Latest news of the domain name industry

Recent Posts

Karklins beats LaHatte to chair ICANN’s Whois privacy team

Kevin Murphy, April 25, 2019, Domain Policy

Latvian diplomat and former senior WIPO member Janis Karklins has been appointed chair of the ICANN working group that will decide whether to start making private Whois records available to trademark owners.

Karklins’ appointment was approved by the GNSO Council last week. He beat a single rival applicant, New Zealand’s Chris LaHatte, the former ICANN Ombudsman.

He replaces Kurt Pritz, the former ICANN Org number two, who quit the chair after it finished its “phase one” work earlier this year.

Karklins has a varied resume, including a four-year stint as chair of ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee.

He’s currently Latvia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, as well as president of the Arms Trade Treaty.

Apparently fighting for Latvia’s interests at the UN and overseeing the international conventional weapons trade still gives him enough free time to now also chair the notoriously intense and tiring Expedited Policy Development Process on Whois, which has suffered significant burnout-related volunteer churn.

But it was Karklins’ one-year term as chair of the general assembly of WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organization, that gave some GNSO Council members pause.

The EPDP is basically a big bloodless ruck between intellectual property lawyers and privacy advocates, so having a former WIPO bigwig in the neutral hot seat could be seen as a conflict.

This issue was raised by the pro-privacy Non-Commercial Stakeholders Group during GNSO Council discussions last week, who asked whether LaHatte could not also be brought on as a co-chair.

But it was pointed out that it would be difficult to find a qualified chair without some connection to some interested party, and that Karklins is replacing Pritz, who at the time worked for a new gTLD registry and could have had similar perception-of-conflict issues.

In the end, the vote to confirm Karklins was unanimous, NCSG and all.

The EPDP, having decided how to bring ICANN’s Whois policy into compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation, is now turning its attention to the far trickier issue of a “unified access model” for private Whois data.

It will basically decide who should be able to request access to this data and how such a system should be administered.

It will not be smooth sailing. If Karklins thinks international arms dealers are tricky customers, he ain’t seen nothing yet.

Trademark posse fails to block Whois privacy policy

Kevin Murphy, March 5, 2019, Domain Policy

The ICANN community’s move to enshrine Whois privacy into formal consensus policy is moving forward, despite votes to block it by intellectual property interests.

During a special meeting yesterday, the GNSO Council voted to approve a set of recommendations that would (probably) bring ICANN’s Whois policy into compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation.

But four councilors — Paul McGrady and Flip Petillion of the Intellectual Property Constituency and Marie Pattullo and Scott McCormick of the Business Constituency — voted against the compromise deal.

Their downvotes were not enough to block it from passing, however. It has now been opened for a month of public comments before being handed to the ICANN board of directors for final approval, whereupon it will become ICANN’s newest consensus policy and binding on all contracted parties.

McGrady, an lawyer with Winston Strawn, claimed that the Expedited Policy Development Process working group that came up with the recommendations failed to reach the level of consensus that it had claimed.

“The consensus call was broken,” he said, adding that the EPDP’s final report “reflects consensus where there really wasn’t any.”

The GNSO was due to vote 10 days ago, but deferred the vote at the request of the IPC and BC. McGrady said that both groups had tried to muster up support in their communities for a “yes” vote in the meantime, but “just couldn’t get there”.

Speaking for the BC from a prepared statement, Pattullo (who works for European brand protection group AIM) told the Council:

The report is a step backwards for BC members’ interests compared to the Temp Spec, especially as the legitimate purposes for collecting and processing data are insufficiently precise, and do not include consumer protection, cybercrime, DNS abuse and IP protection.

The Temp Spec is the Temporary Specification currently governing how registries and registrars collect and publish Whois data. It was created as an emergency measure by the ICANN board and is due to expire in May, where it will very probably be replaced by something based on the EPDP recommendations.

In response to the IPC/BC votes, Michele Neylon of the Registrars Constituency and Ayden Férdeline of the Non-Commercial Stakeholders Group read statements claiming that trademark interests had been given substantial concessions during the EPDP talks.

Neylon in particular had some harsh words for the holdout constituencies, accusing them of “bad faith” and pointing out that the EPDP spent thousands of hours discussing its recommendations.

