Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

ICANN tells Congressmen to chillax

Kevin Murphy, January 25, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN senior vice president Kurt Pritz has replied in writing to great big list of questions posed by US Congressmen following the two hearings into new gTLDs last month.

The answers do what the format of the Congressional hearings made impossible – provide a detailed explanation, with links, of why ICANN is doing what it’s doing.

The 27-page letter (pdf), which addresses questions posed by Reps. Waxman, Eshoo and Dingell, goes over some ground you may find very familiar, if you’ve been paying attention.

These are some of the questions and answers I found particularly interesting.

Why are you doing this?

Pritz gives an overview of the convoluted ICANN process responsible for conceiving, creating and honing the new gTLD program over the last few years.

It explains, for example, that the original GNSO Council vote, which set the wheels in motion back in late 2007, was 19-1 in favor of introducing new gTLDs.

The “lone dissenting vote”, Pritz notes, was cast by a Non-Commercial Users Constituency member – it was Robin Gross of IP Justice – who felt the program had too many restrictions.

The letter does not mention that three Council members – one from the Intellectual Property Constituency and two more from the NCUC – abstained from the vote.

Why aren’t the trademark protection mechanisms finished yet?

The main concern here is the Trademark Clearinghouse.

New gTLD applicants will not find out how the Clearinghouse will operate until March at the earliest, which is cutting it fine considering the deadline for registering as an applicant is March 29.

Pritz, however, tells the Congressmen that applicants have known all they need to know about the Clearinghouse since ICANN approved the program’s launch last June.

The Clearinghouse is a detail that ideally should have been sorted out before the program launched, but I don’t believe it’s the foremost concern for most applicants or trademark owners.

The unresolved detail nobody seems to be asking about is the cost of a Uniform Rapid Suspension complaint, the mechanism to quickly take down infringing second-level domain names.

ICANN has said that it expects the price of URS – which involves paying an intellectual property lawyer to preside over the case – to be $300 to $500, but I don’t know anyone who believes that this will be possible.

Indeed, one of the questions asked by Rep. Waxman starts with the premise “Leading providers under Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) have complained that current fees collected are inadequate to cover the costs of retaining qualified trademark attorneys.”

UDRP fees usually start at around $1,000, double what ICANN expects the URS – which I don’t think is going to be a heck of a lot simpler for arbitration panels to process – to cost trademark owners.

Why isn’t the Trademark Claims service permanent?

The Trademark Claims service is a mandatory trademark protection mechanism. One of its functions is to alert trademark holders when somebody tries to register their mark in a new gTLD.

It’s only mandatory for the first 60 days following the launch of a new gTLD, but I’m in agreement with the IP community here – in an ideal world, it would be permanent.

However, commercial services already exist that do pretty much the same thing, and ICANN doesn’t want to anoint a monopoly provider to start competing with its stakeholders. As Pritz put it:

“IP Watch” services are already provided by private firms, and it was not necessary for the rights protection mechanisms specific to the New gTLD Program to compete with those ongoing watch services already available.

In other words, brands are going to have to carry on paying if they want the ongoing benefits of an infringement notification service in new gTLDs.

When’s the second round?

Nothing new here. Pritz explains why the date for the second round has not been named yet.

Essentially, it’s a combination of not knowing how big the first round is going to be and not knowing how long it will take to conduct the two (or three) post-first-round reviews that ICANN has promised to the Governmental Advisory Committee.

I tackle the issue of second-round timing in considerable detail on DomainIncite PRO. My feeling is 2015.

On Whois verification

Pritz reiterates what ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom told the Department of Commerce last week: ICANN expects that many registrars will start to verify their customers’ Whois data this year.

ICANN is currently talking to registrars about a new Registrar Accreditation Agreement that would mandate some unspecified degree of Whois verification.

This issue is at the top of the law enforcement wish list, and it was taken up with gusto by the Governmental Advisory Committee at the Dakar meeting in October.

Pritz wrote:

ICANN is currently in negotiations with its accredited registrars over amendments to the Registrar Accreditation Agreement. ICANN is negotiating amendments regarding to the verification of Whois data, and expects its accredited registrars to take action to meet the rising call for verification of data. ICANN expects that the RAA will incorporate – for the first time – Registrar commitments to verify Whois data.

