A Texas judge refused demands for a temporary restraining order preventing the IANA transition going ahead last weekend because the suing state attorneys general were unlikely to succeed at trial.
That was one of several reasons Judge George Hanks refused the TRO, which had been requested by the Republican AGs of Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma and Nevada.
Hanks’ order on the motion, which was published last night (pdf), said the AGs:
have not shown that there is a substantial likelihood that they will prevail on the merits of this case. Nor have they shown that there is a substantial threat that an irreparable injury will be suffered. Nor have they shown that the threated injury outweighs the threatened harm to the United States. Finally, they have not shown that granting the injunction will not disserve the public interest.
The lawsuit claims that the IANA transition, which involves the US government removing itself from its oversight roles of ICANN and DNS root zone management, represents a threat to free speech and to the stability of the .mil and .gov TLDs.
The eleventh-hour complaint was filed on Thursday, after attempts by Senator Ted Cruz and his allies to block the transition via a Congressional funding bill failed.
But Hanks ruled that the AGs claims about potential future harms amounted to no more than “speculation” and “hearsay”.
He wrote: “counsel’s statements of what ‘might’ or ‘could’ happen are insufficient to support the extraordinary relief sought in this case.”
He also pointed to one significant logical inconsistency in their argument:
Even if the Court were to find that some past harm or bad acts by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (“ICANN”) impacted the interests of the States in their respective websites and alleged rights at interest, the Court notes that these past harms happened under the exact regulatory and oversight scheme that the States now seek to preserve. This, along with the lack of evidence regarding any predictable or substantially likely events, greatly undermines the States’ request for they relief they seek.
The AGs are reportedly considering their options following the ruling, and may appeal.
But another school of thought holds that the suit was largely a political gesture designed to creating talking points for the Republican party ahead of next month’s presidential election, and could be allowed to fade away.
An explosion and fire aboard a cargo ship has caused hardware destined for the ICANN’s upcoming meeting in Hyderabad to be impounded.
A welding accident caused the explosion aboard the mega container vessel as it was docked in Hamburg, on September 1 according to reports.
The resulting fire took four days for firefighters to put out, according to ICANN.
ICANN had two containers — a 40-footer and 20-footer — on the ship, moving gear from June’s Helsinki meeting to next month’s ICANN 57 in India, ICANN said.
The smaller of the two containers was close to the fire and has been “detained” in Germany where it may not be released for months or years.
It held “printers, remote participation computers, camera kits, digital signage equipment, and all network hardware and wireless equipment, including over 5 miles (8 km) of cabling”, ICANN said in a blog post.
While replacements have been secured for much of the equipment — likely at a cost of many thousands of dollars — some of the gear cannot be replaced in time for Hyderabad.
The main impact of this will be that remote meeting hubs will not be able to broadcast live into the Hyderabad venue, according to ICANN.
On-site participants may also experience slower than expected downloads due to the unavailability of the Akamai content delivery network servers the meetings usually use.
ICANN ships about 100 tonnes of kit to each of its meetings.
ICANN 57 will run from November 3 to November 9 at the International Convention Centre.
Here’s the judge’s decision (pdf)
Larry Strickling, assistant secretary at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, released the following brief statement early October 1:
The federal court in Galveston, Texas denied the plaintiffs’ application for declaratory and injunctive relief. As of October 1, 2016, the IANA functions contract has expired.
The US had been sued at the eleventh hour by four state attorneys general, who claimed that allowing ICANN to go independent would, among other things, put free speech at risk.
The judge evidently disagreed, though his full decision has not yet been made available.
ICANN chair Steve Crocker released this statement:
This transition was envisioned 18 years ago, yet it was the tireless work of the global Internet community, which drafted the final proposal, that made this a reality. This community validated the multistakeholder model of Internet governance. It has shown that a governance model defined by the inclusion of all voices, including business, academics, technical experts, civil society, governments and many others is the best way to assure that the Internet of tomorrow remains as free, open and accessible as the Internet of today.
Akram Atallah, president of ICANN’s Global Domains Division, tweeted this:
— Akram Atallah (@AkramAtallah) September 30, 2016
The transition, in broad terms, means the US no longer holds a special role in managing the DNS root.
Now, instead of having to rely on vague threats from the NTIA to keep ICANN in line, the global internet community will get new powers to challenge ICANN decisions.
The state attorneys general of Texas, Arizona, Nevada and Oklahoma have sued the US Federal government to stop tomorrow’s planned IANA transition.
The 11th-hour suit seeks a court declaration that the transition would be unconstitutional and a temporary restraining order forcing the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to continue its oversight role.
It’s rooted in the conspiracy theories championed by the likes of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who holds that allowing the NTIA to stop authorizing DNS root modifications is akin to handing broad internet censorship powers to Russia, China and Iran.
“Trusting authoritarian regimes to ensure the continued freedom of the internet is lunacy,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a press release, losing about a thousand credibility points.
“The president does not have the authority to simply give away America’s pioneering role in ensuring that the internet remains a place where free expression can flourish,” he said.