“Our members would want any number of obligations this report contains to be removed, but despite the objections we voiced our support for the final product as a sign of compromise and support for the entire multistakeholder model,” he said.

“Given the objections of certain parts of the community it’s unclear how we can ask this group to carry on with the next phase of its work at the same pace,” he said. “Given the unwillingness of others to participate and negotiate in good faith, how can we ask our reps to spend hours compromising on this work when it’s clear others will simply wait until the last minute and withdraw their consent for hard-fought compromise.”

The EPDP had a hard deadline due to the imminent expiration of the Temp Spec, but that’s not true of its “phase two” work, which will explore possible ways trademark enforcers could get access to redacted private Whois data.

Unfortunately for the IP lobby, there’s a very good chance that this work is going to proceed at a much slower pace than phase one, which wrapped up in basically six months.

During yesterday’s Council call, both Neylon and NCSG rep Tatiana Tropina said that the dedication required of volunteers in phase one — four to five hours of teleconferences a week and intensive mailing list discussions — will not be sustainable over phase two.

They simply won’t be able to round up enough people with enough time to spare, they said.

Coincidentally, neither the registrars nor the non-coms have any strong desire to see a unified access solution developed any time soon, so a more leisurely pace suits them politically too.

It will be up to the EPDP working group, and whoever turns out to be its new chair, to figure out the timetable for the phase two work.

It’s Drazek vs Dammak for GNSO Council chair

Kevin Murphy, September 28, 2018, Domain Policy

The chair of ICANN’s Generic Names Supporting Organization Council is contested this year, with a registry veep facing off against a software engineer.

The nomination from the contracted parties house is US-based Keith Drazek, Verisign’s VP of policy and government relations.

He’ll be opposed by non-contracted parties nominee and current vice-chair Rafik Dammak, a Tunisian working as a software engineer for NTT Communications (which is technically a contracted party due its dot-brand gTLD) in Japan.

Both men are long-time, active members of the ICANN community and GNSO.

The Council will pick its new chair about a month from now at the ICANN 63 meeting in Barcelona.

The winner will replace lawyer Heather Forrest, the non-contracted party who took the seat after an unopposed vote a year ago.

Go Daddy veep loses ICANN election to “none of the above”

Kevin Murphy, October 22, 2015, Domain Policy

ICANN’s multistakeholder GNSO Council has been left embarrassingly rudderless after its members failed to elect a new chair.

The unprecedented result saw Go Daddy VP of policy James Bladel lose an election to “none of the above” yesterday.

Under GNSO rules, there are two candidates for chair. One is nominated by the Contracted Parties House (registries and registrars), the other by the Non-Contracted Parties House (intellectual property interests, ISPs, non-commercial users etc).

Bladel was the CPH candidate. He stood against Australian academic Heather Forrest, on the council representing the Intellectual Property Constituency.

To get elected, a candidate must get 60% of the vote from both houses.

In the first round of voting, conducted via secret ballot, Bladel won 100% of the CPH vote and 47% of the NCPH vote.

Forrest was then eliminated for the second round, which meant Bladel proceeded to a second round of voting: him against “none of the above”.

Council members took 15 minutes out to discuss among themselves what to do.

When they returned, Bladel’s CPH support remained unchanged, but he had only managed to get 53.85% of the NCPH vote.

If my calculations are correct, Bladel essentially missed the 60% threshold by a single vote.

That means the GNSO Council no longer has a chair.

The interregnum will last at least a month.

Each house now has until November 5 to make new nominations. The election will then be re-run “no sooner than 30 days” from yesterday.

In the meantime, the two vice chairs are running the show. The CPH said its current vice chair Volker Greiman will remain in the role while a new chair is being elected. The NCPH has not yet appointed a vice chair.

This morning, the CPH issued a statement that read in part:

Like many in the GNSO Community, the Contracted Party House is disappointed in the unprecedented outcome of the Council election. It is particularly unfortunate that this scenario occurred at a time when ICANN is in the global spotlight.

Throughout the election process, the common theme has been an agreement amongst all Councilors that either candidate would have made a competent and effective GNSO Chair. However, the qualifications of both candidates were ultimately disregarded.