He said ICANN expects to post the amendments for comment before the Costa Rica meeting in mid-March, and the measures would be in place before the first new gTLDs launch in 2013.

I’ve heard from a few registrars with knowledge of these talks that Whois verification mandates may be far from a dead-cert in the new RAA.

But by publicly stating to government, twice now, that Whois verification is expected, the registrars are under increased pressure to make it happen.

IF Whois verification is not among the RAA amendments, expect the registrars to get another dressing down from the GAC at the Costa Rica meeting this March.

On the other hand, ICANN has arguably handed them some negotiating leverage when it comes to extracting concessions, such as reduced fees.

The registrars were prodded into these talks with the GAC stick, the big question now is what kind of carrots they will be offered to adopt an RAA that will certainly raise their costs.

ICANN expects to post the proposed RAA changes for public comment by February 20.

Congressmen ask ICANN to delay new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, December 22, 2011, Domain Policy

Seventeen US Congressmen have put their names to a letter asking ICANN to delay its new generic top-level domains program.

The bipartisan group was led by Rep. Fred Upton, chairman of the House technology subcommittee that held a hearing into new gTLDs last week. They wrote:

Although we believe expanding gTLDs is a worthy goal that may lead to increased competition on the Internet, we are very concerned that there is a significant uncertainty in this process for businesses, non-profit organizations, and consumers. To that end, we urge you to delay the planned January 12, 2012 date for the acceptance of applications for new gTLDs.

The letter (pdf), sent yesterday to ICANN president Rod Beckstrom and chairman Steve Crocker, goes on to note the objections of several groups, including the Coalition for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight, that have opposed the program in recent weeks.

Given these widespread concerns, a short delay will allow interested parties to work with ICANN and offer changes to alleviate many of them, specifically concerns over law enforcement, cost and transparency that were discussed in recent Congressional hearings.

It is notable that the letter was sent directly to ICANN’s top brass.

Previous requests of this kind have been sent to ICANN’s overseers in the US Department of Commerce, which has already indicated that it does not intend to strong-arm ICANN into changing its new gTLD plans.

ICANN’s senior vice president Kurt Pritz said last week that the chance of delay was “above zero”.

Whether this latest letter changes the math remains to be seen.

Opposition to the January 12 launch date in the US currently appears to be reaching a critical mass.

New gTLD industry pleads with senators

Kevin Murphy, December 22, 2011, Domain Policy

Twenty-eight domain name industry players have written to two influential US senators in support of ICANN’s new generic top-level domains program.

Calling it “innovative and economically beneficial”, the letter takes issue with third-party claims that the program was “rushed”, pointing out that it took a long time and lots of people to develop.

Since the formation of the multi-stakeholder Internet governance, no process has been as inclusive, and no level of outreach has been as far-reaching as the one facilitating discussion of namespace expansion.

While new gTLDs will experience different levels of end-user adoption, we optimistically anticipate the useful possibilities for new services and applications from the namespace, the positive economic impact in the United States and globally, the inclusion of developing nations in Internet growth and development, and the realization of the hard work and preparation of the thousands of interested stakeholders dedicated not only to their own interests, but that of the global Internet.

The letter (pdf) was signed almost exclusively by registrars, registries, applicants and consultants; with one or two possible exceptions, all companies that stand to make money from new gTLDs.

It was sent to Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, chair and ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

That committee held a hearing into new gTLDs two weeks ago during which Rockefeller expressed cautious support for the concept, saying he was in favor of competition.

The letter is dated December 8, the day of the Senate hearing.

A similar hearing in the House of Representatives last week resulted in two Congressmen sending a letter (pdf) to the Department of Commerce requesting a delay to the program.

Chance of new gTLD delay “above zero”

Kevin Murphy, December 20, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN has not completely ruled out the possibility that its new generic top-level domains program will be delayed, according to senior vice president Kurt Pritz.

Pritz was asked during a meeting of the GNSO Council last week whether the recent Congressional hearings into new gTLDs could lead to a delay of the January 12 launch.

