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“We own your name” government tells Amazon in explosive slapdown

Kevin Murphy, October 29, 2017, Domain Policy

Amazon suffered a blistering attack from South American governments over its controversial .amazon gTLD applications this weekend.

A Peruvian official today excoriated Amazon’s latest peace offering, telling the tech giant in no uncertain terms that the word “Amazon” is not its property and demanding an apology for the company’s alleged behavior during recent legal proceedings.

“We will be giving you permission to use a certain word, not the other way around,” she said. “We are the owners of the Amazonian region.”

Speaking for almost 10 minutes during a session at the ICANN 60 meeting in Abu Dhabi this afternoon, Peru’s representative to the Governmental Advisory Committee pulled rank and scolded Amazon like a naughty schoolchild.

She claimed that Amazon had been bad-mouthing Peru by saying former GAC reps had “lied to and manipulated” the rest of the GAC in order to get support for its objection. She then demanded an apology from the company for this.

She was speaking in support of the idea that the string “Amazon” belongs to the people of the Amazonas region, which covers as many as eight South American countries, rather than the American company, despite the fact that none of those countries use the English word to describe the region.

Her remarks drew applause from parts of the audience.

Amazon had showed up at the session — described by two GAC reps later as a “lion’s den” — to offer a “strong, agreed-upon compromise that addresses the needs of the governments”.

The proposed deal would see the GAC drop its objections to .amazon in exchange for certain safeguards.

Amazon is promising to reserve geographically and culturally sensitive words at the second level in .amazon.

The domain rainforest.amazon, its associate general counsel Dana Northcott said by way of example, would be never be used by anyone.

Affected governments would get to negotiate a list of such terms before .amazon went live and there’d be an ongoing consultation process for more such terms to be protected in future.

The company has also promised not to object to — and in fact to actively support with hard resources — any future applications for .amazonas or other local-language variants by the people of the region.

But Peru was not impressed, telling the company that not only is the English version of the name of the region not its property but also that it must show more respect to governments.

“No government is going to accept any impositions from you,” she said, before appealing to fellow GAC members that the issue represents a kind of existential threat.

“The core issue here… is our survival as governments in this pseudo-multi-stakeholder space that has been invented,” she said.

“They want us to believe this is a place where we have dignity but that is increasingly obvious that this is not the case,” she said. “We don’t have it. And that is because of companies like yours… Companies that persist in not respecting the governments and the people they represent.”

The Peruvian GAC rep, listed on the GAC web site as María Milagros Castañon Seoane but addressed only as “Peru” during the session, spoke in Spanish; I’ve been quoting the live interpretation provided by ICANN.

Her remarks, in my opinion, were at least partially an attempt to strengthen her side’s negotiating hand after an Independent Review Process panel this July spanked ICANN for giving too much deference to GAC advice.

The IRP panel decided that ICANN had killed the .amazon applications — in breach of its bylaws — due to a GAC objection that appeared on the face of the public record to be based on little more than governmental whim.

The panel essentially highlighted a clash between ICANN’s bylaws commitments to fairness and transparency and the fact that its New gTLD Applicant Guidebook rules gave the GAC a veto over any application for any reason with no obligation to explain itself.

It told ICANN to reopen the applications for consideration and “make an objective and independent judgment regarding whether there are, in fact, well-founded, merits-based public policy reasons for denying Amazon’s applications”.

That was back in July. Earlier today, the ICANN board of directors in response to the IRP passed a resolution calling for the GAC to explain itself before ICANN 61 in March next year, resolving in part:

Resolved (2017.10.29.02), the Board asks the GAC if it has: (i) any information to provide to the Board as it relates to the “merits-based public policy reasons,” regarding the GAC’s advice that the Amazon applications should not proceed; or (ii) any other new or additional information to provide to the Board regarding the GAC’s advice that the Amazon applications should not proceed.

Other governments speaking today expressed doubt about whether the IRP ruling should have any jurisdiction over such GAC advice.

“It is not for any panelist to decided what is public policy, it is for the governments to decide,” Iran’s Kavouss Arasteh said.

During a later session today the GAC, talking among itself, made little progress in deciding how to formally respond to the ICANN board’s resolution.

A session between the GAC and the ICANN board on Tuesday is expected to be the next time the issue raises its increasingly ugly head.

