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Why .com still doesn’t have a thick Whois

Kevin Murphy, August 31, 2012, Domain Registries

ICANN’s board of directors quizzed staff about the lack of a “thick” Whois obligation in Verisign’s .com contract, according to meeting minutes released last night.

The vote was 11-0 in favor, with four abstentions, when the board controversially approved the deal during the Prague meeting in June.

Director George Sadowsky raised the thick Whois issue, which has been a sharp wedge issue between non-commercial users and the intellectual property lobby, according to the minutes.

Senior vice president Kurt Pritz responded:

Kurt noted that while a requirement for a “thick” registry had been a topic of conversation among ICANN and Verisign, the ongoing GNSO Policy Development Process initiated on this same issue rendered this topic somewhat ill-suited for two-party negotiations. In addition, the current .COM registrants entered registration agreements with the understanding of .COM as thin registry, and the resultant change – along with the ongoing policy work – weighed in favor of leaving this issue to policy discussions.

In other words: thick Whois is best left to community policy-making.

Thick Whois is wanted by trademark holders because it will make it easier to enforce data accuracy rules down the road, while non-commercial stakeholders oppose it on privacy grounds.

Domainers, at least those represented by the Internet Commerce Association, have no objection to thick Whois in principle, but believe the policy should go through the GNSO process first.

Verisign is publicly neutral on the matter.

The ICANN board vote on .com was considered somewhat controversial in Prague because it took place before any substantial face-to-face community discussion on these issues.

Sadowsky abstained, stating: “I feel very uncomfortable going forward with provisions that will tie our hands, I think, in the long run without an attempt to reach an accommodation at this time.”

Three other directors (Tonkin, De La Chapelle and Vasquez) abstained from the vote due to actual or the potential for perceived conflicts of interest.

The .com agreement is currently in the hands of the US Department of Commerce which, uniquely for a gTLD, has approval rights over the contract. It’s expected to be renewed before the end of November.

ICANN to return to South Africa in 2013

Kevin Murphy, August 31, 2012, Domain Policy

The location of ICANN’s second meeting in 2013 has been revealed as Durban, South Africa.

A proposal submitted by the local ccTLD manager, .za Domain Name Authority, was approved by the ICANN board of directors earlier this week.

It’s the second time ICANN has hosted one of its thrice-yearly public meetings in the country; in 2004, Cape Town was the venue.

The Durban meeting will run from July 14 to July 19 2013. It’s the third upcoming meeting on ICANN’s calendar after Toronto (October) and Beijing (April 2013).

Durban, a popular tourist destination, is South Africa’s third-largest city, with a population of about half a million almost four million.

Satellite policy expert named ICANN director

Kevin Murphy, August 31, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN has named Olga Madruga-Forti, an Argentinian telecoms policy expert, as the newest member of its board of directors.

Selected by this year’s Nominating Committee, Madruga-Forti will take over from R. Ramaraj when his second term ends at the Toronto meeting this October.

According to the biography provided by ICANN, she has extensive experience of telecommunications policy, particularly related to satellite, in both public and private sectors.

She currently works for ARSAT in Buenes Aires as international counsel. She’s previously worked for Iridium, Loral and the US Federal Communications Commission.

ICANN pointed out that she represents telcos at the International Telecommunications Union, a relevant data point, perhaps, given the WCIT conference coming up in December.

Madruga-Forti ticks one of the Latin-American boxes on the ICANN board.

NomCom has also reappointed two other directors for second terms on the board: Gonzalo Navarro (Latin-America) and the reliably contrarian George Sadowsky (North America).

New leadership members of three ICANN supporting organizations have also been selected by NomCom.

Jennifer Wolfe of the intellectual property law firm WolfeSBMC, which counts new gTLD applicants Microsoft, Procter & Gamble and Kraft Foods among its clients, has been appointed to GNSO Council.

I believe she’s destined to replace Carlos Dionisio Aguirre when his term is up later this year.

Canadian Alan Greenberg and Frenchman Jean-Jacques Subrenat have been reappointed to the At-Large Advisory Committee.

Mary Wong, who currently sits on the GNSO Council representing non-commercial stakeholders, has been appointed to the ccNSO Council.

The full biographies of all 2012 NomCom appointees can be found here.

ICM hires Fausett to help with YouPorn antitrust case

Kevin Murphy, August 29, 2012, Domain Registries

ICM Registry has hired new lawyers to help it fend off the antitrust lawsuit filed against it by YouPorn owner Manwin Licensing.

Gordon & Rees senior partner Richard Sybert is taking over as lead counsel in the case, which relates to the launch of .xxx last year.

Notably, the new team includes long-time ICANN legal expert Bret Fausett of Internet.Pro, who represented the Coalition For ICANN Transparency in its antitrust case against ICANN and Verisign.

That’s a bit of a coup for ICM. Manwin’s recent legal arguments have relied heavily on the antitrust precedents Fausett helped set in the CFIT case.

Gordon & Rees replaces Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr as ICM’s outside counsel, due to the recent departure of Wilmerhale’s ICANN guru and ICM defender, Becky Burr.

Burr joined Neustar as its chief privacy officer in May.

Manwin sued ICM and ICANN last October, arguing that the launch of .xxx was little more than a shake-down.

Earlier this month, a California District Court judge ruled that ICANN is not immune from competition law and that the litigation can proceed.

The case will turn in part on the question of whether there’s a market for “defensive registrations” under competition law and whether ICANN and ICM illegally exploited it.

Melbourne IT holding new gTLD trademarks summit

Kevin Murphy, August 29, 2012, Domain Services

Melbourne IT will hold a half-day conference on trademark protection in new gTLDs next month in Washington DC.

Google, Microsoft, Donuts, and the Association of National Advertisers are among those expected to take part in the discussion.

The meeting follows on from Melbourne IT’s recent anti-cybersquatting proposal, which calls for stronger protections for brands that are frequent targets of trademark infringement.

The panel includes many familiar faces from ICANN meetings. Applicant interests are represented, albeit by a minority of the panelists.

It will be moderated by Melbourne IT chief strategy officer (and ICANN vice-chair) Bruce Tonkin. Here’s the full line-up:

Andrew Abrams, Trademark Counsel, Google

James L. Bikoff, Partner, Silverberg, Goldman & Bikoff

Steve DelBianco, Executive Director, NetChoice and Vice Chair Policy Coordination, ICANN GNSO Commercial Business Users Constituency

Dan Jaffe, Group EVP Government Relations, Association of National Advertisers

Jon Nevett, Co-Founder, Donuts

Russell Pangborn, Associate General Counsel – Trademarks, Microsoft

Craig Schwartz, General Manager – Registry Programs, BITS/The Financial Services Roundtable

Brian J. Winterfeldt, Partner, Steptoe & Johnston and ICANN GNSO Counselor (Intellectual Property Constituency)

The event starts at 1.30pm local time at the Capital Hilton in DC on September 18. An RSVP is needed. There’s no official word on remote participation yet.