Today blah blah ZA Central Registry blah blah .africa blah delegated blah.
ICANN blah blah root blah. Blah blah ZACR blah nic.africa.
Blah blah five years blah blah contention blah lawsuit blah blah DotConnectAfrica blah. Blah blah Bekele blah IRP blah.
ICANN blah blah Governmental Advisory Committee blah blah blah African Union blah blah blah.
Blah blah Geographic Names Panel blah blah controversy blah blah blah blah lawsuit blah blah blah leg to stand on.
— dotAfrica (@africandomain) February 15, 2017
Blah racist blah blah conspiracy blah blah blah… nutty. Blah.
Blah reporting blah damned blah story blah forever blah blah bored blah blah blah blah.
A Los Angeles court has rejected a demand for a preliminary injunction preventing ICANN delegating .africa, meaning the new gTLD can go live soon.
Judge Howard Halm ruled February 3, in documents published last night, that the “covenant not to sue” signed by every new gTLD applicant is enforceable and that Africans are being harmed as long as .africa is stuck in legal limbo.
The ruling comes two and a half years after ZA Central Registry, the successful of the two .africa applicants, signed its Registry Agreement with ICANN.
Rival applicant DotConnectAfrica, rejected because it has no African government support, is suing ICANN for fraud, alleging that it failed to follow its own rules and unfairly favored ZACR from the outset.
Unfortunately, the ruling does not address the merits of these claims. It merely says that DCA is unlikely to win its suit due to the covenant it signed.
Halm based his decision on the precedent in Ruby Glen v ICANN, the Donuts lawsuit that seeks to stop ICANN awarding .web to Verisign. The judge in that case ruled last November that Donuts signed away its right to sue.
An earlier judge in the DCA v ICANN case had ruled — based at least in part on a misunderstanding of the facts — that the covenant was unenforceable, but that decision now seems to have been brushed aside.
Halm was not convinced that DCA would suffer irreparable harm if ZACR got given .africa, writing:
The .Africa gTLD can be re-delegated to DCA in the event DCA prevails in this litigation… Further, it appears that any interim harm to DCA can be remedied by monetary damages
He balanced this against the harm of NOT delegating .africa:
The public interest also weighs in favor of denying the injunction because the delay in the delegation of the .Africa gTLD is depriving the people of Africa of having their own unique gTLD.
So what now?
ICANN said in a statement: “In accordance with the terms of its Registry Agreement with ZACR for .AFRICA, ICANN will now follow its normal processes towards delegation.”
As of this morning, ZACR’s .africa bid is officially still marked as “On Hold” by ICANN, though this is likely to change shortly.
Assuming ZACR has already completed pre-delegation testing, delegation itself could be less than a week away.
If DCA’s record is anything to go by, it seems unlikely that this latest setback will be enough to get it to abandon its cause.
Its usual MO whenever it receives an adverse decision or criticism is to double down and start screaming about conspiracies.
While the injunction was denied, the lawsuit itself has not been thrown out, so there’s still plenty of time for more of that.
You can read Halm’s ruling here (pdf).
DotConnectAfrica is continuing its legal attempt to prevent the .africa gTLD from being delegated to a competitor supported by African governments.
The recalcitrant applicant has filed for another temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that would prevent ICANN handing .africa to the successful applicant, ZA Central Registry, according to ZACR.
DCA’s last application for an injunction was refused by a California judge in December, but last week it renewed its efforts to stymie the long-delayed geo.
ZACR said on its web site yesterday:
On January 4, 2017, DCA filed an ex parte (emergency) temporary restraining order (“TRO”) asking the Court to prevent ICANN from delegating .Africa to ZACR. The Court denied DCA’s ex parte request for a TRO on the grounds that there was no exigency that required an immediate ruling. The Court further clarified that the prior order denying DCA’s preliminary injunction motion was based upon all arguments submitted by ICANN and DCA (thereby rejecting DCA’s contention in its ex parte papers that the ruling did not include ZACR’s arguments). However, the Court agreed to consider DCA’s new arguments as grounds for a new motion for a preliminary injunction. DCA was given until January 6, 2017 to file its motion. ICANN and ZACR shall file opposition papers by January 18, 2017. DCA will then be given an opportunity to file a reply.
The court is scheduled to hear arguments for and against the injunction January 31, ZACR said.
