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Another new gTLD applicant lawyers up on ICANN

Kevin Murphy, July 28, 2021, Domain Policy

Another rejected new gTLD applicant has filed an Independent Review Process complaint against ICANN, claiming the org failed to follow proper procedures on fairness and transparency.

And I think it’s got a pretty good chance of winning.

A Bahrain company called GCCXI has filed the IRP, eight years after its application for .gcc was thrown out by ICANN on the vague advice of its Governmental Advisory Community.

.gcc is for Gulf Cooperation Council, the short-hand English name for the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Persian Gulf, a proto-union of six states on the east coast of the Arabian peninsula.

The applicant’s problem is that it’s not affiliated with, nor supported by, the GCC or its member states.

The GAC, in its controversial Beijing communique of April 2013 objected to GCCXI’s application in the same breath and under the same power as it objected to DotConnectAfrica’s .africa bid.

Back then, the GAC was much more secretive than it is today, and did not have to provide a rationale for its advice. Its powers to object to gTLD applications pretty much amounted to a veto.

ICANN dutifully followed the GAC’s advice, throwing out the .gcc application later that year.

The applicant has evidently been trying to get ICANN to change its mind, using the Request for Reconsideration and then Cooperative Engagement Processes, since early 2014. That CEP concluded in May, and GCCXI filed for IRP in June.

Why did the CEP — a form of arbitration designed to avoid expensive IRP complaints and lawsuits — take so long and ultimately fail?

Don’t look to the IRP complaint published by ICANN (pdf) for answers — it’s redacted the whole ruddy lot, a few pages of text, without explanation.

That’s ironic given that a lack of transparency is one of GCCXI’s beefs against the org, along with an alleged failure to follow its bylaws on neutrality and fairness.

ICANN has ignored all of its carefully developed and documented policies, and instead has kowtowed to unspecified government concerns — devising a secret process to kill Claimant’s investment and opportunity, and completely disregarding the public interest in delegating the TLD for use.

The continued fight for a gTLD it surely has no hope of ever operating is a ballsy move by the applicant.

It’s roughly equivalent to some random European company applying to run .eu to represent the geographic region of EU member states without the consent of the EU institutions themselves and then complaining when it’s told to take a walk.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean it will lose the IRP. In fact, I think it has a pretty good chance of winning.

GCCXI does not deserve to prove it should be given .gcc, it only needs to show that ICANN broke its own bylaws.

DotConnectAfrica, which was rejected by the GAC and then ICANN for pretty much the same unsubstantiated reasons — the GAC “veto” — won its IRP in 2015, with the panel finding that ICANN accepted the GAC’s unexplained advice without even rudimentary due diligence, violating its commitment to fairness.

It was particularly embarrassing for the GAC, whose then-chair admitted that the committee deliberately kept its advice vague and open to interpretation

While .africa is not exactly the same as .gcc (the former is officially a geographic string, the latter is not), GCCXI had DCA had their applications rejected based on the exact same piece of GAC advice.

It’s also similar to Amazon’s IRP fight for .amazon, which it won. That bid was also kicked out as a result of ICANN’s adoption of opaque GAC advice from the Beijing communique.

You’ve got to think GCCXI has a decent shot at a victory here, though if recent IRPs and general ICANN foot-dragging on accountability are any guide we won’t know for a couple years.

Kiss-of-death gTLD applicant asks ICANN to reject “untimely” GAC advice

Kevin Murphy, May 13, 2013, Domain Policy

One of the only two companies to receive formal, consensus, kiss-of-death Governmental Advisory Committee advice last month has called on ICANN to reject it as “untimely”.

GCCIX WLL of Bahrain applied for .gcc to be an open gTLD for residents of the Persian/Arabian Gulf region.

It was a ballsy application. The intended meaning of the string was Gulf Cooperation Council — the six-state regional political union — but the applicant by its own admission had no support from local governments or the GCC itself.

It would be a little like applying for .eu, to represent Europe, with no support from the European Union.

Naturally enough, local governments balked. GCCIX received an Early Warning signed by Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, followed by a legal rights objection from the GCC itself.

And in Beijing, the GAC said by consensus that the application for .gcc should be rejected.

The only other application that received the same level of advice was DotConnectAfrica’s equally unsupported application for .africa which, unlike .gcc, ICANN recognizes as “geographic”.

Now, GCCIX CEO Fahad AlShirawi has written to ICANN to ask it to reject the GAC’s advice and let the legal rights objection process play out before making a decision.

Of note, AlShirawi points out that the GAC advice was received in April, a month later than the deadline outlined in the new gTLD program’s Applicant Guidebook.

ICANN should therefore reject the GAC advice as “untimely”, he wrote.

That’s not going to happen, of course.

The GAC is allowed to provide advice to ICANN at any time, no matter what the Guidebook says. If ICANN were to ignore it based on timing, it may as well sign its own death sentence at the same time.