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Senator calls for ICANN ethics controls

Kevin Murphy, September 15, 2011, Domain Policy

An influential US senator has called on the US government to impose new ethics rules on ICANN.

In a letter to the US Department of Commerce, which has an oversight relationship with ICANN, Senator Ron Wyden said that new “strict ethics guidelines” should be created.

The letter appears to be in direct response to Peter Dengate Thrush’s move from his role as ICANN’s chairman to a potentially lucrative job with a new top-level domains applicant.

(And, presumably, at the behest of whoever told Wyden about it.)

Dengate Thrush’s last major act at ICANN was to lead the vote to approve its new generic top-level domains program, this June at ICANN’s public Singapore meeting.

Three weeks later, he joined Minds + Machines parent Top Level Domain Holdings, which plans to build its entire business model around applying for new gTLDs.

“As news reports have indicated, a formerly high-ranking official at ICANN has left the organization and was immediately hired by one of the domain name companies regulated by ICANN,” a Wyden press release reads.

Wyden wants new ethical guidelines designed to prevent a “revolving door” built into the IANA contract, which is the one way Commerce can still exert unilateral control over ICANN.

He wrote: “any IANA employees ought to be made subject to the same ethics rules in place as NTIA [National Telecommunications and Information Administration, part of Commerce] employees.”

The IANA contract is up for renewal before March next year.

Pretty much anybody with a vested interest in getting more control over of the DNS is currently doing their best to hack the contract by lobbying the NTIA, directly or indirectly.

I wonder who’s behind this particular appeal.

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RodBeckstrom.xxx will never see the light of day

Kevin Murphy, September 14, 2011, Domain Registries

ICM Registry has reserved the names of dozens of ICANN directors, former directors and members of staff from the new .xxx top-level domain.

RodBeckstrom.xxx, it seems, is going to be permanently protected from cybersquatters.

I’ve reported before that thousands of celebrity names – about 4,300, it has since emerged – were placed into Registry Reserved status.

I can’t believe it did not occur to me until now to see if any domain industry “personalities” were also given the same preemptive protection.

It seems that every current member of the ICANN board has had their name reserved. One borderline case appears to be Ray Plzak, who’s only protected as RaymondAPlzak.xxx.

Two former ICANN directors who left the board this year – Peter Dengate Thrush and Rita Rodin Johnston – are also reserved, though Rita only as RitaRodin.xxx.

Further back, there’s spotty coverage. Raimundo Beca (left the board in 2010), former CEO Paul Twomey (2009) and Michael Palage (2006) have their names reserved, but many others have not.

Lots of ICANN staffers have been bestowed reserved status too, but again it appears to be quite random whether they’re included or not.

It does not appear to be based on rank (some VPs are excluded, but some mid-level employee names are reserved) or profile (some reserved names will be unfamiliar to anybody who does not attend ICANN meetings).

ICM has also reserved the names of all of its own employees.

I have been unable to find any big industry names from outside ICM and ICANN that are on the list. Bob Parsons is going to have to defensively register bobparsons.xxx, for example.

It’s worth noting that it’s against ICM’s rules to register any personal name under .xxx that is not the registrant’s own legal name or stage name, no matter what their intentions are.

Unlike .com, with .xxx registrants have to enter into an agreement with the registry – not just the registrar – when they buy a .xxx name.

It’s quite possible – though I’ve yet to confirm – that ICM will be able to disable any unauthorized personal name registered in .xxx without the offended party having to file an expensive claim.

And because registrants’ identities will be checked by ICM at the time of registration, even if they use Whois privacy, that should presumably be fairly easy to enforce in most cases.

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Eurid to release 9,000 .eu names after lawsuit

Kevin Murphy, September 14, 2011, Domain Registries

It’s going to be first-come, first-served on almost 9,000 seized .eu domain names next month, following a Eurid lawsuit against a Chinese cybersquatter.

The registry operator said today that it has taken control of the domains, which were registered shortly after .eu launched in 2006 by one Zheng Qinying, and will start to release them October 24.

Eurid went to court in 2007 after a string of cybersquatting cases against Zheng highlighted the fact that, as a Chinese citizen with no presence in the EU, she did not qualify to own .eu names.

An appeals court finally ruled a year ago that Zheng had no right to the domains, and Eurid now plans to make them available again on a first-come, first-served basis.

Don’t get too excited.

Judging by the small number of English domains on the 8,894-strong list, Zheng, despite being quick off the mark after .eu launched, registered quite a lot of garbage.

Don’t expect to see too many valuable English keyword domains. Do expect to see a lot of domains that probably would not stand up to a cybersquatting complaint.

The gems may lie in the many European surnames on the list. There may be some good non-English generics on it too, but this monolingual Anglo-Saxon has no idea.

The full list of Zheng’s domains in CSV format can be downloaded here.

UPDATE: A longer, no-holds-barred commentary by HosterStats’ John McCormac can be found here.

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Facebook hires ICANN director

Kevin Murphy, September 14, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN director Erika Mann has reportedly been hired to head up Facebook’s new Brussels office.

Mann started last week as one of a handful of “politically connected new talent” to join the social networking company recently, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Mann was a Member of the European Parliament between 1994 and 2009, representing a German constituency.

She joined ICANN’s board of directors last December, after her appointment by the Nominating Committee. She’s currently the only female director with a vote.

Facebook is an increasingly active ICANN participant.

Its envoy, global domain name manager Susan Kawaguchi, sits on the Whois Policy Review Team, for example.

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Watch ICM’s first .xxx TV commercials

Kevin Murphy, September 14, 2011, Domain Registries

ICM Registry has posted its first wave of TV commercials for .xxx onto YouTube.

The theme running through the four commercials is that not registering a .xxx may save you a bit of cash, but that registering one will make you rich.

Or something.

I can’t say I “get” the humor, but I’m probably not the demographic.

Here’s the first three. The character, “King Gavin”, is played by Gavin McInnes, founder of Vice magazine.

ICM says the commercials will start to air on TV in the US soon.

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