In the meantime, .africa remains in limbo.
DotConnectAfrica’s attempt to have ICANN legally blocked from delegating the .africa gTLD to rival applicant ZACR has been denied.
The ruling by a Los Angeles court, following a December 22 hearing, means ICANN could put .africa in the root, under ZACR’s control, even before the case comes to trial.
A court document (pdf) states:
The plaintiff is seeking to enjoin defendant Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) from issuing the .Africa generic top level domain (gTLD) until this case has been resolved…
The plaintiff’s motion for the imposition of a Preliminary Injunction is denied, based on the reasoning expressed in the oral and written arguments of defense counsel.
My understanding is that the latest ruling means ICANN may no longer be subject to that injunction, but ICANN was off for the Christmas holidays last week and unable to comment.
“Sanity prevails and dotAfrica is now one (big) step closer to becoming a reality!” ZACR executive director Neil Dundas wrote on Facebook. He declined to comment further.
Even if ICANN no longer has its hands tied legally, it may decide to wait until the trial is over before delegating .africa anyway.
But its lawyers had argued that there was no need for an injunction, saying that .africa could be re-delegated to DCA should ICANN lose at trial.
DCA case centers on its claims that ICANN treated it unfairly, breaking the terms of the Applicant Guidebook, by awarding .africa to ZACR.
ZACR has support from African governments, as required by the Guidebook, whereas DCA does not.
But DCA argues that a long-since revoked support letter from the African Union should still count, based on the well-known principle of
jurisprudence the playground “no take-backs”.
The parties are due to return to court January 23 to agree upon dates for the trial.
Rejected community gTLD applicant Dot Registry has waded into the lawsuit between DotConnectAfrica and ICANN.
Filing an amicus brief on Friday in support of the unsuccessful .africa applicant, Dot Registry argues that chagrined new gTLD applicants should be allowed to sue ICANN, despite the legal releases they all signed.
The company is clearly setting the groundwork for its own lawsuit against ICANN — or at least trying to give that impression.
If the two companies are successful in their arguments, it could open the floodgates for more lawsuits by pissed-off new gTLD applicants.
Dot Registry claims applicants signed overly broad, one-sided legal waivers with the assurance that alternative dispute mechanisms would be available.
However, it argues that these mechanisms — Reconsideration, Cooperative Engagement and Independent Review — are a “sham” that make ICANN’s assurances amount to nothing more than a “bait-and-switch scheme”.
Dot Registry recently won an Independent Review Process case against ICANN that challenged the adverse Community Priority Evaluation decisions on its .inc, .llc, and .llp applications.
But while the IRP panel said ICANN should pay Dot Registry’s share of the IRP costs, the applicant came away otherwise empty-handed when panel rejected its demand to be handed the four gTLDs on a plate.
The ICANN board of directors has not yet fully decided how to handle the three applications, but forcing them to auction with competing applications seems the most likely outcome.
By formally supporting DotConnectAfrica’s claim that the legal waiver both companies signed is “unconscionable”, the company clearly reckons further legal action will soon be needed.
DotConnectAfrica is suing ICANN on different grounds. Its .africa bid did not lose a CPE; rather it failed for a lack of governmental support.
But both companies agree that the litigation release they signed is not legally enforceable.
They both say that a legal waiver cannot be enforceable in ICANN’s native California if the protected party carries out fraud.
The court seems to be siding with DotConnectAfrica on this count, having thrown out motions to dismiss the case.
Dot Registry’s contribution is to point to its own IRP case as an example of how ICANN allegedly conned it into signing the release on the assumption that IRP would be able to sort out any disputes. Its court brief (pdf) states:
although claiming to provide an alternative accountability mechanism, the Release, in practice, is just a bait-and-switch scheme, offering applicants a sham accountability procedure
Indeed, the “accountability” mechanism is nothing of the sort; and, instead of providing applicants a way to challenge actions or inactions by ICANN, it gives lip-service to legitimate grievances while rubber-stamping decisions made by ICANN and its staff.
That’s an allusion to the IRP panel’s declaration, which found no evidence that ICANN’s board of directors had conducted a thorough, transparent review of Dot Registry’s complaints.
Dot Registry is being represented by the law firm Dechert. That’s the current home of Arif Ali, who represented DotConnectAfrica in its own original IRP, though Ali is not a named lawyer in the Dot Registry brief.