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PICs could be Beijing deal-breaker for new gTLDs

ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee may delay the approval of new gTLDs if applicants don’t submit Public Interest Commitments tomorrow.

That’s the message coming out of ICANN today, on the eve of the deadline for PICs submission set less than one month ago.

PICs, you will recall, are binding, enforceable commitments that new gTLD applicants are able to voluntarily add to their registry contracts with ICANN.

They’re meant to satisfy the GAC’s request for ICANN to tighten its grip on new gTLD registries and to give applicants a way to avoid GAC Advice and formal objections against their bids.

Applicants that commit to do whatever was asked of them in GAC Early Warnings, for example, may be able to avoid having the warning mutate into a full-blown GAC Advice kiss of death.

When ICANN announced the PICs idea a month ago, it gave applicants until March 5 to submit them. It intends to publish them on Wednesday for public comment and the GAC’s perusal.

But applicants are understandably nervous (to put it mildly) to comply, given that PICs would be enforceable via a dispute process that has yet to be written but could put their contracts at risk.

Responding to these concerns during a conference call today, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade urged applicants to hit the deadline or risk the GAC delaying its Advice discussions beyond Beijing.

“I don’t think we can delay the submission of the PICs,” Chehade said. “If we do, then we will definitely not have the GAC come back to use with their committed advice in Beijing.”

“Unless we want to get them to do this advice beyond Beijing, we should stick with the 30 days or so we’ve asked people to get this done and make it happen,” he said.

The Beijing meeting runs April 7 to 11. The GAC is expected to issue its advice shortly after the meeting ends.

ICANN reckons it will be able to start approving new gTLDs April 23, but has also stated on numerous occasions that it will not approve anything before the GAC has spoken.

Chehade said today, based on his conversations with influential GAC members, that pushing the PICs deadline out beyond March 5 by even a few days would seriously endanger the current GAC Advice timeline.

New gTLD applicants are now in the tricky position of having to decide between potentially costly delays today and an unknown dispute system that could prove dangerous in future.

NTIA fights Big Content’s corner, tells ALL new gTLD applicants to submit PICs

Kevin Murphy, February 26, 2013, Domain Policy

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration said today that all new gTLD applicants, even those that have not already been hit by government warnings, should submit Public Interest Commitments to ICANN.

In a rare comment sent to an ICANN public forum today, the NTIA suggested that applicants should use the process to help combat counterfeiting and piracy.

The agency, the part of the US Department of Commerce that oversees ICANN and participates in its Governmental Advisory Committee, said (emphasis in original):

NTIA encourages all applicants for new gTLDs to take advantage of this opportunity to address the concerns expressed by the GAC in its Toronto Communique, the individual early warnings issued by GAC members, and the ICANN public comment process on new gTLDs, as appropriate.

PICs were introduced by ICANN earlier this month as a way for applicants to voluntarily add binding commitments — for example, a promise to restrict their gTLD to a certain user base — to their registry contracts.

The idea is to let applicants craft and agree to stick to special terms they think will help them avoid receiving objections from the GAC, GAC members and others.

NTIA said that applicants should pay special attention in their PICs to helping out the “creative sector”.

Specifically, this would entail “ensuring that WHOIS data is verified, authentic and publicly accessible”.

They should also “consider providing an enforceable guaranty that the domain name will only be used for licensed and legitimate activities”, NTIA said, adding:

NTIA believes that these new tools may help in the fight against online counterfeiting and piracy and is particularly interested in seeing applicants commit to these or similar safeguards.

The PICs idea isn’t going down too well in the applicant community, judging by other submissions this week.

The Registries Stakeholder Group of ICANN, for example, says its members are feeling almost “blackmailed” into submitting PICs, saying the timing is “completely unreasonable”.

As DI noted when PICs was first announced, applicants have been given until just March 5 to submit their commitments, raising serious questions about the timetable for objections and GAC advice.

The RySG has even convened a conference call for March 4 to discuss the proposal, which it says “contains so many serious and fundamental flaws that it should be withdrawn in
its entirety”.

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