HTC dumps its dot-brand

Mobile phone manufacturer HTC has become the latest dot-brand operator to get out of the new gTLD game.

The $4.3 billion-a-year Taiwanese firm has told ICANN that it no longer wishes to run .htc as a dot-brand registry and ICANN has signaled its intent to terminate the contract.

It becomes the 27th dot-brand, from the hundreds that have entered contracts over the last few years, to change its mind about owning a vanity gTLD.

Most recently, fast food chain McDonalds and kitchen utensils company Pampered Chef both dumped their respective dot-brands.

Like the previous terminations, HTC never actually did anything with .htc; it only had the contractually mandated nic.htc in its zone file.

As .boots self-terminates, ICANN will not redelegate it

The dot-brand .boots may become the first single-dictionary-word gTLD to be taken off the market, as The Boots Company told ICANN it no longer wishes to be a registry.

Boots, the 168-year-old British pharmacy chain, told ICANN in April that it is unilaterally terminating its Registry Agreement for .boots and ICANN opened it up for comment this week.

As with the 22 self-terminating dot-brands before it, .boots was unloved and unused, with just the solitary, ICANN-mandated nic.boots in its zone file.

Boots, as well as being a universally known brand name in the UK and Ireland, is of course a generic dictionary word representing an unrelated class of goods (ie footwear).

It’s the first dying dot-brand to have this kind of dual use, making it potentially modestly attractive as a true generic TLD.

However, because it’s currently a dot-brand with no third-party users, it will not be redelegated to another registry.

Under Specification 13 of the Registry Agreement, which gives dot-brands special rights, ICANN has the ability to redelegate dot-brands, but only if it’s in the public interest to do so. That’s clearly not the case in this instance.

These rules also state that ICANN is not allowed to delegate .boots to any other company for a period of two years after the contract ends.

Given that there’s no chance of ICANN delegating any gTLDs in the next two years, this has no real impact. Perhaps, if the ICANN community settles on a rolling gTLD application process in future, this kind of termination may be of more interest.

Bladel quits as Council chair as GoDaddy ruled “ineligible” for election

Kevin Murphy, June 14, 2017, Domain Policy

GNSO Council Chair James Bladel has resigned, after it emerged that GoDaddy, his employer, is not eligible for office under registrar rules.

He will continue to occupy the post on an interim basis until a new election is held.

Bladel was elected to represent the Registrars Stakeholder Group on the Council back in 2013 and was elected by the Council as chair in late 2015.

However, the RrSG has just discovered that he’s actually ineligible for elected office under its charter because GoDaddy is also a dot-brand registry.

The RrSG charter states that in order to avoid conflicts of interest, a registrar that also has a Specification 9 exemption from the registry Code of Conduct in an ICANN registry conduct may not hold office.

GoDaddy signed its .godaddy registry agreement, which includes the Spec 9 exemption, in July 2015. The gTLD is not currently being used.

GoDaddy is of course the largest registrar in the industry, but it appears its ability to wield power in ICANN’s policy-making bodies now appears to be hamstrung by its foray into new gTLDs.

Bladel’s resignation is not expected to have any significant impact on GNSO Council work.

He’s been reappointed by the RrSG executive committee on an interim basis until elections can be held for a replacement. His term is due to expire in November anyway.

$5 billion e-commerce site to dump .com for dot-brand

The online ticketing arm of the French national railway operator SNCF has revealed plans to migrate away from .com to its dot-brand gTLD, .sncf.

The web site voyages-sncf.com will become oui.sncf in November, the company has confirmed following press reports at the weekend.

The existing site, despite the cumbersome domain, processed €4.3 billion ($4.8 billion) of ticket and other sales in 2015.

That number was reportedly down slightly last year due to the impact of the various terrorist attacks on the continent.

Still, it’s one of France’s most visible online brands, and has been around since 2000. The site is also available in other European languages and via mobile apps.

The new domain, oui.sncf, is already online. It currently redirects to an FAQ about the rebrand, at the .com site

Parent company SNCF is France’s government-owned rail operator, with overall revenue of €32.3 billion ($36 billion).

While ICANN’s new gTLD program produced hundreds of dot-brands, only a handful to date have moved substantially away from their original domains.