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First three Community Objections decided: DotGay and Google win but Donuts loses

Kevin Murphy, September 10, 2013, Domain Policy

The International Chamber of Commerce has delivered the first three Community Objection decisions in the new gTLD program, killing off one application and saving two others.

These are the results:

.gay

The objection filed by Metroplex Republicans of Dallas, a gay political organization, against DotGay LLC has failed.

The panelist, Bernhard Schlink, decided that Metrolplex lacked standing to file the objection, stating:

while the conservative segment, with which Metroplex claims association, is a segment of the clearly delineated gay community, it is not a clearly delineated community in and of itself. That some LGBTQ people hold conservative political views and vote for conservative candidates may bring them into a statistical category, but does not make them connect, gather, interact, or do anything else together that would constitute a community, or, that would make them publicly visible as one.

It was the only objection against this .gay application, meaning it can now proceed to later stages of the new gTLD process.

.fly

The objection was filed by FairSearch.org, a coalition of companies that campaigns against Google’s dominance of online markets, against Google’s .fly application.

The application was originally for a “closed generic” registry, but Google has since stated that it has changed its mind and run .fly with an open registration policy.

FairSearch lost the objection, despite ICC panelist George Bermann giving it the benefit of the doubt multiple times during his discussion on its standing to object.

Instead, Google prevailed due to FairSearch’s failure to demonstrate enough opposition to its application, with Bermann writing:

A showing of substantial opposition to an application is critical to a successful Objection. Such a showing is absent here.

He also decided that Google presented a better case when it came to arguing whether or not its .fly would be damaging to the community in question.

.architect

Finally, Donuts has lost its application for .architect, due to an objection by the International Union of Architects, which supports Starting Dot’s competing application for .archi.

Donuts had argued that UIA did not have standing to object because an “architect” does not always mean the kind of architect that designs buildings, which is the community the UIA represents. It could mean a software architect or landscape architects, for example.

But panelist Andreas Reiner found that even if the UIA represents a subset of the overall “architect” community, that subset was still substantial enough, still a community, and still represented by the string “architect”, so that it did have the standing to use the Community Objection.

It also did not matter that the UIA does not represent all the “structural architects” in the world, the panelist found. It represents enough of them that its opposition to .architect passes the “substantial” test.

He eventually took the word “architect” in its most common use — people who design buildings — in determining whether the UIA was closely associated with the community in question.

On the question of whether architects would be harmed by Donuts’ plan for .architect, the panelist noted that architects are always licensed for public safety reasons.

Here are some extracts from his decision, which seem important:

Beyond concerns of public safety, habitat for human beings is of essential importance in society, at the human-social level, at the economic level and at the environmental level

it would be compatible with the above references public interests linked to the work of architects and with the related consumer protection concerns, to allow the domain name “.architect” to be used by anyone other than “architects” who, by definition, need to be licensed

The use of the top-level domain “.architect” by non-licenced architects is in itself an abuse. This top-level domain refers to a regulated professional service. Therefore all safeguards must be adopted to prevent its use by a non-licensed person.

The top-level domain “.architect” raises the legitimate expectation that the related website is the webiste of a licensed architect (or a group of licenced architects). Correct information is essential to consumers visiting websites.

Basically, Reiner trashed Donuts long-standing argument in favor of blanket open registration policies.

He noted specifically that whether to allow a gTLD to proceed might be considered a free speech question, but said that free speech often has its limits, such as in cases of consumer protection.

Worryingly, one of the pieces of evidence that the panelist considered was the Governmental Advisory Committee’s Beijing communique, which contains the GAC’s formal advice against over 500 applications.

Rejected .gay gTLD objection ruled “unfair”

Kevin Murphy, June 27, 2013, Domain Policy

dotgay LLC could be hit by another formal new gTLD objection from gay Republicans.

ICANN Ombudsman Chris LaHatte today said that it was “unfair” that a community objection filed by GOProud, a gay lobby group, was rejected by the International Chamber of Commerce.