In recent history, GNSO chairs have been drawn from the registries and registrars.

Since 2009, the chairs have been Jonathan Robinson (Afilias), Stephane Van Gelder (then Group NBT, a registrar), Chuck Gomes (Verisign).

This trend did not escape the notice of GNSO members, who quizzed Bladel and Forrest on Sunday on whether they would be able to give fair treatment to both houses on the Council.

Both candidates gave gracious responses. Bladel said:”The chair does not get extra votes when it comes to decisions. The chair does not have his votes taken away; his or her votes taken away. So really this is a question of optics.”

GNSO gives thumbs down to Olympic trademark protections in shock vote

Kevin Murphy, November 15, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s GNSO Council voted against providing special brand protection to the Olympics and Red Cross today, in a shock vote that swung on a trademark lawyer’s conflict of interest.

A motion before the Council today would have temporarily protected the words “Olympic”, “Red Cross” and “Red Crescent” in various languages in all newly approved gTLDs.

The protections would be at the second level, in addition to the top-level blocks already in place.

The motion merely needed to secure a simple majority in both of the GNSO houses to pass, but it failed to do so despite having the unanimous support of registries and registrars.

Remarkably, the motion secured 100% support in the contracted parties house (registries and registrars) but only managed to scrape 46.2% of the vote in the non-contracted parties house, just one vote shy of a majority.

While the Non-Commercial Users Constituency predictably voted against the extra protections, it was an unnecessary abstention by an Intellectual Property Constituency representative that made the difference.

Trademark lawyer Brian Winterfeldt explained that he was abstaining — which essentially counts as a “no” vote — because the American Red Cross is his client so he had a conflict of interest.

The second IPC representative, newcomer Petter Rindforth, accidentally abstained also, before changing his vote to “yes” after it was explained that abstention was not an official constituency position.

Another member of the non-contracted parties house was absent from the meeting, potentially costing the motion another vote.

Half an hour later, when the Council had switched its attention to other business, Winterfeldt realized that his conflict of interest didn’t actually bar him from voting and asked if he could switch to a “yes”, kicking off a lengthy procedural debate about whether the vote should be re-opened.

In-at-the-deep-end Council chair Jonathan Robinson, in his first full meeting since taking over from Stephane Van Gelder last month, eventually concluded that because some councilors had already left the meeting it would be inappropriate to reopen the vote.

So the decision stands, for now at least: no special protections at the second level for the Olympics or Red Cross.

The Council is due to meet again December 20, when it may choose to revisit the issue. If it does, proponents of the motion had better hope the NCUC doesn’t request a deferral.

If today’s “no” vote is still in effect January 31, the ICANN board of directors may feel obliged to overrule the GNSO in order to approve the second-level reservations.

This wouldn’t look great for the vaunted bottom-up decision-making process, but the board is under a lot of pressure from the Governmental Advisory Committee to protect these two organizations, and it has already said that it favors temporary protections.

I suspect that the damage done today is not to the Olympics or Red Cross, which will probably get what they’ve been lobbying for for the last few years, but to the GNSO Council, which seems to have kicked off its new year on a divisive and embarrassingly bureaucratic note.

Thick .com Whois policy delayed

Kevin Murphy, February 16, 2012, Domain Registries

ICANN’s GNSO Council has deferred a decision on whether Verisign should have to thicken up the Whois database for .com and its other gTLDs.

A motion to begin an official Policy Development Process on thick Whois was kicked down the road by councilors this afternoon at the request of the Non-Commercial Users Constituency.

It will now be discussed at the Council’s face-to-face meeting in Costa Rica in March. But there were also calls from registries to delay a decision for up to a year, calling the PDP a “distraction”.

Verisign’s .com registry contract and the standard Registrar Accreditation Agreement are currently being renegotiated by ICANN, both of which could address Whois in some way.

Today, all contracted gTLD registries have to operate a thick Whois, except Verisign with its .com, .net, .jobs, etc, where the registrars manage the bulk of the Whois data.

Graham beats Doria to ICANN board

Kevin Murphy, May 8, 2011, Domain Policy

Bill Graham of the Internet Society has won an election to ICANN’s board of directors.

Graham beat academic Avri Doria by 8 votes to 5 in the second round of polling from the Non-Contracted Parties House of the GNSO Council.

