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puntCAT head of IT charged with “sedition”

Kevin Murphy, September 20, 2017, Domain Registries

Catalan gTLD registry puntCAT has confirmed that its head of IT, Pep Masoliver, has been arrested as part of a Spanish government crackdown on pushes for independence.

He’s been charged with “sedition” and is still in police custody this evening, a company spokesperson told DI.

His arrest coincided with the military police raid of puntCAT’s office in Barcelona that started this morning, related to a forthcoming Catalan independence referendum.

Spanish authorities had called for the registry to delete .cat domain names used to host content related to the referendum, which has been ruled illegal by the Spanish courts.

puntCAT, which had already alerted ICANN to what it characterized as the sweeping “censorship” of .cat, has now started up a social media campaign calling for Masoliver’s release.

The hashtag appears to translate as “All With You, Pep”.

Masoliver was among a dozen people arrested today by Spanish national authorities in a series of raids that have been condemned as anti-democratic.

The Guardian has a good round-up of the day’s events and local reaction.

“Sedition” isn’t a word you hear very often nowadays, particularly in democratic Western Europe, and I’m not going to pretend to have the first idea how it is treated under Spanish law.

UPDATE 1944 UTC: puntCAT issued a statement condemning the events of today in very strong terms. It’s worth quoting in its entirety.

The Fundació puntCAT wants to express its utmost condemnation, indignation and reprobation for the actions that it has been suffering lately with successive judicial mandates, searches and finally the arrest of our Director of Innovation and Information Systems, Pep Masoliver.

We are a private and non for profit foundation devoted to ensuring that Catalan – a persecuted and maltreated language – has its space in the digital world. We assist all our users with the greatest professionalism and we are a reference entity in Catalonia and in the world.

The show that we have experienced in our offices this morning has been shameful and degrading, unworthy of a civilized country. We feel helpless in the face of these immensely disproportionate facts.

We demand the immediate release of our colleague and friend.

We will continue to work for our foundational objectives as well as for the defense of freedom of expression on the Internet.

PuntCAT cross-ownership ban lifted

PuntCAT has become the first gTLD registry operator to have a ban on owning an affiliated registrar lifted.

The change means the company will be able to directly market its .cat domain names to registrants via a registrar that it owns.

An amendment to its ICANN contract posted yesterday deletes the clause that prevents the company owning more than 15% of an ICANN-accredited registrar. The change follows a December request.

PuntCAT is the first to take advantage of ICANN’s liberalization of rules on registry-registrar cross ownership.

Afilias and Neustar will benefit from the same changes, but their respective .info and .biz registry agreements are currently in public comment periods and not yet signed.

.cat wants to ditch registrar ban

Kevin Murphy, December 27, 2012, Domain Registries

PuntCAT, the .cat registry, has become the first gTLD operator to apply to ICANN for the right to dump the registrar ownership ban in its contract.

If the request is approved by ICANN, the company will be able to own an ICANN-accredited registrar and start selling .cat domain names more or less directly to registrants.

The company has proposed several amendments to its existing contract that would allow it to become an “affiliate” of — ie own — a registrar with respect to its own gTLD.

ICANN believes the request, which is open for public comment until February 13, will not create any competition problems.

ICANN approved the rules for enabling cross-ownership in October, after competition concerns from the European Commission and US Department of Commerce appeared to disappear.

The .cat request was handled via the Process for Handling Requests for Removal of Cross-Ownership Restrictions on Operators of Existing gTLDs, which absolutely nobody is calling PFHRFROCOROOOEG.

Under the rules, the alternative to amending an existing contract is adopting the standard new gTLDs registry agreement wholesale, but I’m not expecting any incumbent registries to do that.

PuntCAT is pretty much unique among “sponsored” gTLD operators in that it’s experienced steady growth, not subject to the same degree of speculation-related spikes as others, since launching in 2006.

It currently has roughly 60,000 domains under management, growing at about 10,000 names a year. Three Spanish registrars hold over half of the market between them, led by Nominalia.

But the gTLD faces an uncertain future.

The Catalonia region of Spain, which .cat represents, is set for an independence referendum in 2014. If it were to split off into a new country, it would get its own potentially competing ccTLD.

Sales could benefit from the imminent delegation of .dog, which three companies have applied for as a gTLD, but PuntCAT’s rules state that all .cat sites must have Catalan-language content.