The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Internet Commerce Association are among those expressing initial concern about the introduction of a new “UDRP for copyright” mechanism by the Domain Name Association.
The EFF said the DNA’s new proposals want registries to become “private arbiters of online speech”, while the ICA expressed concern that the proposals could circumvent the usual ICANN policy-making process.
As we reported earlier in the week, the DNA has set out a set of four “healthy practices” (the term “best practices” was deliberately avoided, I’m told) for registries and registrars, under the banner of its Healthy Domains Initiative.
The first three sets of recommendations cover malware, child abuse material and fake pharmacies and are relatively non-controversial.
However, the surprising fourth proposal seeks to give copyright holders a means to suspend or seize control of domain names where they have “clear and convincing evidence” of “pervasive and systemic copyright infringement”.
While the details have yet to be finalized, it appears to be targeted at sites such as The Pirate Bay, which are used for pretty much nothing but copyright infringement.
“This is a terrible proposal,” the EFF’s Jeremy Malcolm and Mitch Stoltz wrote yesterday:
The content that happens to be posted within [a] website or service has nothing to do with the domain name registrar, and frankly, is none of its business. If a website is hosting unlawful content, then it is the website host, not the domain registrar, who needs to take responsibility for that
it seems too likely that any voluntary, private dispute resolution system paid for by the complaining parties will be captured by copyright holders and become a privatized version of the failed Internet censorship bills SOPA and PIPA
Those are references to two proposed US laws, the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act, that attracted lots of criticism and never saw the light of day.
The ICA, in a separate post on its own site, expressed concerns that private initiatives such as the HDI could give trademark holders another way to route around ICANN policies they do not like.
Noting that trademark protection mechanisms are already under review in a ICANN working group, ICA counsel Phil Corwin wrote:
What if the final consensus decision of that WG is that the URS remedy should remain domain suspension and not transfer, or that the UDRP standard of “bad faith registration and use” should remain as is? Are TM owners then free to develop their own “best practices” that include domain transfer via URS, or a bad faith registration or use standard? What’s the point of going through a multi-year exercise if those dissatisfied with the result can seek stiffer private policies? Just how many bites at the apple should trademark holders get
Both ICA and EFF expressed concern that the new DNA proposals seemed to have been developed without the broad input of members.
Stoltz and Malcolm wrote:
In any purported effort to develop a set of community-based principles, a failure to proactively reach out to affected stakeholders, especially if they have already expressed interest, exposes the effort as a sham.
ICA had no advance knowledge of the details of HDI and no opportunity to provide substantive input. So our fingerprints are nowhere on it.
The Copyright ADRP proposal appears to be the brainchild of Public Interest Registry, the .org registry.
PIR general counsel Liz Finberg told DI earlier this week that PIR is working with arbitration provider Forum to finalize the rules of the process and hopes to implement it in .org before the end of the first quarter.
No other registry has publicly stated similar plans to my knowledge.
The HDI recommendations are completely voluntary and registries/ars are free to adopt them wholly, partially or not at all. They are not ICANN policies.
Remember the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse? The lobby group that campaigned for stronger cybersquatting laws and against new gTLDs?
CADNA on Thursday used the imminent inauguration of new US president Donald Trump to announce that it’s back in the game, hoping a Republican-dominated government will be friendlier to its agenda.
It told its supporters on “the 2016 general elections outcomes for both the U.S. Congress and the White House present a unique and timely opportunity to push through legislation”.
It wants new federal laws modeled on 2010 Utah state legislation, the E-Commerce Integrity Act, which creates liability for non-registrant third-parties including domain name registrars.
The Utah law is closely modeled on the federal Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act of 1999, but has some crucial differences.
CADNA noted at the time the law was up for a vote that it:
expands the liability for cybersquatting activity to include the registrant’s authorized licensee, agent, affiliate, representative, domain name registrar, domain name registry, or other domain name registration authority that knowingly and actively assists a violation
That’s something ACPA does not allow for, and CADNA wants the federal law amended to include provisions such as this. It said:
The Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse (CADNA) is now mobilizing the global business community to promote and pass legislation that will greatly enhance the available protection mechanisms for online trademark protection and limit the appeal of cybersquatting.
The last time US cybersquatting laws came close to being amended was with the Anti-Phishing Consumer Protection Act of 2008, aka the Snowe Bill, which ultimately did not pass.
The Internet Commerce Association, which lobbies on behalf of domain investors, expressed concern with CADNA’s new efforts to revive its noughties lobbying tactics, telling members:
for now this is more of a CADNA recruiting effort than an active legislative natter. As you can see, CADNA announced a similar Federal effort in 2010, which went nowhere. Nonetheless, we should proceed on the assumption that CADNA will secure a sponsor and have such legislation introduced in the new Congress and that such legislation may well gain traction in the current political environment.
The ICA also expressed concern about the amount of statutory damages the Utah law permits compared to the ACPA.
While both Utah and ACPA allow damages of $1,000 to $100,000 per domain, the Utah law assumes the highest amount if a “pattern or practice” of cybersquatting can be demonstrated.
CADNA has been pretty quiet for the last few years.
Before the US elections last November, its most recent press release dated from October 2013.
The group is managed by the same people who run Fairwinds Partners, a new gTLD consultancy specializing in managing dot-brand gTLDs for some of the world’s biggest names.
Its gTLD clients include L’Oreal, Marriott and Walmart.
Fairwinds used its links to CADNA and its staunch opposition to the new gTLD program to pitch for these clients back in 2012.
Should the Uniform Rapid Suspension process spread from new gTLDs to incumbent gTLDs, possibly including .com?
