ICANN lawyers have launched an extraordinary attack on a “blogger” who recently wrote an article headlined “ICANN’s general counsel should lose his job over this”.
Early Friday, ICANN’s board of directors issued its response to the recent Independent Review Process case in which new gTLD applicant Dot Registry managed to show that the board had breached its transparency and accountability bylaws.
The board resolution did not say what is going to happen to Dot Registry’s four new gTLD applications, due to lack of guidance from the IRP panel.
But it did contain a surprising retaliation against Chris Williams, a reporter for online news site The Register, referring to “factual inaccuracies that have been reported in online blogged reports”.
(Before going any further, some disclosure: I freelanced for The Register for several months about five years ago, when Williams was the copy editor I sometimes had to work with. I also worked directly under its current group editor for about five years at a different publication in the early-mid 2000s.)
In the rationale accompanying its resolution last week, the board said:
the Board also notes that there have been online blogged reports about what the [IRP] Final Declaration actually says, yet many of the items reported on have been factual inaccuracies
I immediately grew worried that the resolution was having a pop at this site. But it actually refers to The Register, a news site with millions of readers that, despite its tabloid style, is not usually described as a “blog”.
The board ordered the simultaneous release of their staff-prepared briefing notes (pdf) for the meeting at which the resolution was passed, which contain an 800-word rebuttal of Williams’ August 3 article “Simply not credible: The extraordinary verdict against the body that hopes to run the internet”.
The article covers the Dot Registry IRP decision in a tone that is harshly critical of ICANN.
It is particularly critical of ICANN’s legal team and specifically general counsel John Jeffrey and notes that he makes a tonne of cash due to his regular, generous pay rises.
I compared each point in the rebuttal to the original article and I think ICANN is generally on fairly safe ground in some of what it says are inaccuracies.
In other cases, the rebuttal instead takes issue with the opinion of a third party quoted in the piece, or with a different, but in my view fair, characterization of the IRP declaration.
It seems the Reg article did incorrectly conflate “ICANN staff” and the “ICANN legal team” in at least one instance, as the ICANN rebuttal claims.
It also does in fact quote sections of “the [IRP] Panel’s recitation of Dot Registry’s claims as if they are the Panel’s own finding” as the rebuttal says it does.
But the actual findings of the panel were arguably much harsher than the text the Reg quoted.
So why is the ICANN board of directors passing a resolution addressing the veracity of a news report rather than the real concerns raised by the IRP declaration?
Column yards of horseshit are written about ICANN on a daily basis — I’m probably responsible for an inch or two myself — so why has ICANN zeroed in on this particular piece?
Could it be because Williams’ follow-up piece, August 4, leads with Dot Registry CEO Shaul Jolles calling for the head of Jeffrey? Jolles is quoted as saying:
ICANN’s general counsel should lose his job for this. The advice that he gives, everything was processed through him. It’s shocking.
There’s a rich irony at work here.
The main takeaway from the IRP’s declaration was that the ICANN board sometimes rubber-stamps resolutions drafted by ICANN staff without doing its due diligence.
The Reg then reported that fact.
In response, ICANN staff drafted a resolution designed to shoot the messenger, deflecting attention from the IRP’s findings, which the board then approved without amendment.
If somebody over at ICANN is chagrined about inaccurate reporting, I can’t help but feel that the best way to deal with that would be to request a correction or publish a rebuttal in the form of a blog post or some other kind of statement.
Using the very method under scrutiny — staff drafts, board approves — to issue a rebuttal simply serves to highlight the failings outlined by the IRP panel.
Compounding this, the only reason we’re able to see the full rebuttal today is that the board approved a (staff-drafted) resolution authorizing the concurrent publishing of staff briefing materials.
Usually, briefing materials are published alongside formal minutes when they are approved many weeks later.
If the ICANN board is able to publish briefing materials just a couple of days after passing its resolutions, why on Earth does it not do so as a matter of course?
Did any member of the ICANN board raise her or his hand to ask why these materials had to be published with such haste?
Can ICANN only be transparent in a timely fashion when its lawyers have been criticized in the press?
Donuts has emerged the victor of the contention set for .ltd, beating six other applicants for the new gTLD.
Dot Registry, NU DOT CO, Afilias and myLTD all withdrew their applications this week, evidently after a private auction.
LTD Registry and C.V. TLDcare withdrew their applications in April and May respectively.
The string is of course an abbreviation for “limited” as in “limited liability company”, used by privately held companies in many companies including the UK.
While bids for comparable TLDs such as .inc, .corp and .gmbh have received criticism from company regulators in the US and Germany, .ltd hasn’t raised as much of a ruckus.
