Three US members of Congress have expressed “deep concern” over the alleged lack of due process followed when the Department of Homeland Security seizes domain names.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Rep. Jared Polis and Rep. Jason Chaffetz quiz DHS (pdf) about the methods employed by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in its Operation In Our Sites.
The Congressmen’s letter highlights the case of the hip-hop web site Dajaz1.com, which had its .com seized by ICE and then returned.
“Much of Dajaz1’s information was lawful,” the letter reads. “Despite this, DHS and the Department of Justice suppressed this website for more than a year.”
The Congressmen say that “if a website’s domain is seized, it needs to be given meaningful due process that comports to the US Constitution and US law”.
Operation In Our Sites has seen ICE seize hundreds of domains — mainly .coms accused of copyright infringement — from US-based registries including Verisign since late 2010.
Despite the relatively small number of domains seized, there have been a number of controversies.
Notably, the Spanish TV download web site RojaDirecta, which lost its .com and .org domains despite being ruled legal by a court in its home nation, last month had them returned to it by ICE.
ICANN’s board of directors quizzed staff about the lack of a “thick” Whois obligation in Verisign’s .com contract, according to meeting minutes released last night.
Director George Sadowsky raised the thick Whois issue, which has been a sharp wedge issue between non-commercial users and the intellectual property lobby, according to the minutes.
Senior vice president Kurt Pritz responded:
Kurt noted that while a requirement for a “thick” registry had been a topic of conversation among ICANN and Verisign, the ongoing GNSO Policy Development Process initiated on this same issue rendered this topic somewhat ill-suited for two-party negotiations. In addition, the current .COM registrants entered registration agreements with the understanding of .COM as thin registry, and the resultant change – along with the ongoing policy work – weighed in favor of leaving this issue to policy discussions.
In other words: thick Whois is best left to community policy-making.
Thick Whois is wanted by trademark holders because it will make it easier to enforce data accuracy rules down the road, while non-commercial stakeholders oppose it on privacy grounds.
Domainers, at least those represented by the Internet Commerce Association, have no objection to thick Whois in principle, but believe the policy should go through the GNSO process first.
Verisign is publicly neutral on the matter.
The ICANN board vote on .com was considered somewhat controversial in Prague because it took place before any substantial face-to-face community discussion on these issues.
Sadowsky abstained, stating: “I feel very uncomfortable going forward with provisions that will tie our hands, I think, in the long run without an attempt to reach an accommodation at this time.”
Three other directors (Tonkin, De La Chapelle and Vasquez) abstained from the vote due to actual or the potential for perceived conflicts of interest.
The .com agreement is currently in the hands of the US Department of Commerce which, uniquely for a gTLD, has approval rights over the contract. It’s expected to be renewed before the end of November.
The location of ICANN’s second meeting in 2013 has been revealed as Durban, South Africa.
A proposal submitted by the local ccTLD manager, .za Domain Name Authority, was approved by the ICANN board of directors earlier this week.
It’s the second time ICANN has hosted one of its thrice-yearly public meetings in the country; in 2004, Cape Town was the venue.
The Durban meeting will run from July 14 to July 19 2013. It’s the third upcoming meeting on ICANN’s calendar after Toronto (October) and Beijing (April 2013).
Durban, a popular tourist destination, is South Africa’s third-largest city, with a population of
about half a million almost four million.
ICANN has named Olga Madruga-Forti, an Argentinian telecoms policy expert, as the newest member of its board of directors.
Selected by this year’s Nominating Committee, Madruga-Forti will take over from R. Ramaraj when his second term ends at the Toronto meeting this October.
According to the biography provided by ICANN, she has extensive experience of telecommunications policy, particularly related to satellite, in both public and private sectors.
She currently works for ARSAT in Buenes Aires as international counsel. She’s previously worked for Iridium, Loral and the US Federal Communications Commission.
ICANN pointed out that she represents telcos at the International Telecommunications Union, a relevant data point, perhaps, given the WCIT conference coming up in December.
Madruga-Forti ticks one of the Latin-American boxes on the ICANN board.
NomCom has also reappointed two other directors for second terms on the board: Gonzalo Navarro (Latin-America) and the reliably contrarian George Sadowsky (North America).
New leadership members of three ICANN supporting organizations have also been selected by NomCom.
Jennifer Wolfe of the intellectual property law firm WolfeSBMC, which counts new gTLD applicants Microsoft, Procter & Gamble and Kraft Foods among its clients, has been appointed to GNSO Council.
I believe she’s destined to replace Carlos Dionisio Aguirre when his term is up later this year.
Canadian Alan Greenberg and Frenchman Jean-Jacques Subrenat have been reappointed to the At-Large Advisory Committee.
Mary Wong, who currently sits on the GNSO Council representing non-commercial stakeholders, has been appointed to the ccNSO Council.
The full biographies of all 2012 NomCom appointees can be found here.
ICM Registry has hired new lawyers to help it fend off the antitrust lawsuit filed against it by YouPorn owner Manwin Licensing.
Gordon & Rees senior partner Richard Sybert is taking over as lead counsel in the case, which relates to the launch of .xxx last year.
Notably, the new team includes long-time ICANN legal expert Bret Fausett of Internet.Pro, who represented the Coalition For ICANN Transparency in its antitrust case against ICANN and Verisign.
That’s a bit of a coup for ICM. Manwin’s recent legal arguments have relied heavily on the antitrust precedents Fausett helped set in the CFIT case.
Gordon & Rees replaces Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr as ICM’s outside counsel, due to the recent departure of Wilmerhale’s ICANN guru and ICM defender, Becky Burr.
Burr joined Neustar as its chief privacy officer in May.
Manwin sued ICM and ICANN last October, arguing that the launch of .xxx was little more than a shake-down.
Earlier this month, a California District Court judge ruled that ICANN is not immune from competition law and that the litigation can proceed.
The case will turn in part on the question of whether there’s a market for “defensive registrations” under competition law and whether ICANN and ICM illegally exploited it.