

Evidence of a pattern of cybersquatting can be used by URS panels to find bad faith, but that doesn’t seem to have happened in this case.

Rather, Wilson seems to have taken Nawas’ offer to sell the domain to Dana for “an unspecified amount” as evidence that he’s a wrong ‘un. Wilson found his explanation “dubious at best”.

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Disadvantaged kids need your money after terrible Name.com charity drive

Kevin Murphy, March 13, 2014, Domain Registrars

Domain name registrar Name.com carried out what can only be described as a completely abysmal charity fund-raising drive during this week’s South by Southwest conference, and disadvantaged kids need your help as a result.

During the conference, Name.com got one of its more photogenic customer support guys to go around the streets of Austin, Texas, asking random passers-by to high-five him.

The high-fives were recorded on a great big electronic device the guy carried on his back. For every high-five he got, Name.com promised to donate a nickel ($0.05) to charity.

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The campaign was videoed and published on the company’s blog (here, here, here, and here)

The end result of this was 10,000 high-fives, which raised an absolutely pointless $500 for the charity concerned, which is the Austin Children’s Center, a very worthy-sounding cause.

The Austin’s Children’s Center provides services for child victims of abuse in Austin, Texas.

But if you watch all of the Name.com videos linked to above, you’ll learn rather more about Name.com than you will about the charity it’s supposedly raising money for.

And all this effort raised a pathetic $500.

There are people reading this post who have regularly spent more than that on dinner.

During the final video, a representative of the charity, the Austin’s Children’s Center, says “We have to raise 65% of our annual budget, and this year it’s $7 million.”

So Name.com raised a whopping 0.007% of its chosen charity’s annual funding needs, while putting rather a lot of effort into attempting to raise its own corporate profile.

I gather that the highfive-counting electronic gizmo that the CSR carried around on his back in the videos costs around $1,200 to buy, meaning that the stunt actually ran at a loss.

Name.com could have donated an extra $1,200 to this charity if it had not run the stunt at all.

That’s assuming, of course, that it didn’t pay the guy carrying the camera, or the guy who did the editing, or the guy who wrote the blog post, or the guy who sent me the press release today…

This kind of crap makes me sick.

I donated $25 to the Center today in protest at Name.com’s bullshit.

If you want to donate in protest too, which I strongly encourage you to do, do it here.

Not many people have donated yet. This charity really does need your help.

If you’re not convinced yet, watch this video and then donate if you find it funny.

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