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ICANN muddles through solution to IGO conflict

Kevin Murphy, March 31, 2014, Domain Policy

ICANN may have come up with a way to appease both the GNSO and the GAC, which are at conflict over the best way to protect the names and/or acronyms of intergovernmental organizations.

At the public forum of the ICANN 49 meeting in Singapore last Thursday, director Bruce Tonkin told the community that the ICANN board will consider the GNSO’s recommendations piecemeal instead of altogether.

It will also convene a meeting of the GNSO, GAC, IGOs, international nongovernmental organizations and the At-Large Advisory Committee to help reach a consensus.

The issue, you may recall from a DI post last week, is whether the names and acronyms of IGOs and INGOs should be blocked in all new gTLDs.

The GNSO is happy for the names to be protected, but draws the line at protecting acronyms, many of which are dictionary words or have multiple uses. The GAC wants protection for both.

Both organizations have gone through their respective processes to come to full consensus policy advice.

This left ICANN in the tricky situation of having to reject advice from one or the other; its bylaws did not make a compromise easy.

By splitting the GNSO’s 20 or so recommendations up and considering them individually, the ICANN board may be able to reconcile some with the GAC advice.

It would also be able to reject bits of GAC advice, specific GNSO recommendations, or both. Because the advice conflicts directly in some cases, rejection of something seems probable.

But ICANN might not have to reject anything, if the GAC, GNSO and others can come to an agreement during the special talks ICANN has in mind, which could happen as soon as the London meeting in June.

Even if those talks lead to nothing, this proposed solution does seem to be good news for ICANN perception-wise; it won’t have to blanket-reject either GNSO or GAC policy advice.

This piecemeal or ‘scorecard’ approach to dealing with advice hasn’t been used with GNSO recommendations before, but it is how the board has dealt with complex GAC advice for the last few years.

It’s also been used with input from non-GNSO bodies such as the Whois Review Team and Accountability and Transparency Review Team.

Judging by a small number of comments made by GNSO members at the public forum on Thursday, the solution the board has proposed seems to be acceptable.

ICANN may have dodged a bullet here.

The slides used by Tonkin during the meeting can be found here.

Donuts: “eco” registrants could get their names back

Kevin Murphy, March 14, 2014, Domain Registries

Registrants whose domains were deleted by Donuts this week could get their names back, should ICANN release them from its reserved lists in future, the company said today.

In an email to affected registrants, believed to number a few dozen, Donuts said:

We are actively lobbying ICANN to make the domain names you registered available to you. We hope to be successful and, though you are under no obligation to do so, we think it would be helpful if you voiced your opinion to ICANN about it directly.

To get these domain names to you as soon as possible, we are maintaining a record of your details in the event ICANN releases these names for registration. If and when ICANN does, we will contact you and have these names registered to you for free.

The only names affected by the screw-up were “eco” and “00” at the second level in any of Donuts new gTLDs.

The company had accidentally removed both strings from its list of reserved names, making the domains available for registration.

The string “eco” is reserved because it matches the acronym of the Economic Cooperation Organization, an intergovernmental organization, while “00” is reserved along with all two-character strings.

Whether “eco” is released will rather depend on whether the ICANN board of directors sides with the Generic Names Supporting Organization, which wants acronyms removed from the reserved list, or the Governmental Advisory Committee, which wants the protection to remain.

For “00”, it’s a slightly different story. There’s no move I’m aware of to relax the two-character rule, which is designed to protect current and future ccTLDs.

But it does seem a bit strange for numeric domains to be reserved in this way, given that there’s virtually no chance of a future nation being assigned a numeric country code by the UN.

It may not be impossible for “00” to be released, but I think it might take a bit longer.

Donuts’ “eco” debacle affected two-character domains too

Kevin Murphy, March 12, 2014, Domain Registries

Donuts has clawed back a couple dozen premium domain names from their erstwhile owners after accidentally selling names that were supposed to be restricted.

The second-level strings “eco” and “00” were inadvertently released for sale in Donuts’ new gTLDs, even though they’re on ICANN’s lists of names that must not be registered.

After noticing its error, the company started deleting the affected domains, notifying registrants that they would be receiving a refund.

Mike Berkens of The Domains reported that he had lost eco.domains. One of his readers claimed he’d already rebranded his whole company around eco.gallery, costing him dearly.

The domains were deleted because they’re on one of the several lists of reserved names attached to Donuts’ ICANN contracts.

ECO is the acronym for the Economic Cooperation Organization, which is on a temporary list of reservations related to international governmental organizations.

00 is an ASCII two-character label that is supposed to be reserved under a measure designed to prevent clashes with existing and future ccTLDs. The rule also captures numeric strings for some reason.

Donuts said in a statement:

We understand the confusion regarding certain second level registrations. Donuts inadvertently made two strings — “eco” and “00” — available for registration due to a registry error and is sorry for the inconvenience.

We WISH we could sell these names, and frustrating as it may be, these strings are on at least two lists of ICANN-prohibited registrations, so we were obligated to take this step in order for Donuts, registrars and registrants to be in compliance with ICANN requirements.

The IGO acronyms rule is extremely controversial.

It was demanded by ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee following requests from IGOs, which generally do not enjoy trademark protection and would be unable to use new gTLD rights protection mechanisms.

But the Generic Names Supporting Organization, representing a more diverse range of interests, came to a unanimous consensus that only the names — not the acronyms — of IGOs should be reserved.

Acronyms of course have multiple uses, as the ECO case amply illustrates. ECO the organization doesn’t even own “eco” in any legacy TLD, operating its web site at ecosecretariat.org.