Like all Donuts gTLDs, it looks like .ltd is set to be unrestricted.
I’m not a fan of corporate identifier TLDs. They always strike me as more prone to defensive registrations than other, more descriptive strings.
At least two new gTLD applicants reckon ICANN has screwed up their Initial Evaluation, flunking their applications due to missing or mishandled communications.
Following Friday’s batch of IE results, which saw four failures, one angry applicant got in touch with DI to complain about discrepancies in how his bids were scored.
Dot Registry has applied for five “corporate identifier” strings — .inc, .corp, .ltd, .llc and .llp — and has made decent progress convincing the powers that be that they will be operated responsibly.
On Friday, its .inc bid passed its Initial Evaluation with flying colors while .llc and .ltd were marked as “Eligible For Extended Evaluation”, a polite code phrase for #fail.
Both of the unsuccessful bids scored 0 on question 50, “Funding Critical Registry Functions”, which is an automatic failure no matter what the overall score on the financial evaluation.
Applicants are scored on question 50 from 0 to 3 by showing that they have a “Continuing Operations Instrument” to cover three years of operations in the event that their registry fails.
Most applicants have been submitting letters of credit supplied by their bank, which promise to pay ICANN these emergency funds should the need arise.
A zero score indicates basically that no COI was provided.
But CEO Shaul Jolles claims that Dot Registry submitted a single letter of credit to cover all five applications, later amended at ICANN’s request so that each string in the portfolio was broken out individually.
“We then received a note that they now have whatever they needed and it’s resolved,” he said.
He noted that .inc, which passed on Friday with maximum score of 3, is covered by exactly the same LOC as the two applications that scored a 0, which doesn’t make much sense.
A second applicant, which does not currently wish to be named, has told DI that it failed its financial evaluation on a question for which it received no Clarifying Questions.
CQs are the handy method by which ICANN gave applicants a second shot at getting their applications right. Hundreds have been issued, the vast majority related to financial questions.
The common complaint to both failing applicants is that at no point did ICANN inform the applicant that its application was deficient.
We understand both applicants are currently in touch with ICANN management in order to try to get their predicaments resolved.
Four new gTLD applications have been withdrawn so far this week, including the first to come from .info operator Afilias.
Afilias has pulled its bid for .mail — the second applicant to do so — due to the number of competitors for the string.
A spokesperson said in an email:
The company felt there were simply too many groups in contention for this domain and we’d rather focus our energy supporting and helping to grow the .POST domain, for which we are the [technical services provider].
There are now five applicants competing for the string, including Google, Amazon and Donuts, but they’re all facing objections from the United States Postal Service and the Universal Postal Union, which runs .post.
Elsewhere this week, Directi has ended its bid for .movie, a contention set with seven other bidders.
The company declined to comment on the reasons for the withdrawal, so we probably can’t entirely rule out some kind of partnership with one or more other applicants.
Today we’ve also seen the withdrawal of applications for .ltd and .inc, both belonging to a Dutch company called C.V. TLDcare. I don’t know much about these guys, other than it used OpenRegistry as its technical partner and that .inc and .ltd were its only two applications.
Interesting fact: not a single “corporate identifier” application (.llp, .corp, .ltd, .inc, .llc) has passed Initial Evaluation yet, but seven applications have been withdrawn.
It’s a controversial category, with many US state attorneys general very unhappy about any of these strings being delegated without safeguards.
The latest four withdrawals bring the total to 63.
The secretary of state for Delaware has come out in opposition to new gTLD applications such as .inc, .corp and .ltd.
Bullock wrote (emphasis added):
none of the applications contains a fully thought out, achievable, transparent and enforceable system for fully safeguarding that a firm remains legally registered with a company registry at all times.
none of the applications adequately safeguards consumers, legitimate businesses, the public at large, state regulators, and the internet itself from the risks that “company endings” are used for fraudulent or misleading purposes.
Therefore, at this stage of the gTLD process, I strongly believe that the public is best served if these company endings are not made available for use. There is no overriding public policy purpose or strong business case for making them available and the opportunity for fraud and abuse is very high.
There are a few dozen corporate-themed gTLD applications, including contests for: .inc, .corp, .llp, .ltd, .company and .gmbh.
Back in March, before any of the applications had been published, Bullock and other secretaries of state said that such gTLDs should only be approved with “restrictions that would attempt to protect legitimate businesses and consumers from confusion or fraud.”
His letter suggested that DOT Registry’s proposals might be adequate, but he’s apparently changed his mind after reading the applications.
Based on the March letters, I’d say there’s a strong possibility of objections being filed against some or all of these applications.
Delaware is of course the state most big US companies choose to register themselves in, due to its generous company laws.