That’s been the subject of some strong disagreements during the opening weekend of ICANN 53, which formally kicks off in Buenos Aires today.
During sessions of the Generic Names Supporting Organization and the ICANN board and staff, ICANN was accused of trying to circumvent policy-making processes by forcing URS into the .travel, .pro and .cat registry agreements, which are up for renewal.
ICANN executives denied doing any such thing, saying the three registries volunteered to have URS included in their new contracts, which are modeled on the standard new gTLD Registry Agreement.
“It’s just something we’ve suggested and they’ve taken up,” said Cyrus Namazi, ICANN’s vice president of domain name services.
If a registry wants to increase the number of rights protection mechanisms in its gTLD, why not let them, ICANN execs asked, pointing out that loads of new gTLDs have implemented extra RPMs voluntarily.
ICANN admits that it stands to benefit from operational efficiencies when its registry agreements are more uniform.
Opponents pointed out that there’s a difference between Donuts, say, having its bespoke, voluntary Domain Protected Marks List, and bilaterally putting the URS into an enforceable ICANN contract.
URS is not a formal Consensus Policy, they say, unlike UDRP. Consensus Policies apply to all gTLDs, whereas URS was created by ICANN for new gTLDs alone.
Arguably leading the fight against URS osmosis is Phil Corwin, counsel for Internet Commerce Association, which doesn’t want its clients’ vast portfolios of .com domains subject to URS.
He maintained over the weekend that his beef was with the process through which URS was making its way into proposed legacy gTLD contracts.
It shouldn’t be forced upon legacy gTLDs without a Consensus Policy, he said.
While the GNSO, ICANN staff and board spent about an hour talking about “process” over the weekend, it was left to director Chris Disspain to point out that that was basically a smokescreen for an argument about whether the URS should be used in other gTLDs.
He’s right, but the GNSO is split on this issue in unusual ways.
Corwin enjoys the support of the Business Constituency, of which he is a member, in terms of his process criticisms if not his criticisms of RPMs more generally.
ICA does also have backing from some registrars (which bear the support costs of dealing with customers affected by URS), from the pro-registrant Non-Commercial Stakeholders Group, and from groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The Intellectual Property Constituency thinks that the process is just fine — .travel et al can sign up to URS if they want to.
While the registries have not yet put forward a joint position, the IPC’s view has been more or less echoed by Donuts, which owns the largest portfolio of new gTLDs.
The companies handling Uniform Rapid Suspension domain name disputes will be bound to a contract, ICANN has said.
In a follow-up Q&A document (pdf) from the public forum session at the ICANN meeting in Beijing last month, posted Friday, ICANN said:
As regards Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) providers, will there be a contract developed that goes beyond the non-enforceable memorandum of understanding? Will there be other URS providers?
Yes, a contract is being developed and additional URS providers will be added.
That appears to be new information.
Domainers, and the Internet Commerce Association, which represents domainers, have long pressed for UDRP providers and, more recently, URS providers, to be bound by contracts.
The ICA, for example, has often said that no new UDRP providers should be approved until there’s a contractual way for ICANN to prevent mismanagement of disputes and “forum shopping”.
Soon, it seems, at least URS providers will have some contractual coverage.
The National Arbitration Forum and the Asian Domain Name Dispute Resolution Centre have already been approved as URS providers.
Domain name owners who do not respond to cybersquatting complaints could automatically have their domains suspended, if the World Intellectual Property Organization gets its way.
That’s according to the latest ICANN documents to be released under its Documentary Information Disclosure Policy, following a request from the Internet Commerce Association.
The documents relate to the still controversial Uniform Rapid Suspension policy, a supplement to the existing UDRP for dealing with “clear cut” cases of cybersquatting.
The URS will be binding on all new gTLDs, but ICANN recently admitted that it’s been unable to find an organization willing to administer URS cases for the planned $300 to $500 filing fee.
Rather than implement URS with a $1,000 to $1,500 fee instead, ICANN plans to host two community summits to try to figure out ways to rearchitect the scheme to make it cheaper.
These changes could well mean fewer safeguards for domain registrants.
According to an email from WIPO released in response to ICA’s DIDP request, WIPO declined to host these summits unless ICANN agreed, in advance, to Draconian rules on default.
WIPO’s Erik Wilbers wrote (pdf):
it would seem unlikely that these stakeholders would now feel able to commit to the rather fundamental changes we believe to be in everyone’s interest – notably a shift to the proposed respondent-default basis without panel, subject to appropriate safeguards. We would consider an express prior commitment to such a shift, including the requisite Board support, as a pre-condition to a fruitful meeting on the URS.
In other words, WIPO thinks domain names should be suspended without expert review if the domain owner does not respond to a trademark owner’s URS complaint.
ICA counsel Phil Corwin is naturally not happy about this, writing in a blog post this weekend:
WIPO would only consent to hosting URS Summits if their result was largely pre-ordained – in which event, we ask, why bother holding the Summits at all? … This imperious demand should be dismissed out of hand by members of ICANN’s Board should it ever reach them.
That the structure of URS is still open for debate at this late stage of the game is an embarrassment, particularly given the fact that it’s been well-understood for some time that URS was unrealistically priced.
The new DIDP documents reveal that even the idea of summits to resolve the apparently intractable problems were a Band-Aid proposed almost accidentally by ICANN staff.
ICANN, it seems, is engaged in policy fire-fighting as usual.
The current hope is for URS to be finalized and a provider be in place by June 2013. It’s a plausible timetable, but I’m less convinced that a system can be created that is fair, useful and cheap.