He will take his seat at the end of ICANN’s meeting in Singapore next month, June 24, replacing trademark lawyer Rita Rodin Johnson, who is reaching the end of her term.

Graham currently leads ISOC’s “strategic global engagement” initiatives.

(UPDATE: Thanks to Graham for alerting us to the fact that he actually retired from ISOC a week ago).

Until 2007, he was director of international telecommunications policy with Industry Canada, the Canadian government’s department responsible for the technology economy.

In that role, he also served as vice-chair of ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee.

The current GAC chair, who also has a non-voting seat on the ICANN board, is Heather Dryden, also a senior policy adviser at Industry Canada.

Graham will become the fourth former GAC member to join the ICANN board, after former CEO Paul Twomey of Australia and current directors Bertrand de la Chapelle of France and Gonzalo Navarro of Chile.

Here’s a useful infographic, courtesy of ICANN, that shows how the board is composed (click to enlarge).

ICANN Board structure

The two green squares are set aside for members of the GNSO. One is for “contracted parties” such as registrars and registries. Graham, elected by the NCPH, will take the other.

In the first round of voting, which concluded a week ago, Doria led by 7 votes to 6, one short of the 8 votes needed to win.

While the voting was private, it is believed that non-commercial and commercial stakeholders voted in blocs in the first round – commercial for Graham, non-commercial for Doria. In the second round, two of her supporters evidently switched sides.

Graham and Doria were the only candidates to be nominated.

UDRP reform effort begins

Kevin Murphy, February 5, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN has kicked off a review of its Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy, the occasionally controversial process used to adjudicate cybersquatting complaints.

The GNSO Council on Thursday voted to ask ICANN staff for a so-called “Issues Report” on UDRP, indicating that reform of the process is likely.

This is the relevant portion of the resolution, passed unanimously:

RESOLVED #2, the GNSO Council requests an Issues Report on the current state of the UDRP. This effort should consider:

* How the UDRP has addressed the problem of cybersquatting to date, and any insufficiencies/inequalities associated with the process.

* Whether the definition of cybersquatting inherent within the existing UDRP language needs to be reviewed or updated. The Issue Report should include suggestions for how a possible PDP on this issue might be managed.

Issues Reports commissioned by the Council are expected within 15 days, and 15 days after that the Council is expected to vote on whether to kick off a Policy Development Process.

A PDP could lead to changes to the UDRP that would be binding on all ICANN-accredited registrars and their customers.

While the UDRP has proven very effective at dealing with clear-cut cases of cybersquatting over the last 12 years, critics claim that it is often interpreted too broadly in favor of trademark interests.

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know I frequently report on unfathomable UDRP decisions, but these are generally the exception rather than the rule.

Unrelated to UDRP, the GNSO Council has also voted against asking ICANN for an Issues Report on registry/registrar best practices for mitigating domain abuse.

Business interests wanted registrars to take more measures (voluntarily) to curb activities such as phishing, but registrars think this kind of rule-making is beyond the scope of the GNSO.

After a lot of heated debate and arcane procedural wrangling, the Council decided instead to ask for a “discussion paper”, a term that has no meaning under ICANN’s rules, meaning a PDP is less likely.

ICANN staff swamped

Kevin Murphy, January 14, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN’s board of directors is giving its staff and policy-making bodies more work than they can handle.

The GNSO Council yesterday voted to shelve board-requested work on the new top level domains program because no ICANN staffers have the time to help coordinate the project.

Last month, the board asked the GNSO and other constituencies to come up with ideas, before mid-March, about how to measure the consumer benefits of new TLDs after they launch.

But the Council yesterday was faced with having to suspend other policy development, in order to get the required staff support, so decided instead to defer the new work.

A senior ICANN executive at the meeting said that ICANN staff is “not an unlimited resource” and has “no bandwidth to keep taking these projects”.

This has apparently been an issue for over a year.

In this particular instance, the problem project comprised part of ICANN’s obligations under its Affirmation of Commitments with the US government, so it’s not trivial stuff.

As others have noted, sometimes the amount of policy development going on in ICANN can appear overwhelming to outsiders, but it seems that this problem also extends to ICANN internally.