Today blah blah ZA Central Registry blah blah .africa blah delegated blah.
ICANN blah blah root blah. Blah blah ZACR blah nic.africa.
Blah blah five years blah blah contention blah lawsuit blah blah DotConnectAfrica blah. Blah blah Bekele blah IRP blah.
ICANN blah blah Governmental Advisory Committee blah blah blah African Union blah blah blah.
Blah blah Geographic Names Panel blah blah controversy blah blah blah blah lawsuit blah blah blah leg to stand on.
— dotAfrica (@africandomain) February 15, 2017
Blah racist blah blah conspiracy blah blah blah… nutty. Blah.
Blah reporting blah damned blah story blah forever blah blah bored blah blah blah blah.
A Los Angeles court has rejected a demand for a preliminary injunction preventing ICANN delegating .africa, meaning the new gTLD can go live soon.
Judge Howard Halm ruled February 3, in documents published last night, that the “covenant not to sue” signed by every new gTLD applicant is enforceable and that Africans are being harmed as long as .africa is stuck in legal limbo.
The ruling comes two and a half years after ZA Central Registry, the successful of the two .africa applicants, signed its Registry Agreement with ICANN.
Rival applicant DotConnectAfrica, rejected because it has no African government support, is suing ICANN for fraud, alleging that it failed to follow its own rules and unfairly favored ZACR from the outset.
Unfortunately, the ruling does not address the merits of these claims. It merely says that DCA is unlikely to win its suit due to the covenant it signed.
Halm based his decision on the precedent in Ruby Glen v ICANN, the Donuts lawsuit that seeks to stop ICANN awarding .web to Verisign. The judge in that case ruled last November that Donuts signed away its right to sue.
An earlier judge in the DCA v ICANN case had ruled — based at least in part on a misunderstanding of the facts — that the covenant was unenforceable, but that decision now seems to have been brushed aside.
Halm was not convinced that DCA would suffer irreparable harm if ZACR got given .africa, writing:
The .Africa gTLD can be re-delegated to DCA in the event DCA prevails in this litigation… Further, it appears that any interim harm to DCA can be remedied by monetary damages
He balanced this against the harm of NOT delegating .africa:
The public interest also weighs in favor of denying the injunction because the delay in the delegation of the .Africa gTLD is depriving the people of Africa of having their own unique gTLD.
So what now?
ICANN said in a statement: “In accordance with the terms of its Registry Agreement with ZACR for .AFRICA, ICANN will now follow its normal processes towards delegation.”
As of this morning, ZACR’s .africa bid is officially still marked as “On Hold” by ICANN, though this is likely to change shortly.
Assuming ZACR has already completed pre-delegation testing, delegation itself could be less than a week away.
If DCA’s record is anything to go by, it seems unlikely that this latest setback will be enough to get it to abandon its cause.
Its usual MO whenever it receives an adverse decision or criticism is to double down and start screaming about conspiracies.
While the injunction was denied, the lawsuit itself has not been thrown out, so there’s still plenty of time for more of that.
You can read Halm’s ruling here (pdf).
US antitrust authorities are investigating Verisign over its anticipated operation of the .web gTLD.
The probe was disclosed by company CEO Jim Bidzos in yesterday’s fourth-quarter earnings call. He said:
On January 18, 2017, the company received a Civil Investigative Demand from the Antitrust Division of the US Department of Justice, requesting certain information related to Verisign’s potential operations of the .web TLD. The CID is not directed at Verisign’s existing registry agreements.
He did not comment further, beyond describing it as “kind of like a subpoena”.
Verisign acquired the rights to run .web at an ICANN last-resort auction last July, agreeing to pay $135 million.
Rather than applying for the gTLD itself, it secretly bankrolled shell company Nu Dot Co, which intends to transfer its .web contract to Verisign after it is signed.
ICANN is being sued by rival applicant Donuts, which claims NDC should have been banned from the auction. Afilias, the auction runner up, is also challenging the outcome.
But this new DoJ investigation, if we take Bidzos’ words at face value, appears to focus on what Verisign plans to do with .web once it is live.
It’s the view of many that .web would be the new gTLD best positioned as an alternative to .com, which makes Verisign hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
It’s my view that it would make perfect sense for Verisign to flush the $135 million and bury .web, rather than have a viable competitor on the market.
Verisign has repeatedly said that intends to “grow and widely distribute .web”, words Bidzos repeated last night.
The investigation is likely into whether Verisign wants to actually raise .web, or strangle it in its crib.
It seems the investigation was launched in the dying days of the Obama administration, so the recent changing of the guard at Justice — Attorney General Jeff Sessions was confirmed by Congress just two days ago — may have an impact on how it plays out.
ICM Registry is to see its .xxx ICANN registry fees hugely reduced in contractual amendments approved by ICANN last week.
The changes also mean that .xxx will now become subject to the Uniform Rapid Suspension anti-cybersquatting mechanism, despite it being a pre-2012 gTLD.
.xxx becomes the latest pre-2012 gTLD to move to a contract more closely aligned with the standard Registry Agreement from the new gTLD program.
Under the complex new deal, its per-transaction fee could be reduced from $2 to $0.25 by mid-2018.
Its quarterly fixed fee will go up from $2,500 to $6,250.
ICM has also agreed to take on many aspects of the standard new gTLD Registry Agreement, the most controversial of which is the URS.
The domainer group the Internet Commerce Association was fiercely critical of this addition to the contract, as it has been when URS was brought to .jobs, .travel, .cat, .pro and .mobi.
ICA is largely concerned that URS will also be pushed upon Verisign’s .net, which is up for contract renewal this year, and eventually .com.
ICANN’s post-transition bylaws have only been in effect for a few months, but the board of directors wants to change one of them already.
The board last week voted to create a new committee dedicated to handling Requests for Reconsideration — formal appeals against ICANN decisions.
But because this would change a so-called Fundamental Bylaw, ICANN’s new Empowered Community mechanism will have to be triggered.
The Board Governance Committee, noting that the number of RfR complaints it’s having to deal with has sharply increased due to fights over control of new gTLDs, wants that responsibility split out to be handled by a new, dedicated Board Accountability Mechanisms Committee.
It seems on the face of it like a fairly non-controversial change — RfRs will merely be dealt with by a different set of ICANN directors.
However, it will require a change to one of the Fundamental Bylaws — bylaws considered so important they need a much higher threshold to approve.
This means the untested Empowered Community (which I’m not even sure actually exists yet) is going to get its first outing.
The EC is an ad hoc non-profit organization meant to give ICANN the community (that is, you) ultimate authority over ICANN the organization.
It has the power to kick out directors, spill the entire board, reject bylaws changes and approve Fundamental Bylaws changes.
It comprises four or five “Decisional Participants” — GNSO, the ccNSO, the ALAC, the ASO and (usually) the GAC.
In this case at least three of the five Decisional Participants must approve the change, and no more than one may object.
The lengthy process for the EC approving the proposed bylaws change is outlined here.
I wouldn’t expect this proposal to generate a lot of heated discussion on its merits, but it will put the newly untethered ICANN to the test for the first time, which could highlight process weaknesses that could be important when more important policy changes need community scrutiny.