“I think the risk is above zero,” Pritz said.

An “above zero” risk of delay could still mean a very small risk, of course.

He went on to point out that “the reputation of the multi-stakeholder model is wrapped up in this too”, and that to delay would be a disservice to all the people who have worked on the program.

He noted that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration assistant secretary Larry Strickling has come out in strong support of the multi-stakeholder model.

While the NTIA does not plan to enforce a delay, ICANN itself could make the decision under political pressure from elsewhere in the US, such as from Congress or the Federal Trade Commission.

Pritz faced a rough ride during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing last week, during which a number of Congressmen said they believed delay was appropriate.

The committee was largely concerned about the possible costs to trademark holders and implications for law enforcement agencies.

The hearing was called following lobbying by the Association of National Advertisers and the Coalition for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight.

Congressmen ask for new gTLDs delay

Kevin Murphy, December 14, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN should consider delaying the launch of its new top-level domains program, a number of US lawmakers said at a House of Representatives committee hearing today.

If the Senate’s hearing on new gTLDs last week could be characterized as a “win” for ICANN, today’s House meeting probably went in favor of its adversaries in the Association of National Advertisers.

“I don’t think it’s ready for prime time,” Rep. Anna Eshoo said during the Energy & Commerce Committee hearing. “I suggest that it is delayed until consensus is developed among relevant stakeholders.”

That’s exactly what the ANA and the Coalition for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight wanted to hear, and her views were echoed by several other Congresspeople, using similar language.

ICANN’s senior vice president Kurt Pritz, who was put forward to defend the new gTLD program in Washington DC for the second consecutive week, disagreed.

“This process has not been rushed, it’s been seven years in the making,” he said. “All the issues have been discussed and no new issues have been raised.”

National Telecommunications and Information Administration associate administrator Fiona Alexander, there to defend the ICANN process if not its results, observed that “consensus” does not necessarily always mean “unanimity”.

The hearing also heard from Josh Bourne of the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse, a long-time critic of ICANN and new gTLDs.

CADNA has recently taken a more pragmatic view of the program, coinciding with sister group Fairwinds Partners’ decision to emerge as a new gTLD consultancy.

Bourne therefore found himself not only defending the program but also praising .xxx, saying that its novel trademark protection mechanisms should be mandatory in new gTLDs.

CADNA’s main demand nowadays is for clarity into the dates of subsequent application rounds, which Bourne said would relieve the “condition of scarcity” that the uncertainty has created.

Bourne also said that Congress could fight fraud by revising the the 12-year-old US Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.

Also on the panel as an opponent of the program was Anjali Hansen, an IP attorney with the Better Business Bureau, who came to complain about the cost of defending the “BBB” trademark.

Hansen’s testimony was essentially worthless. When she was not complaining about fraudsters infringing copyright on BBB’s logo (obviously irrelevant in the context of domains) she seemed to be claiming that the Better Business Bureau has exclusive rights to the string “BBB”.

As Pritz noted later, there are 50 registered trademarks for “BBB” – I’ve counted about 18 live ones in the US alone – and any one of those trademark owners would be able to object to .bbb.

There was also substantial confusion about the state of the program. Congressmen conflated separate controversies in order to support the view that new gTLDs should be delayed.

As I’ve noted before, there’s a worrying lack of detail on certain outstanding issues – such as continuity funding requirements – but Congressmen had evidently been fed different talking points and therefore peppered Pritz with questions about the state of ICANN’s negotiations to amend the Registrar Accreditation Agreement, an unrelated matter.

If two themes could be said to have emerged from the hearing, and last week’s Senate hearing, often expressed by the same Congressmen or witnesses, I’d say they were:

First, ICANN should make it harder for criminals to abuse new gTLDs.

Second, ICANN should make it cheaper and easier to obtain new gTLDs.

I would point out that a certain degree of doublethink is required to hold both positions true, but to do so would imply that the necessary singlethink had been done already.

The 10 dumbest moments from that new TLDs Congressional hearing

Kevin Murphy, May 9, 2011, Domain Policy

The US House of Representatives last week held an oversight hearing into ICANN’s new top-level domains program.