The AGs reckon the remaining root zone partners, ICANN and Verisign, which are not bound by the First Amendment, could crack down on free speech.
The complaint states:
NTIA intends to delegate its approval authority over changes to the root zone file to ICANN and Verisign, and give these companies unbridled discretion to make changes to that file, with no substantive constraints on their decisions to grant or deny requests to alter the file that effectively enable or prohibit speech on the Internet.
Without the federal government approval authority, ICANN and Verisign have complete discretion to engage in this type of discrimination, and because these entities are private, citizens and States will not be able to use the democratic process
Citing the Property Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the AGs claim that the government does not have the authority to legally remove itself from oversight of the DNS root zone.
The DNS root is US property that cannot be disposed of without an act of Congress, the complaint alleges:
The Authoritative Root Zone File, the Internet Domain Name System as a whole, the exclusive right to approve changes to the root zone file, and the contracts NTIA administers in exercising control over them are property of the United States
The US Government Accountability Office told Cruz earlier this month that it was “doubtful” that it the transition requires the disposal of any US government property, in this report (pdf).
The AGs also reckon that if the US is no longer involved in root zone management, ICANN could delete .mil and .gov or transfer them to third parties.
The IANA contract between ICANN and NTIA is due to expire tomorrow night, ushering in a new era in which the global internet community becomes the back-stop preventing ICANN abusing its powers for Evil.
Cruz has been fighting against the transition for reasons best known to himself for months.
Most recently, he led an attempt to have a block on the transition included in a US federal funding bill, which wound up being passed yesterday with no such clause attached.
The four-state AG complaint can be read here (pdf).
The .pharmacy new gTLD has been dragged into the ongoing trademark dispute between two pharmaceuticals giants called Merck.
Germany-based Merck KGaA has accused the .pharmacy registry of operating an unfair and “secretive” process to resolve competing sunrise period applications.
The domain merck.pharmacy was awarded to US rival Merck & Co, which was spun off from the German original a hundred years ago, after both Mercks applied for the domain during .pharmacy’s January-March 2015 sunrise.
Now Merck KGaA has become what I believe might be the first company to reveal an attempt to invoke ICANN’s Public Interest Commitments Dispute Resolution Procedure to get the decision reversed.
The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, a US entity, operates .pharmacy as a tightly controlled gTLD with pre-registration credential validation.
When it launched for trademark owners in last year, it was vague about how contentions between owners of matching trademarks would be handled, according to Merck KGaA.
Merck KGaA claims that NABP awarded merck.pharmacy to Merck & Co and initially refused to disclose how it had arrived at its decision other than to say the German firm “met fewer criteria” than its rival.
After some back-and-forth between their lawyers, Merck KGaA was still not happy with NABP’s response to the dispute, so it decided to start filing compliance reports ICANN.
A year on, it tried to invoke the PICDRP.
Public Interest Commitments are addenda to ICANN Registry Agreements that bind the registries to certain behaviors, such as fighting malware and working with industry-specific regulatory bodies.
The PICDRP, heard by ICANN or an independent standing panel, is a way for third parties to challenge registries’ compliance with their contracts when they believe PICs have been violated.
No PICDRP disputes have actually made it before a panel to date, to my knowledge. Indeed, this is the first time I’ve heard of anyone even attempting to file one, though ICANN Compliance reports indicate about 20 were filed last year.
Merck KGaA claims that by not disclosing how it decided Merck & Co should win merck.pharmacy, NABP is in breach of the PIC that states:
Registry Operator will operate the TLD in a transparent manner consistent with general principles of openness and non-discrimination by establishing, publishing and adhering to clear registration policies.
It suspects that NABP was biased towards Merck & Co because the US firm is a $100,000+ contributor to its coffers.
NABP has denied any wrongdoing, saying it applied “objective criteria” to decide which Merck most deserved the name.
This June, over a year after the domain was awarded, Merck KGaA filed its PICDRP complaint with ICANN. Two weeks ago, ICANN responded saying the complaint had been rejected, saying:
The detailed review criteria used to resolve the contention for the registration of the domain name
was part of an operational procedure that the registry operator applied to both applicants’ websites and was consistent with .pharmacy’s community restrictions in Specification 12 of the RA. As the internal operational procedure does not conflict with ICANN’s agreements and policies, it is deemed outside of ICANN’s scope of enforcement.
The decision seems to have been made by ICANN staff. No independent panel was appointed. The PICDRP grants ICANN “sole discretion” as to whether a panel is needed.
The only reason the dispute has come to light is that Merck KGaA has decided to challenge ICANN’s decision with a Request for Reconsideration. The RfR and 600-odd pages of exhibits are published here.
It’s the second concurrent RfR Merck has on the go with ICANN. The Mercks are also simultaneously fighting for the right to run .merck as a dot-brand gTLD.
Both applications for .merck went through the Community Priority Evaluation process, but both failed.
The next stage in resolving the contention said would have been an auction, but Merck KGaA has filed for Reconsideration on its CPE panel’s determination.