ICANN is going to have to decide whether to approve the new gTLDs .islam and .halal, after the Governmental Advisory Committee punted the issue.
“[T]he GAC concluded its discussions on these applications with the advice provided in the Beijing Communiqué,” Dryden said. “Accordingly, no further GAC input on this matter can be expected.”
ICANN is therefore left with the following advice:
The GAC recognizes that Religious terms are sensitive issues. Some GAC members have raised sensitivities on the applications that relate to Islamic terms, specifically .islam and .halal. The GAC members concerned have noted that the applications for .islam and .halal lack community involvement and support. It is the view of these GAC members that these applications should not proceed.
My take on this is that the GAC has provided what is often called a “non-consensus” objection, which I believe triggers one of the vaguest parts of the Applicant Guidebook.
One of the three types of GAC Advice on New gTLDs reads:
The GAC advises ICANN that there are concerns about a particular application “dot-example.” The ICANN Board is expected to enter into dialogue with the GAC to understand the scope of concerns. The ICANN Board is also expected to provide a rationale for its decision.
It seems pretty obvious now that ICANN’s board — nowadays its New gTLD Program Committee — is expected to make a decision whether to accept or reject .islam and .halal.
It would be the first time that ICANN has had to decide whether to reject a gTLD for public policy reasons without the full backing of the GAC in this application round.
It faced a similar conundrum in the 2003 round — albeit using different rules of engagement — when it had to decide the fate of .xxx (which it obviously chose to approve).
The applicant for .islam and .halal is Turkey-based Asia Green IT System.
The Organization for Islamic Cooperation, which claims to represent 1.6 billion Muslims, does not support the bids. It backed two formal Community Objections to the applications, which both failed.
The OIC’s Council of Ministers is meeting this week in Conakry, Guinea, and is expected to come out with some kind of formal statement opposing Islamic-oriented gTLDs that lack support.
The strength of that statement may prove decisive when ICANN comes to consider the issue.
A small Californian registrar has been sent a contract breach notice by ICANN.
ICANN says Irvine-based Jetpack Domains has failed to comply with a scheduled audit, breaking the terms of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement that require it to supply records on demand.
The company has until January 2 to provide ICANN with the data it has asked for or risk losing its accreditation, ICANN said (pdf).
Jetpack, which had fewer than 6,000 gTLD domains under management at the last count, appears to use DomainCocoon for registrar management services.
Dot-brand gTLDs could get big exemptions to the standard new gTLD Registry Agreement under new rules published for public comment by ICANN over the weekend.
The proposed changes were negotiated by ICANN and the Brand Registry Group, a coalition of dot-brand applicants that one day plans to become a formal part of ICANN’s policy-making structure.
“The changes will allow trademark owners who have applied for new TLDs to promote and maintain trust in their .Brand registries,” the BRG said in a statement supporting the changes.
Dot-brands would be completely exempt from the standard Code of Conduct, which requires registries to treat all accredited registrars equally.
They’d be explicitly allowed to work with only one trusted registrar.
Given that dot-brands are all essentially single-registrants spaces (limited to the brand owner, its affiliates and trademark licensees) it makes sense to eschew the usual competitive registrar market.
Brand owners were also very worried about ICANN’s right to re-delegate defunct gTLDs, including dot-brands, to new registry operators, which could be seen as extreme brand dilution.
So the proposed RA amendment would also prevent ICANN from redelegating dot-brands for two years after the agreement expires, unless there’s a compelling public-interest reason to do so.
If ICANN chose to redelegate during that period, the former dot-brand would be able to object.
Nothing would stop a third party applying for the vacated gTLD in a subsequent application round.
The changes appear to prevent brand registries from claiming exclusive rights to gTLD strings in perpetuity, while still giving them breathing space to wind down and attempt to avoid brand confusion.
The definition of a “brand” seems to have been written in order to prevent gaming by companies with trademarks on generic strings.
To qualify to become a dot-brand, a registry would have to prove that its gTLD string is a trademark it owns for non-domain industry they’re already playing in. Strings starting with dots would be excluded.
ICANN would determine which gTLDs are eligible, and would be able to revoke the dot-brand status if the registry changed its business plans in future.
The proposal has been negotiated by ICANN legal staff and the BRG and has not yet been approved by the New gTLD Program Committee or the ICANN board.
It’s open for public comment until January 31, here.
FLSmidth, a Danish cement company, has withdrawn its application for the new gTLD .fls.
It’s the first dot-brand to be withdrawn from the program in months.
FLSmidth had passed Initial Evaluation and was not facing any objections or Governmental Advisory Committee advice, so it’s not immediately clear why the company decided to pull out.
The company recently reported a fall in profitability, so perhaps it’s just trying to cut costs by eliminating superfluous expenses.
Top Level Domain Holdings has withdrawn its bid for the .roma gTLD, after apparently running afoul of the Italian government.
The gTLD was to represent the city of Rome, but Italy issued the company with an Early Warning (pdf) a year ago saying the company had “No involvement or support from the local authorities” and should withdraw.
TLDH disputed this, saying in November 2012:
In fact the Company had engaged extensively with the relevant local authority and will provide supporting documentation to the Italian GAC member. Once this evidence has been submitted, the Directors believe that the objection will be withdrawn.
The warning did not escalate to full-blown Governmental Advisory Committee advice, but .roma nevertheless failed Initial Evaluation (pdf) due to the lack of documented government support with its application.
The bid was eligible for Extended Evaluation, but it seems that TLDH was unable to get the required level of support or non-objection from Italy to allow the bid to pass.
It’s the second of TLDH’s applications to get killed off by a GAC member. It withdrew its non-geo application for .spa as soon as Belgium started making noises about its own city of Spa.
The company also ditched plans to apply for .mumbai in 2011 due to confusion about whether the city’s government actually supported it or not.