As I may have mentioned, the House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet hearing was set up to be pretty one-sided stuff.

It was clear from the start that ICANN senior vice president Kurt Pritz was going to have his work cut out, given how the panel of five other witnesses was loaded against him.

But as the hearing played out, it quickly became apparent that the real challenge lay not with his fellow witnesses — most of whom were either sympathetic to ICANN from the outset or occasionally forced to leap to its defense — but with the members of the Subcommittee.

While some Congressmen had merely bought into the positions of the trademark lobby, others were so far out of their depth you couldn’t even see the bubbles.

Here, in purely my personal opinion and in no particular order, are the Top 10 Dumbest Moments.

1. Chairman Goodlatte buys the FUD

Subcommittee chairman Bob Goodlatte’s opening statement appeared to have been written with significant input from the intellectual property lobby.

At the very least, he seemed to have accepted some of the more extreme and questionable positions of that lobby as uncontroversial fact.

Two examples:

With every new gTLD that is created, a brand holder will be forced to replicate their internet domain portfolio.

The roll-out of these new gTLDs will also complicate copyright enforcement, making it harder and more costly to find and stop online infringers.

He also, on more than one occasion, advocated a “trademark block list” – the Globally Protected Marks List, an idea even the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee has now rejected.

2. Whois privacy services are Bad

A couple of Congressmen and a couple of witnesses stated that Whois accuracy needs to be enforced more stringently by ICANN, and that Whois proxy/privacy services help criminals.

I took the liberty of doing Whois queries on the official campaign web sites of all 25 members of the Subcommittee, and found that 11 of them use privacy services.

That’s 44% of the committee. Studies have estimated that between 15% and 25% of all registrations use proxy/privacy services, so Congressmen appear to be relatively hard users.

Here’s the list:

Rep. Steve Chabot, Rep. Darrell Issa, Rep. Mike Pence, Rep. Jim Jordan, Rep. Ted Poe, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Rep. Ben Quayle, Rep. Ted Deutch, Rep. Jerry Nadler, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Rep. Tim Griffin.

It also turns out that dei.com, the domain name Rep. Issa bragged about owning during the hearing, has phoney data in its Whois record.

Issa Whois

You can report him to ICANN here, if you’re so inclined.

It’s likely, of course, that these domains were registered by their staff, but I think we’re allowed to hold Congressmen to at least the same high standard they expect of the rest of us.

3. New TLDs will help porn typosquatters

Mei-lan Stark, an IP lawyer from Fox and the International Trademark Association, used the recent UDRP case over myfox2detroit.com as an example of abuse that could happen in new TLDs.

The domain directed visitors to a porn-laden link farm and was rightly deemed by WIPO to be confusingly similar to myfoxdetroit.com, the genuine Fox 2 Detroit site.

But, as Pritz pointed out later in the hearing, myfox2detroit.com is a .com domain. It’s not in a “new” TLD.

Fox, it transpires, has not registered the string “myfoxdetroit” in any other gTLD. Neither have the cybersquatters. It’s clearly not a brand that is, or needs to be, on Fox’s defensive registrations list.

That said, the “typo” myfoxdetroit.co, along with several other Fox .co domains, has been actually cybersquatted, so maybe Stark had a point.

4. Say Watt?

Rep. Mel Watt, the Subcommittee’s ranking member, couldn’t get a handle on why the pesky foreigners aren’t able to use their own non-Latin scripts in existing gTLDs.

I was beating my head against my desk during this exchange:

[After Stark finished explaining that she thinks IDN gTLDs are a good idea]

Watt: So, you think other languages. And that can’t be done in the .com, .net lingo as well?

Stark: Not today. Not the way the system is currently.

Watt: Yeah, well, not the way it’s done today, but what’s the difference? You all keep talking about innovation. Changing somebody’s name is not innovation. Allowing somebody to use a different name is not innovation. That’s not adding anything new to life that I can tell. Mr DelBianco, Mr Metalitz, help me here.

