Four US states attorneys general have quietly thrown in the towel in their attempt to have the IANA transition blocked.
The AGs of Texas, Nevada, Arizona and Oklahoma unilaterally dropped their Texas lawsuit against the US government on Friday, court records show.
A filing (pdf) signed by all four reads simply:
Plaintiffs hereby provide notice that they are voluntarily dismissing this action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(i).
That basically means the case is over.
The AGs had sued the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration, seeking an eleventh-hour restraining order preventing the IANA transition going ahead.
The TRO demand was comprehensively rejected, after ICANN and organizations representing numerous big-name technology companies let their support for the transition be known in court.
The plaintiffs had said they were considering their options, but now appear to have abandoned the case.
It was widely believed that the suit was politically motivated, an attempt by four Republican officials to stir up anti-Obama sentiment in the run-up to the US presidential election.
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.
The DNS root saw its 1,500th concurrent live TLD come into existence on Friday, just hours before the US relinquished its oversight powers.
Amazon received its delegation for .通販 (.xn--gk3at1e, Japanese for “online shopping”) and satellite TV company Hughes got .dvr, meaning “digital video recorder”.
That took the number of TLDs in the root to exactly 1,500, which is where it still stands today.
Both went live September 30, which was the final day of ICANN’s IANA contract with the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which expired that night.
An ICANN spokesperson confirmed that the two new gTLDs “were the last ones requiring NTIA’s approval.”
From now on, the small clerical role NTIA had when ICANN wanted to make changes to the root is no more.
The fact that it hit a nice round number the same day as ICANN oversight switched to a community-led approach is probably just a coincidence.
Amazon’s .通販 was almost banned for being too confusingly similar to “.shop”, but that ludicrous decision was later overturned.
Hughes’ .dvr was originally intended as a single-registrant “closed generic”, but is now expected to operate as a restricted but multi-registrant space.
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).