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ICANN will have to make a call on .islam

Kevin Murphy, December 9, 2013, Domain Policy

ICANN is going to have to decide whether to approve the new gTLDs .islam and .halal, after the Governmental Advisory Committee punted the issue.

GAC chair Heather Dryden told ICANN chair Steve Crocker last week (pdf) that the GAC will not provide ICANN with the clarity it so wanted on the two controversial gTLDs.

“[T]he GAC concluded its discussions on these applications with the advice provided in the Beijing Communiqué,” Dryden said. “Accordingly, no further GAC input on this matter can be expected.”

ICANN is therefore left with the following advice:

The GAC recognizes that Religious terms are sensitive issues. Some GAC members have raised sensitivities on the applications that relate to Islamic terms, specifically .islam and .halal. The GAC members concerned have noted that the applications for .islam and .halal lack community involvement and support. It is the view of these GAC members that these applications should not proceed.

My take on this is that the GAC has provided what is often called a “non-consensus” objection, which I believe triggers one of the vaguest parts of the Applicant Guidebook.

One of the three types of GAC Advice on New gTLDs reads:

The GAC advises ICANN that there are concerns about a particular application “dot-example.” The ICANN Board is expected to enter into dialogue with the GAC to understand the scope of concerns. The ICANN Board is also expected to provide a rationale for its decision.

It seems pretty obvious now that ICANN’s board — nowadays its New gTLD Program Committee — is expected to make a decision whether to accept or reject .islam and .halal.

It would be the first time that ICANN has had to decide whether to reject a gTLD for public policy reasons without the full backing of the GAC in this application round.

It faced a similar conundrum in the 2003 round — albeit using different rules of engagement — when it had to decide the fate of .xxx (which it obviously chose to approve).

The applicant for .islam and .halal is Turkey-based Asia Green IT System.

The Organization for Islamic Cooperation, which claims to represent 1.6 billion Muslims, does not support the bids. It backed two formal Community Objections to the applications, which both failed.

The OIC’s Council of Ministers is meeting this week in Conakry, Guinea, and is expected to come out with some kind of formal statement opposing Islamic-oriented gTLDs that lack support.

The strength of that statement may prove decisive when ICANN comes to consider the issue.

Will ICANN be forced to reject Islamic gTLDs?

Kevin Murphy, November 14, 2013, Domain Policy

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has condemned applications for .islam and .halal gTLDs filed by a Turkish company, despite the applicant recently fighting off an OIC-backed objection.

Claiming to represent the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, the OIC expressed in a November 4 letter to ICANN and its Governmental Advisory Committee:

official opposition of the Member States of the OIC towards probable authorization by the GAC allowing use of these new gTLDs .Islam and .Halal by any entity not representing the collective voice of the Muslim people.

The letter seems to have been sent in response to the GAC’s current stalemate on these two TLDs, which were applied for, uncontested, by Istanbul-based Asia Green IT System.

At the ICANN meeting in Beijing six months ago, the GAC was unable to reach a consensus to object to .islam and .halal, instead merely noting:

Some GAC members have raised sensitivities on the applications that relate to Islamic terms, specifically .islam and .halal. The GAC members concerned have noted that the applications for .islam and .halal lack community involvement and support. It is the view of these GAC members that these applications should not proceed.

As a non-consensus objection, there’s no presumption that the ICANN board of directors should reject the applications.

And it seems that the New gTLD Program Committee, which carries board powers, has been deliberately ignoring the controversy pending the resolution of two formal Community Objections.

The objections were filed by the United Arab Emirates’ Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, the UAE’s ccTLD registry operator, with backing (it claimed) from the OIC.

But the TRA lost both objections, partly because the wishy-washy government-speak OIC letter it submitted in evidence failed to convince International Chamber of Commerce adjudicator Bernardo Cremades that it really did have that OIC support.

Whether the OIC really does object to Asia Green’s bids now seems beyond dispute.

In fact, the organization says it intends to pass a formal resolution containing its position on Islamic gTLDs during its Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in early December.

ICANN chair Steve Crocker has now asked the GAC to provide further guidance before it decides whether to accept or reject the two bids.

Given that a single governmental hold-out in the GAC would be enough to kill any chance of consensus, the OIC may be right to presuppose that the GAC will not fully object.

That would leave ICANN in the tricky position, for the first time in this application round, of having to decide the fate of a gTLD without the cover of a uniform international objection.

Would it reject .islam, opening the door for other gTLDs to be killed off by minority government concerns? Or would it approve the controversial strings, potentially pissing off the Muslim world?

I expect there’s at least one NGPC member — Lebanese-born Christian ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade — who would certainly not relish having to cast a vote on such a resolution.

Three gTLD Community Objections rejected

Kevin Murphy, October 30, 2013, Domain Registries

International Chamber of Commerce panelists have recently rejected three Community Objections against new gTLD applications.

The dismissals include objections to the controversial Turkey-based bids for .islam and .halal, filed by Asia Green IT System, which had raised the ire of the United Arab Emirates’ telecommunications regulator.

The UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority — also the operator of its ccTLDs — said it was representing the wider Islamic community under orders from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

But ICC panelist Bernardo Cremades ruled, based on a close reading of the OIC’s letter to the TRA and other member states, that the OIC had not formally backed the objection.

While there were over 100 public comments objecting to .islam and over 70 to .halal, because the TRA merely referred to them rather than submitting copies as evidence, the panelist chose to ignore them completely.

He also noted that only the UAE has chosen to file a formal objection.

So Cremades ruled that there was no “substantial opposition” to the applications, which is one of the things objectors need to prove in order to win an objection.

The TRA also failed to persuade the panelist that there was “a likelihood of any material detriment” to the Muslim community if Asia Green’s gTLDs were to be delegated, writing:

The Objector has certainly not provided any evidence that the Respondent is not acting or does not intend to act in accordance with the interests of the Muslim community.

So the TRA’s objections were dismissed and the applicant can proceed to the next phase of the new gTLD program.

Also dismissed recently was Bundesverband der Deutschen Tourismuswirtschaft’s objection to Donuts’ application for .reisen (“travel” in German).

BTW, a German travel industry association, is associated with a competing bid for .reise. Weirdly, it did not file a String Confusion Objection against Donuts’ .reisen.

It had argued among other things that German speakers would expect .reisen to conform to German and European consumer protection laws, while Donuts is planning an open and unrestricted gTLD.

The ICC panelist didn’t buy that argument, noting that a hotel in Argentina could market itself as German-speaking without having to abide by, say, European data protection law.

He also ruled that BTW showed substantial opposition from the commercial sector of German-language travel agents, but not from other sections of the community such as individual travelers.

Finally, he ruled that Donuts had promised to put enough protection mechanisms in place to mean there was unlikely to be a detriment to the .reisen community.

The objection was dismissed.

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