DelBianco: You’re right, just adding a new label to an existing page or content doesn’t really truly create innovation. However, 56% of the planet cannot even type in the domain name…

Watt [interrupting]: That’s not a function of whether you call something “Steve” or whether you call it “net” is it? You can put the Steve in front of the net, or you can put it dot-net, dot-Steve, dot-Watt, Steve, Steven…. you haven’t really created anything new have you?

DelBianco: You haven’t there, but 56% of our planet can’t use our alphabet when they read and write…

Watt [interrupting]: Tell me how this is going to make that better as opposed to what we have right now.

DelBianco: For the first time an Arabic user could type an entire email address in all Arabic, or a web site address in all Arabic.

Watt [interrupting]: Why can’t the current system evolve to do that without new gTLDs?

To Watt’s credit, he did put the witnesses on the spot by asking if any of them were opposed to new gTLDs (none were), but by the time his five minutes were up he was in serious danger of looking like a stereotypically insular American politician.

5. New TLDs are like T-shirts (or something)

Almost everything the NetChoice Coalition’s Steve DelBianco said, whether you agree with his positions or not, was sensible.

But when he started producing props from under the table, including one of the bright yellow custom “TLD-shirts” that AusRegistry International has been printing at recent ICANN meetings, I was giggling too hard to follow his train of thought.

Apparently the new TLDs program is like a T-shirt printing machine because, well… a T-shirt printing machine is more complicated than a label maker, which was the visual simile DelBianco used last time he appeared before the Subcommittee.

It was fun to see Congressmen treated like five-year-old kids for a minute. God knows some of them deserved it.

6. New TLDs will cost Fox $12 million

Stark stated that Fox has about 300 trademarks that it will need to enforce in new TLDs. Given ICANN has predicted 400 new TLDs, and estimating $100 per defensive registration, she “conservatively” estimated that Fox will have to pay $12 million to protects its marks in the first round.

Really?

The same ICANN study that estimated 400 applications being filed in the first round also estimated that as many as 200 of them are likely to be “.brand” TLDs in which Fox will not qualify to register.

A substantial proportion of applications are also likely to have a “community” designation and a restricted registrant policy that, in many cases, will also exclude Fox.

Does Fox really also need to register 300 brands in every city TLD or linguistic TLD that will be approved? Does Fox News broadcast in Riga? Does it have a Basque language TV station?

Not even World Trademark Review was convinced.

7. China is going to take over the internets

The Subcommittee spent far too much time talking around this meme before deciding that China is a sovereign nation that can do pretty much whatever it wants within its own borders and that there’s nothing much a House committee can do about it.

8. Literally everything that came out of Rep. Issa’s mouth

Former car alarm entrepreneur Darrell Issa talked confidently, as if he was the guy on the committee with the geek credentials, but pretty much everything he said was witless, impenetrable waffle.

He started with the premise that it costs a “fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a penny” to route traffic to an IPv6 address (why this is relevant, he didn’t say), then asked:

Why, when I go to Go Daddy, do I have to pay between $10 and $10,000 for a name and not from a tenth of a cent to 10 cents for a name?

Why in the world are there so many reserved [ie, registered] names? If I want a good name from Go Daddy… the good names, that I might want, have been already pre-grabbed and marketed in an upward way, higher. Why is it that they’re not driven down? Real competition would imply that those names are driven down to a penny for a user and prohibited from being camped on in order to resell.

Issa is a Republican, so I was quite surprised to hear him apparently advocate against the free market and the rule of supply and demand in this way, and with such a poor grasp of the economics.

Issa’s premise that it costs an imperceptible fraction of a cent to resolve a domain may be true, but only if you’re talking about a single resolution. VeriSign alone handles 57 billion such queries every day.

It adds up. And that’s just resolution, ignoring all the costs carried by the registries and registrars, such as payment processing, security, marketing, Whois (and, in the case of Issa’s domains, Whois privacy and accuracy enforcement), paying staff, rent, facilities, hardware, bandwidth…

Pritz told Issa as much, but he didn’t seem interested in the answer. He instead turned to CADNA’s Josh Bourne, to ask a meandering question that, after listening to it several times, I still don’t understand.

9. Rod Beckstrom gets paid millions

Rep. Maxine Waters was very concerned that ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom has a salary of over $2 million, “guaranteed”.

