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GNSO Chair contest is Rickert v Robinson

Kevin Murphy, September 28, 2012, Domain Policy

Two candidates for the soon-be-vacated chair of the Generic Names Supporting Organization have been put forward.

Jonathan Robinson has been nominated by the contracted parties house (registries and registrars), while Thomas Rickert has been put forward by the non-contracted parties.

Rickert, an IP lawyer, is director of names and numbers at Eco, a German internet industry association. He was appointed to the GNSO Council by the ICANN Nominating Committee last year.

UK-based Robinson is a longstanding member of the domain name industry and a registries rep on the Council. He’s a director of Afilias and runs IProta, the startup that managed ICM Registry’s sunrise last year.

The two men will be voted on by the GNSO Council before the chairman’s seat, currently occupied by Stephane Van Gelder, is vacated at the end of the Toronto meeting next month.

Van Gelder is coming to the end of his term on the Council after two years in the chair, hence the need for a replacement.

NIC Argentina offered prizes to object to .patagonia

Kevin Murphy, September 28, 2012, Domain Policy

Argentinian ccTLD manager NIC Argentina offered its Twitter followers prizes if they commented on the controversial .patagonia gTLD application.

Earlier this week, the company tweeted a few times:

My Spanish isn’t great, but this appears to be a prize draw for “kits de calcos” — stickers or decals of some kind — for followers submitting comments against .patagonia.

The .patagonia application, a dot-brand bid filed by a clothing retailer, has caused a huge ruckus in Argentina, where Patagonia is a large geographic region.

The application has received over 1,500 comments to date, pretty much all of which are from disgruntled Latin Americans.

European privacy watchdog says ICANN’s Whois demands are “unlawful”

Kevin Murphy, September 28, 2012, Domain Policy

European Union privacy officials have told ICANN that it risks forcing registrars to break the law by placing “excessive” demands on Whois accuracy.

In a letter to ICANN yesterday, the Article 29 Working Party said that two key areas in the proposed next version of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement are problematic.

It’s bothered by ICANN’s attempt to make registrars retain data about their customers for up to two years after registration, and by the idea that registrars should re-verify contact data every year.

These were among the requests made by law enforcement, backed up by the Governmental Advisory Committee, that ICANN has been trying to negotiate into the RAA for almost a year.

The letter (pdf) reads:

The Working Party finds the proposed new requirement to re-verify both the telephone number and the e-mail address and publish these contact details in the publicly accessible WHOIS database excessive and therefore unlawful. Because ICANN is not addressing the root of the problem, the proposed solution is a disproportionate infringement of the right to protection of personal data.

The “root cause” points to a much deeper concern the Working Party has.

Whois was designed to help people find technical and operational contacts for domain names, it argues. Just because it has other uses — such as tracking down bad guys — that doesn’t excuse infringing on privacy.

The problem of inaccurate contact details in the WHOIS database cannot be solved without addressing the root of the problem: the unlimited public accessibility of private contact details in the WHOIS database.

It’s good news for registrars that were worried about the cost implications of implementing a new, more stringent RAA.

But it’s possible that ICANN will impose the new requirements anyway, giving European registrars an opt-out in order to comply with local laws.

The letter is potentially embarrassing for the GAC, which seemed to take offense at the Prague meeting this June when it was suggested that law enforcement’s recommendations were not being balanced with the views of privacy watchdogs.

During a June 26 session between the GAC and the ICANN board, Australia’s GAC rep said:

I don’t come here as an advocate for law enforcement only. I come here with an Australian government position, and the Australian government has privacy laws. So you can be sure that from a GAC point of view or certainly from my point of view that in my positions, those two issues have been balanced.

That view was echoed during the same session by the European Commission and the US and came across generally like a common GAC position.

The Article 29 Working Party is an advisory body set up by the EU in 1995. It’s independent of the Commission, but it comprises one representative from the data privacy watchdogs in each EU state.

Directi says Karsten threatened it over .ping gTLD

Kevin Murphy, September 27, 2012, Domain Registries

The golf club maker Karsten has launched an attack on Directi due to their dispute over the new gTLD .ping, following through on threats Directi says the company made last month.

Karsten’s outside counsel, Paul McGrady of Winston & Strawn, filed over 200 comments and a 500-page letter against Direct’s new gTLD applications last night, shortly before the ICANN deadline.

In the comments, McGrady says that Directi should be banned from running any new gTLDs because its affiliated privacy service, PrivacyProtect.org, has lost dozens of UDRP cases.

But Directi said today that the Strawn comments — filed against applications such as .web, .hosting and .app — are just a smokescreen for Karsten’s claim over .ping.

Ping is a brand of golf clubs Karsten sells at ping.com, but Directi plans to use the gTLD in its other, geeky sense, open to all-comers.

Directi says that Karsten told it in an August 8 letter to withdraw the .ping bid or face action. According to Directi, the letter said in part:

Karsten is preparing to post this letter and the attached public comments for each of your applications, not just .ping, prior to the end of the public comment period. Once filed, this letter and the public comments will also be sent to the ICANN Board and Senior Staff. Further, as you know, Karsten may seek relief from the courts, through ICANN’s various processes, and through raising awareness of your activities within the ICANN community generally. Karsten will pursue all appropriate means to ensure that all of your applications are rejected.

Directi said in a statement: “Karsten is our only competitor for the .ping bid and their comment is submitted in bad faith and to further their self-interest.”

CEO Bhavin Turakhia said that PrivacyProtect.org did not own any of the domain names listed in the UDRP cases McGrady cited, it merely acted as the privacy service.

The company removes the privacy protection when UDRPs are filed, he said, but the registrant’s identity is not always listed in the published decision.

Beckstrom probed over bizarre spam complaint

Kevin Murphy, September 25, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s Ombudsman looked into a complaint that former CEO Rod Beckstrom allegedly spammed community members the day after he left the organization, it has emerged.

Whoever filed the complaint evidently did not like Beckstrom one bit.

According to Ombudsman Chris LaHatte, who rejected the complaint, the complainant said:

I wish to file a formal complaint about the below SPAM originating from ICANN’s servers. Since Mr. Beckstrom has left yesterday it is clear that he cannot have had access to ICANN infrastructure any longer. If however this were the case, one would have to consider YET ANOTHER serious breach. In any case I do not wish to receive communications of any kind from this person, Mr. Beckstrom. Please confirm receipt of this complaint, commence an investigation and advise me of the outcome.

LaHatte found that the email in question was “a courteous farewell and introduction to the new CEO” sent to between 50 and 60 people, all movers and shakers in the ICANN community.

According to LaHatte, who blogged about the complaint today:

After discussing this matter with the ICANN staff, it is clear that this email was in fact not spam in the common meaning of the term. Spam is usually considered bulk emailing sent indiscriminately to very large numbers of recipients. By way of contrast, 60 emails specifically tailored for groups of recipients is hardly unusual within a large organisation such as ICANN.

I know Beckstrom was not a massively popular individual with some in the ICANN community, but this complaint seems to be way out of proportion for a simple unwanted email.

Somebody out there needs to take a chill pill.