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Viking victor in .cruise gTLD auction

Kevin Murphy, October 2, 2015, Domain Registries

Viking River Cruises has emerged as the winner of the .cruise new gTLD contention set.

It seems to have beaten Cruise Lines International Association, which has withdrawn the only competing application, in an auction.

Both applicants originally proposed a single-registrant model, in which only the registry could own domains, but changed their plans after ICANN adopted Governmental Advisory Committee advice against so-called “closed generic” gTLDs.

There was controversy in July when CLIA claimed Viking had waited too long to change its proposed registration policies.

The group accused Viking of deliberately delaying the contention set.

ICANN, however, rejected its argument, saying applicants can submit change requests at any time.

Viking’s updated application seems to envisage something along the lines of .travel, where registration is limited to credentialed industry members, defined as:

Applicant and its Affiliates, agents, network providers and others involved in the delivery of cruise-related services, including without limitation: companies that hold a license from a governmental or regulatory body to offer cruise services, companies that provide services or equipment to cruise providers, as well as consultants, resellers, engineers, etc., working with the cruise industry.

Viking is already the registry for its dot-brand, .viking.

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Pritz quitz DNA

Kevin Murphy, October 2, 2015, Domain Services

Domain Name Association boss Kurt Pritz has resigned after two years on the job.

Neustar’s Adrian Kinderis, chair of the domain industry trade group, made the announcement in an email to members yesterday.

No immediate replacement for Pritz has been named, but Kinderis said the DNA’s board wasn’t worried:

Fellow members may have concerns about the current and future management of the DNA and its many activities. Please be advised that the board and I have no serious concerns. The DNA partners with Virtual and Allegravita, two full-service external consultancies that manage all areas of operational excellence and communications. These two organizations have the full trust and support of the board, and the various DNA member committees that I’m proud to see are generating substantial and practical work product on a weekly basis.

Pritz joined the DNA in November 2013, having previously spent years in senior roles, including chief strategy officer, at ICANN.

Under his watch, the DNA has done things like adopting a webinar series for new gTLD registries and launching a site highlighting examples of new gTLD domains advertised “in the wild”, as well as carrying various advocacy work.

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ICANN: we won’t force registrars to suspend domains

Kevin Murphy, October 2, 2015, Domain Registrars

In one of the ongoing battles between registrars and the intellectual property lobby, ICANN’s compliance department seems to have sided with the registrars, for now.

Registrars will not be forced to suspend domain names when people complain about abusive or illegal behavior on the associated web sites, according to chief contract compliance office Allen Grogan.

The decision will please registrars but will come as a blow to the likes of music and movie studios and those who fight to shut down dodgy internet pharmacies.

Grogan yesterday published his interpretation of the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement, specifically the section (3.18) that obliges registrars to “investigate and respond appropriately” abuse reports.

The IP crowd take this to mean that if they submit an abuse report claiming, for example, that a web site sells medicines across borders without an appropriate license, the registrar should check out the site then turn off the domain.

Registrars, on the other hand, claim they’re in no position to make a judgment call about the legality of a site unless presented with a proper court order.

Grogan appears to have taken this view also, though he indicated that his work is not yet done. He wrote:

Sometimes a complaining party takes the position that that there is only one appropriate response to a report of abuse or illegal activity, namely to suspend or terminate the domain name registration. In the same circumstances, a registrar may take the position that it is not qualified to make a determination regarding whether the activity in question is illegal and that the registrar is unwilling to suspend or terminate the domain name registration absent an order from a court of competent jurisdiction. I am continuing to work toward finding ways to bridge these gaps.

It’s a testament to how little agreement there is on this issue that, when we asked Grogan back in June how long it would take to provide clarity, he estimated it would take “a few weeks”. Yet it’s still not fully resolved.

His blog post last night contains a seven-point checklist that abuse reporters must conform to in order to give registrars enough detail to with with.

They must, for example, be specific about who they are, where the allegedly abusive content can be found, whose rights are being infringed, and which laws are being broken in which jurisdiction.