She flashed up a copy of what I believe was probably Mike Berkens’ The Domains article about ICANN salaries, from early 2010, but she clearly hadn’t read beyond the headline.

Beckstrom’s salary is $750,000 per annum. He can (and does) get a bonus if he hits his undisclosed performance targets, but it still adds up to less than $1 million a year and pales in comparison to what he’s probably going to earn when he leaves ICANN.

As Berkens accurately reported, Beckstrom has a three-year contract, so he gets a minimum of $2.2 million in total over the period he’s employed as ICANN’s CEO.

People can (and do, continually) question whether he’s earning his money, particularly when he does things like not turning up to Congressional hearings, but his salary is not set at anywhere near the level the Subcommitee heard.

10. This is so important we need more hearings (btw, sorry I’m late)

Several Congressmen called for further hearings on new gTLDs. They’re shocked, shocked, that ICANN is considering doing such a thing.

Some of those calling for further scrutiny weren’t even in the room for much of the hearing, yet saw fit to decree that the subject was so important that they needed more time to investigate.

Whether this turns out to be just more political theater remains to be seen.

US wants to delay new TLDs

Kevin Murphy, May 6, 2011, Domain Policy

With ICANN seemingly hell-bent on approving its new top-level domains program at its Singapore meeting, June 20, the US government wants to slam the brakes.

Congressmen from both sides of the aisle this week said the launch should be put on hold, and yesterday Lawrence Strickling, head of the NTIA, said he does not believe June 20 is realistic.

In a speech before the Global Internet Governance Academic Network, GigaNet, in Washington DC yesterday, Strickling said that ICANN needs to pay more heed to the advice of its Governmental Advisory Committee before it approves the program.

I commend ICANN for its efforts to respond to the GAC advice. Nonetheless, it is unclear to me today whether ICANN and the GAC can complete this process in a satisfactory manner for the Board to approve the guidebook on June 20, 2011, as ICANN has stated it wants to do.

While discussing the ongoing boogeyman threat of an International Telecommunications Union takeover of ICANN’s functions, he added:

Unless the GAC believes that ICANN has been sufficiently responsive to their concerns, I do not see how the Guidebook can be adopted on June 20th in Singapore in a manner that ensures continuing global governmental support of ICANN.

That’s incredibly strong stuff.

Strickling is suggesting that if ICANN rejects GAC advice about what goes into the new TLDs Applicant Guidebook, ICANN may be able to kiss international governmental support goodbye, potentially threatening the organization’s very existence.

And it wasn’t the only threat he raised.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is in the process of renewing and possibly amending ICANN’s IANA contract, which gives it the power to introduce new TLDs.

If anyone in any government is in a position to bargain directly with ICANN, it’s Strickling. He tackled this position of power head-on in his speech:

I heard from yesterday’s House hearing that some of the witnesses proposed that we use this contract as a vehicle for ensuring more accountability and transparency on the part of the company performing the IANA functions. We are seriously considering these suggestions and will be seeking further comment from the global Internet community on this issue.

I believe the only witness to raise this issue at the hearing was Josh Bourne of the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse. He wants a full audit of ICANN before the IANA contract is renewed.

The Congressional “oversight” hearing in question, before the House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet, was not much more than a kangaroo court.

The Representatives in attendance read from prepared statements and from questions they frequently seemed to barely understand, stated fringe opinions as fact, asked inane questions that demonstrated the loosest of grasps on the subject before them, then came to the (foregone) conclusion that the new gTLD program should be delayed pending further work on protecting trademark holders.

I’m not saying these politicians need to be subject matter experts, but if the words “intellectual property” and “the internet” are in your job description, you ought be embarrassed if the words “new BGLTs, or whatever they’re called” come out of your mouth in public.

The Subcommittee has no direct power over ICANN, of course, beyond the fact that it belongs to the legislature of the country where ICANN is based.

But Strickling does.

In his speech yesterday, he also made it quite obvious that the NTIA currently has no plans to push ICANN further along the road to full independence by signing a Cooperative Agreement instead of a procurement contract for the IANA function.

