Alternate root player Name.Space has sued ICANN for trademark infringement and anti-competitive behavior, saying “insiders” have conspired to keep it out of the new gTLD program.
If successful, the suit would prevent dozens of new gTLD applicants from having their applications approved.
The lawsuit, filed in California this week, follows a warning the company fired at ICANN this March.
While only ICANN is named as a defendant, the suit alleges that the new gTLD program was crafted by and is dominated by “ICANN insiders” and “industry titans”.
It wants an injunction preventing ICANN delegating any of the 189 gTLD strings that it claims it has rights to.
It also fingers several current and former ICANN directors, including current and former chairs Steve Crocker and Peter Dengate Thrush, over their alleged conflicts of interest.
Name.Space has been operating 482 diverse TLDs — such as .news, .sucks, and .mail — in a lightly used alternate root system since 1996.
Most people can’t access these zones and are unaware that they exist.
The company applied to have 118 of these strings added to the root in ICANN’s “proof of concept” gTLD expansion in 2000, when the application fee was $50,000, but was unsuccessful.
Now, the company claims the new gTLD program is “an attack on name.space’s business model and a mean by which to create and maintain market power in the TLD markets”.
The complaint (pdf) states:
Rather than adopting a procedure to account for the pending 2000 Application and facilitate the expansion of TLD providers in the DNS, ICANN has adopted a procedure so complex and expensive that it once again effectively prohibited newcomers from competing. It instead has permitted participation solely by ICANN insiders and industry titans.
If it had applied for all 118 again in this year’s round, it would have cost almost $22 million (though it would have qualified for an $83,000 discount on a single bid).
Name.Space is asking for damages and an injunction preventing ICANN from approving 189 gTLDs that match those it currently operates in its alternate root.
The full list of affected applications is attached to the complaint.
I think this is the first time I’ve seen noted domainer Frank Schilling appearing in an ICANN-related video.
It was produced by Google during ICANN’s meeting in Prague a few months ago, and published on YouTube this week.
Alongside many familiar faces from the ICANN-policy-wonk side of the industry, you’ll also see Schilling, who is of course behind portfolio gTLD applicant Uniregistry, telling you:
What I like about ICANN is just that: it’s not controlled by anyone, yet it’s controlled by you. You control it just by contributing to the process. And it’s open to anyone in any language, anywhere in the world
I think the video pretty much nails it.
ICANN 45 starts in Toronto, Canada this weekend. You don’t need to be there to get involved.
The Council of Europe has expressed concern about the privacy ramifications of ICANN’s proposed changes to Whois requirements in the Registrar Accreditation Agreement.
In a letter this week (pdf), the Bureau of the Consultative Committee of the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Personal Data (T-PD) said:
The Bureau of the T-PD took note of the position of the Article 29 Data Protection Working Parking in its comments of 26 September 2012 on the data protection impact of the revision of these arrangements concerning accuracy and data retention of the WHOIS data and fully shares the concern raised.
The Bureau of the T-PD is convinced of the importance of ensuring that appropriate consideration be given in the ICANN context to the relevant European and international privacy standards
The letter was sent in response to outreach from ICANN’s Non-Commercial Users Constituency.
The Article 29 letter referenced said that EU registrars risked breaking the law if they implemented ICANN’s proposed data retention requirements.
Earlier today, we reported on ICANN’s response, which proposes an opt-out for registrars based in the EU, but we noted that registrars elsewhere are unlikely to dig a two-tier RAA.
Nominet chair Baroness Rennie Fritchie has apologized for “embarrassment” caused by leaked emails that suggested Nominet and UK officials tried to avoid freedom of information laws.
But she has rebutted allegations that Nominet executives conspired to orchestrate a government takeover of the .uk namespace during a fractious board dispute back in 2008.
In a statement to Nominet members today, Fritchie said she has conducted a “fact-finding review” of the allegations and had “concluded that Nominet did not manufacture Government concern.”
As we reported a month ago, former policy director Emily Taylor made a number of claims about Nominet’s actions in 2008, when executives perceived a threat to control of the board by certain vocal domainers.
In order to ensure a friendlier board, Nominet approached the UK government for help, according to Taylor.
This led to an independent review, a restructuring of Nominet’s board, and powers for the government to take over the running of .uk being included in the Digital Economy Act of 2010.
Nominet has maintained, and Fritchie now says she has confirmed, that the concerns originated with the government, BT and the Confederation of British Industry, and not the other way around.
we have been extremely disappointed to see that correspondence from a troubled time in Nominet’s history has led to a skewed and inaccurate interpretation of events.
Having personally considered all available evidence, I have concluded that Nominet did not manufacture Government concern. There were longstanding issues, and the failure to win support for the proposed improvements in our governance at the AGM in 2008 was the catalyst that put Nominet’s problems firmly in the spotlight.
I have also been reassured that the concerns raised by CBI and BT representatives immediately following the 2008 AGM were not concocted by Nominet.
It also emerged last month that UK government officials and Nominet executives had been communicating via private email accounts, apparently in order to avoid Freedom of Information Act requirements.
One Nominet email from 2008 provided to DI signed off with “It feels wonderful to work free from fear of FOI !!”
It is for this email that Fritchie appears to be apologizing. She wrote:
We would however like to apologise for the embarrassment caused to members by an inappropriate suggestion, made in an email from a Nominet employee, that information could or should be deleted by officials to avoid an anticipated Freedom of Information request. This was a misguided attempt to ensure that open and honest conversations about how to secure the membership model of Nominet could take place, without being inappropriately influenced by those with vested interests. I would like to assure members that this was the result of troubled times, and is not at all representative of the way that Nominet operates.
The message was posted to Nominet’s members-only forum this afternoon.
The story may not be over yet, however.
Last month, Andrew Smith, Member of Parliament for Nominet’s home town of Oxford, told DI that he had referred Taylor’s freedom of information claims to Head of the Home Civil Service and the Chair of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.
“These are very serious matters and it is important they are properly investigated,” he said.
Registrars based in the European Union could be let off the hook when it comes to the Whois verification requirements currently under discussion at ICANN.
That’s according to ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade, who this week responded to privacy concerns expressed by the Article 29 Working Party, a EU-based quasi-governmental privacy watchdog.
The Working Party said last month that if ICANN forced EU registrars to re-verify customer data and store it for longer than necessary, they would risk breaking EU privacy law.
Those are two of the many amendments to the standard Registrar Accreditation Agreement that ICANN — at the request of governments and law enforcement — is currently pushing for.
In reply, Chehade noted that ICANN currently plans to give registrars an opt-out:
ICANN proposes to adapt the current ICANN Procedures for Handling Whois Conflicts with Privacy Law, to enable registrars to seek an exempton from these new RAA WHOIS and data protection obligations in the even that the obligations would cause registrars to violate their local laws and regulations.
He also said that the Governmental Advisory Committee has “endorsed” the provisions at question, and encouraged the Working Party to work via the GAC to have its views heard.
I understand that registrars based in the US and elsewhere would not respond favorably to what would essentially amount to a two-tier RAA.
Some of the RAA changes would have cost implications, so there’s an argument that to exempt some registrars and not others would create an un-level competitive playing field.
The Article 29 Working Party is an advisory body, independent of the European Union, comprising one representative from the data privacy watchdogs in each EU state.
Some GAC representatives said during the ICANN meeting in Prague this June that they had already factored privacy concerns into their support for the RAA talks.
It’s going to interesting to see how both registrars and the GAC react to the Article 29 developments at the Toronto meeting, which begins this weekend.