The ICC screwed up, it seems, judging by LaHatte’s decision.

Washington DC-based GOProud, which seeks to show that not all gay rights advocates have liberal views on other issues, had filed a community-based objection to dotgay’s .gay gTLD application.

While the substance of the objection is not known, I suspect it’s politically motivated. The other objection to dotgay’s application was filed by another gay Republican organization, the Metroplex Republicans of Dallas (formerly Log Cabin Republicans Dallas).

The ICC rejected the objection because it was about 500 words over the prescribed limit, but it sent the notification to the wrong email address, according to LaHatte’s blog.

Had GOProud received the notification, it would have had time to amend its objection to rectify the mistake. However, by the time it discovered the problem the filing deadline had passed.

LaHatte wrote:

there is some unfairness in the subsequent rejection given the apparent error in the use of the wrong email. It seems to me that it would be relatively easy to unwind that decision, and permit the late filing of the objection. I can of course only make a recommendation, but in this case where there is some unfairness I think the matter should be revisited.

The Ombudsman’s role is to handle complaints about unfairness in ICANN’s actions, so it’s not entirely clear what’s going to happen in this case, given that the ICC is an ICANN subcontractor.

LaHatte’s recommendation is certainly not binding in either case. Whether the ICC changes its mind may depend on whether ICANN asks it to or not.

dotgay is the New York-based applicant founded by Scott Seitz. It’s one of four companies applying for .gay.

The other three applicants — Top Level Domain Holdings, Top Level Design and Demand Media — have each received community objections from the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association, a dotgay supporter.

gTLD Objector says .sex, .gay, .wtf are all okay

Kevin Murphy, December 26, 2012, Domain Policy

The Independent Objector for ICANN’s new gTLD program has given a preliminary nod to applications for .sex, .gay, .wtf and six other potentially “controversial” applied-for strings.

Alain Pellet this week told applicants for these gTLDs that he does not expect to file objections against their bids, despite an outpouring of public comments against them.

The strings given the okay are .adult, .gay, .hot, .lgbt, persiangulf, .porn .sex .sexy, and .wtf.

A total of 15 applications have been submitted for these strings. Some, such as .gay with four applicants, are contested. Others, such as .wtf and .porn, are not.

The IO is limited to filing objections on two rather tightly controlled grounds: Limited Public Interest (where the bid would violate international law) and Community (where a community would be disenfranchised).

For each of the nine strings, Pellet has decided that neither type of objection is warranted.

In his preliminary finding on .gay and .lgbt, he also noted that to file an objection “could be held incompatible with the obligation of States not to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity which is emerging as a norm”.

As part of a lengthy analysis of the international legal position on homosexuality, De Pellet wrote:

even though the IO acknowledges that homosexuality can be perceived as immoral in some States, there is no legal norm that would transcribe such a value judgment at the international level. Thus, the position of certain communities on the issue is not relevant in respect to the IO’s possibility to object to an application on the limited public interest ground.

For the porn-related applications, Pellet noted that any bid for a gTLD promoting child abuse material would certainly be objected to, but that ICANN has received no such application.

On .wtf, which received many public comments because it’s an acronym including profanity, Pellet observed that freedom of expression is sacred under international law.

He regarded the problem of excessive defensive registrations — as raised by the Australian government in the recent wave of Governmental Advisory Committee early warnings — is outside his remit.

Pellet’s findings, which I think will be welcomed by most parts of the ICANN community, are not unexpected.

Limited Public Interest Objection, originally known as the Morality and Public Order Objection, had been put forward in the wake of the approval of .xxx in 2010 as a way for governments to bring their national laws to bear on the DNS.

But it was painstakingly defanged by the Generic Names Supporting Organization in order to make it almost impossible for it to be used as a way to curb civil rights.

The GAC instead shifted its efforts to the GAC Advice on New gTLDs objection, which enables individual governments to submit objections vicariously based on their own national interest.

Pellet’s findings — which are preliminary but seem very unlikely to be reversed — can be read in full on his web site.