That proposal was made by ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom, and supported by a small number of others in the industry, including Vint Cerf. But Strickling said:

The fact is, however, that NTIA does not have the legal authority to transition the IANA functions contract into a Cooperative Agreement with ICANN, nor do we have the statutory authority to enter into a Cooperative Agreement with ICANN, or any other organization, for the performance of the IANA functions.

The Beckstrom proposal always seemed like a long shot, but to have it dismissed so casually will surely be seen as a setback on the road to true ICANN independence from the US.

Domain industry blasts Congress TLD hearing

Executives from over a dozen domain name companies have slammed a US Congressional subcommittee for its plan to hold a one-sided hearing on new top-level domains.

A letter, drafted by AusRegistry International’s chief strategy officer, Krista Papac, says the hearing is “not fairly balanced” and “will present a distorted picture of the new gTLD process.”

As I reported earlier this week, the House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet called at least four representatives of the trademark lobby to discuss new TLDs.

Kurt Pritz, ICANN’s senior vice president, is the only person testifying today who could be considered wholly supportive of the new gTLD program. The other witnesses are either advocates of trademark interests or more governmental involvement in ICANN.

Papac wrote:

It is unfortunate that of the six witnesses on the panel, none comes from the perspective of an entity that plans to run a new gTLD and could discuss the innovation, consumer choice, and job growth they will provide. Nor will the committee hear from representatives who might counter some potentially over-reaching views of the intellectual property interests, such as representatives of non-commercial entities, privacy experts, and existing domain name service providers.

The letter goes on to say that IP interests have already been heard, are afforded many protections in the program, and that new TLDs will bring benefits to the US economy.

It was signed by executives from Worldwide Media, eNom, EuroDNS, Right Of The Dot, auDA, Momentous, Othello Technology Systems, Network Solutions, AboutUs.org, Cronon, Domain Dimensions, Tucows, DomainTools, Donuts, Minds + Machines and others.

The hearing begins at 10am in Washington DC today. Coverage later.

Congress to hear from new TLD opponents

Kevin Murphy, May 2, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN senior vice president Kurt Pritz is set to face a grilling at a Congressional hearing into new top-level domains on Wednesday, judging from the just-published witness list.

Of the other five panelists before the House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet, all are quite critical of ICANN and/or its new gTLDs program:

Steve Metalitz, an IP lawyer and vice-chair of ICANN’s intellectual property constituency, which continues to push for even tougher rights protection mechanisms in the Applicant Guidebook.

Mei-lan Stark, senior VP of IP at Fox Group Legal, also closely involved with the International Trademark Association.

Steve DelBianco, executive director of NetChoice (of which VeriSign is a member), part of the ICANN business constituency. Last time he appeared before a Congressional committee, he called for more rights protections mechanisms and a slower new TLD rollout.

Michael Palage, lawyer/consultant and former ICANN board member. He has recently written articles calling for ICANN to pay more attention to its Governmental Advisory Committee (which, as we know, has a strong focus on IP protection nowadays).

Josh Bourne of the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse, CADNA, one of the fiercest critics of the program. CADNA thinks new TLDs will cost businesses hundreds of millions of dollars in defensive registrations.

It’s a one-sided panel, with no strong proponents of new TLDs — such as likely applicants — among the witnesses.

Pritz is going to be in the firing line, and no mistake.

Pritz to defend ICANN in Congress

Kevin Murphy, April 27, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN has confirmed that Kurt Pritz, its point man for the new top-level domains program, will represent the organization at a Congressional hearing next week.

As I reported yesterday, The House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet will hold an “ICANN Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLD) Oversight Hearing” on May 4.

Pritz is senior vice president of stakeholder relations. He has led the development of the new gTLD Applicant Guidebook for the last few years.

Some, such as GNSO Council chair Stephane Van Gelder, have already expressed surprise that ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom will not be attending.

The last time Congress dragged ICANN to Capitol Hill, in 2009, it was former CEO Paul Twomey who took the brunt of the questioning.

As Domain Name Wire recounts, ICANN took a good kicking on that particular occasion.

The focus of next week’s hearing is expected to be the intellectual property implications of new TLDs.