It also contains a six-point checklist for how registrars must respond.

Registrars are only obliged to investigate the URL in question (unless they fear exposure to malware or child abuse material), inform the registrant about the complaint, and inform the reporter what, if anything, they’ve done to remediate the situation.

There’s no obligation to suspend domains, and registrars seem to have great leeway in how they treat the report.

In short, Grogan has interpreted RAA 3.18 in a way that does not seem to place any substantial additional burden on registrars.

He’s convening a roundtable discussion for the forthcoming ICANN meeting in Dublin with a view to getting registrars to agree to some non-binding “voluntary self-regulatory” best practices.

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ICANN going to Panama for 56th meeting

Kevin Murphy, October 1, 2015, Domain Policy

Panama has been selected as the venue for ICANN’s 56th public meeting.

The ICANN board of directors approved the location a few days ago.

The meeting will be held in June next year in Panama City.

ICANN 56 falls between the March meeting in Marrakech, Morocco and October’s meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The final meeting of 2015 happens in Dublin, Ireland in a couple of weeks.

The structure of ICANN meetings changes next year, so the Panama gathering will be the first example of a four-day schedule that eschews traditional sessions such as the opening ceremony and public forum.

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Africa hands coffin nails to DotConnectAfrica evaluators

Kevin Murphy, October 1, 2015, Domain Policy

The African Union and a United Nations commission have formally told ICANN that they don’t support DotConnectAfrica’s bid for .africa.

When it comes to showing governmental support, a necessity under ICANN’s rules for a geographic gTLD applications, the UN Economic Commission for Africa was DCA’s only prayer.

Company CEO Sophia Bekele had managed to get somebody at UNECA to write a letter supporting .africa back in 2008, and DCA has continued to pretend that the letter was relevant even after the entire continent came out in support of rival applicant ZA Central Registry.

During its Independent Review Process appeal, DCA begged the IRP panel to declare that the 2008 letter showed it had the support of the 60% of African governments that it requires to be approved by ICANN.

The panel naturally declined to take this view.

Now UNECA has said in a letter to the African Union Commission (pdf) dated July 20, which has since been forwarded to ICANN:

ECA as United Nations entity is neither a government nor a public authority and therefore is not qualified to issue a letter of support for a prospective applicant in support of their application. In addition, ECA does not have a mandate represent the views or convey the support or otherwise of African governments in matters relating to application for delegation of the gTLD.

It is ECA’s position that the August 2008 letter to Ms Bekele cannot be properly considered as a “letter of support or endorsement” with the context of ICANN’s requirements and cannot be used as such.

The AUC itself has also now confirmed for the umpteenth time, in a September 29 letter (pdf), that it doesn’t support the DCA bid either. It said:

Any reliance by DCA in its application… proclaiming support or endorsement by the AUC, must be dismissed. The AUC does not support the DCA application and, if any such support was initially provided, it has subsequently been withdrawn with the full knowledge of DCA even prior to the commencement of ICANN’s new gTLD application process.

The AUC went on to say that if DCA is claiming support from any individual African government, such claims should be treated “with the utmost caution and sensitivity”.

That’s because a few years ago African Union member states all signed up to a declaration handing authority over .africa to the AUC.

The AUC ran an open process to find a registry operator. DCA consciously decided to not participate, proclaiming the process corrupt, and ZACR won.

The new letters are relevant because DCA is currently being evaluated for the second time by ICANN’s independent Geographic Names Panel, which has to decide whether DCA has the support of 60% of African governments.

ZACR passed its GNP review largely due to a letter of support from the AUC.

If DCA does not have the same level of support, its application will fail for the second time.

The 2008 UNECA letter was the only thing DCA had left showing any kind of support from any governmental authority.

Now that’s gone, does this mean the DCA application is dead?

No. DCA has a track record of operating irrationally and throwing good money after bad. There’s every chance that when it fails the Geographic Names Review it will simply file another Request for Reconsideration and then another IRP, delaying the delegation of .africa for another year or so.

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