Iran warns on 29 new gTLD bids

Kevin Murphy, December 21, 2012, Domain Policy

The Iranian government has filed late Early Warnings against 29 new gTLD applications, mostly on the basis that the applied-for strings are un-Islamic and “unethical”.

Bids for .gay, .sex, .wine, .bet, .poker and others relating to sexuality, alcohol and gambling are “in conflict with ethical standards” in Iran, according to the submissions.

We hear that the 29 warnings were filed with ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee December 10, well after the November 20 deadline that most other governments on the GAC stuck to.

We understand that problems obtaining visas for ICANN’s meeting in Toronto this October may have been blamed for the delay.

The initial batch of Early Warnings for the most part overlooked “moral” problems with gTLD strings, focusing far more on consumer protection, defensive registration costs and geographic sensitivities.

Not so with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is much more concerned about words it believes promote anti-Islamic behavior or represent Islamic concepts without the required community support.

The government says in its opposition to .gay, for example, that the gTLD would be responsible for:

Agitation and irritation of the humanity and faith; and spread of hatred and hostility in the society.

Encourage people to perform non-religious, Unethical and Non-rational actions in the society.

Encourage people on doing unlawful actions according to Islam religion in the society.

Getting away society from healthy environment for doing daily activities.

Several other Early Warnings use the same or similar language. Iran suggests that the applicants could remedy the problem by banning registration in Islamic nations.

Not all of its warnings are related to sex, drink and gambling, however.

It’s also objected to .krd, which has been applied for to represent the Kurdish community in the region, saying it could “raise serious political conflicts” and lacks support.

The .eco applicants have also been hit with warnings on the grounds that ECO is an acronym for the Economic Cooperation Organization, a regional intergovernmental organization focused on trade.

ECO meets the criteria for IGOs to register .int domains, according to Iran, which is the GAC’s current proposed method of creating a list of protected second-level domain names for IGOs.

The full list of Iran’s objections is published here.

First anti-gay gTLD opponent emerges

Kevin Murphy, July 30, 2012, Domain Policy

The first public objections have been filed against applications for the .gay generic top-level domain.

Abdulaziz Al-Zoman reckons .gay shouldn’t be allowed because being gay is “against the law and public morality” in many countries, according to a comment that he filed against all four .gay applications.

Here’s the whole comment:

ICANN is dealing and playing a very strong role in worldwide public policies. It sets global public Internet-related policies that effect many worldwide societies and communities with verity of values and cultures. Therefore, ICANN MUST adhere and respect these cultures and values and not to impose its own “western” culture and values to other communities.

If “gay” is an accepted activity in USA it does not mean it is also accepted or welcomed elsewhere. ICANN should not enforce western culture and values into other societies. It should not ignore other society’s values. If the new gTLD programs had been limited to the United States, the homeland of ICANN, then it might be accepted to have the applied-for gTLDs strings (.gay). In spite of this, even if these strings (.gay) represent a permitted western standard of expressions, ICANN should not impose it globally upon the rest of the world. ICANN should not ignore the fact that activities related to this string are considered criminal act or unlawful in some parts of the world. Furthermore, ICANN should stick to GAC principles that call for respecting the sensitivity regarding terms with national, cultural, geographic and religious significance.

The applied-for gTLD string (gay) is not welcomed in many societies and communities and is against the law and public morality. ICANN should work for the benefit of all societies. It should not indulge itself in prompting and expanding western culture on the Internet. If it is really desired and needed in the ICANN home community (USA), then it can be provided under the .us TLD (e.g., gay.us) but not in the worldwide root space.

Al-Zoman appears to be referring to Saudi society, which has about as slim a grasp on morality as you’ll find anywhere in the world.

Sadly, his comments are likely a precursor to a battle within ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee over whether a formal GAC objection to .gay should be filed.

This is Big Question stuff.

Should ICANN operate according to the internet’s principles of openness, fairness and inclusion, or should it make its decisions based on demands emerging from medieval, theocratic backwaters?

You can probably guess what my opinion is.