100 .sexy names reserved by Uniregistry

Kevin Murphy, February 21, 2014, Domain Registries

areyou.sexy? youare.sexy?

If you’re thinking about trying to bag these names when Uniregistry takes .sexy into general availability next week, you’re out of luck — they’re among almost 100 registry-reserved names.

Under ICANN’s standard Registry Agreement, new gTLD registries are allowed to register up to 100 names to themselves “necessary for the operation or promotion of the TLD”.

To date, not many registries appear to have taken advantage of this contractual allowance, but .sexy is one of them.

Uniregistry has mostly reserved fairly standard operational names such as register.sexy, about.sexy, names.sexy and so on, but there are a few interesting choices that hint at possible future services.

Do auctions.sexy and marketplace.sexy hint at moves into the secondary market? Could areyou.sexy be the destination of a future advertising campaign? What are we going to see at build.sexy and pay.sexy?

Here are the names Uniregisty seems to have reserved:

247.sexy, a.sexy, about.sexy, abuse.sexy, account.sexy, areyou.sexy, auction.sexy, auctions.sexy, build.sexy, buy.sexy, cart.sexy, com.sexy, contact.sexy, corp.sexy, create.sexy, dev.sexy, diy.sexy, dom.sexy, domain.sexy, domains.sexy, email.sexy, finance.sexy, find.sexy, free.sexy, get.sexy, geta.sexy, getmy.sexy, help.sexy, home.sexy, host.sexy, hosting.sexy, http.sexy, iwanta.sexy, join.sexy, lease.sexy, legal.sexy, link.sexy, list.sexy, login.sexy, lookup.sexy, mail.sexy, main.sexy, make.sexy, manage.sexy, market.sexy, marketplace.sexy, mobile.sexy, move.sexy, name.sexy, names.sexy, net.sexy, news.sexy, operations.sexy, ops.sexy, partners.sexy, pay.sexy, payment.sexy, pro.sexy, reg.sexy, register.sexy, registera.sexy, registrar.sexy, registrars.sexy, registry.sexy, renew.sexy, rent.sexy, report.sexy, reports.sexy, reserve.sexy, reserved.sexy, s.sexy, search.sexy, secure.sexy, sell.sexy, seo.sexy, sexy.sexy, shop.sexy, signup.sexy, site.sexy, support.sexy, trade.sexy, transfer.sexy, try.sexy, uni.sexy, unireg.sexy, uniregistry.sexy, use.sexy, web.sexy, webmail.sexy, website.sexy, www.sexy, youare.sexy, your.sexy and youre.sexy.

Of particular note: your.sexy, with which Uniregistry seems to acknowledge the declining standards of grammar among the internet-using public, and www.sexy, which seems to be registered and resolving despite appearing on .sexy’s list of must-block name collisions.

ICANN in a sticky spot as GNSO overrules GAC on block-lists

Kevin Murphy, November 20, 2013, Domain Policy

ICANN may have to decide which of its babies it loves the most — the GNSO or the GAC — after receiving conflicting marching orders on a controversial rights protection issue.

Essentially, the GAC has previously told ICANN to protect a bunch of acronyms representing international organizations — and ICANN did — but the GNSO today told ICANN to un-protect them.

The GNSO Council this afternoon passed a resolution to the effect that the acronyms of IGOs and international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) should not be blocked in new gTLDs.

This conflicts directly with the Governmental Advisory Committee’s longstanding advice, which states that IGOs should have their names and acronyms reserved in all new gTLDs.

The Council’s resolution was passed unanimously, enjoying the support of registries, registrars, non-commercial users, intellectual property interests… everyone.

It came at the end of a Policy Development Process that kicked off in 2011 after the GAC demanded that the International Olympic Committee and Red Cross/Red Crescent should have their names protected.

The PDP working group’s remit was later expanded to address new demands from the GAC, along with a UN-led coalition of IGOs, to also protect IGO and INGO names and acronyms.

The outcome of the PDP, which had most of its recommendations approved by the GNSO Council today, was to give the GAC most of what it wanted — but not everything.

The exact matches of the full IOC, RC/RC, IGO and INGO names should now become permanently ineligible for delegation as gTLDs. The same strings will also be eligible for the Trademark Claims service at the second level.

But, crucially, the GNSO Council has voted to not protect the acronyms of these organizations. Part of the lengthy resolution — apparently the longest the Council ever voted on — reads:

At the Top Level, Acronyms of the RCRC, IOC, IGOs and INGOs under consideration in this PDP shall not be considered as “Strings Ineligible for Delegation”; and

At the Second level, Acronyms of the RCRC, IOC, IGOs and INGO under consideration in this PDP shall not be withheld from registration. For the current round of New gTLDs, the temporary protections extended to the acronyms subject to this recommendation shall be removed from the Reserved Names List in Specification 5 of the New gTLD Registry Agreement.

The list of reserved names in Spec 5, which all new gTLD registries must block from launch, can be found here. The GNSO has basically told ICANN to remove the acronyms from it.

This means hundreds of strings like “who” and “idea” (which would have been reserved for the World Health Organization and the Institute for Development and Electoral Assistance respectively) should now become available to new gTLD registries to sell or otherwise allocate.

I say “should”, because the Council’s resolution still needs to be approved by the ICANN board before it becomes a full Consensus Policy, and to do so the board will have to reject (or reinterpret) the GAC’s advice.

The GAC, as of its last formal Communique, seemed to be of the opinion that it was going to receive all the protections that it asked for.

It has told ICANN for the last year that “IGOs are in an objectively different category to other rights holders” and that “their identifiers (both their names and their acronyms) need preventative protection”

It said in its advice from the Durban meeting (pdf) three months ago:

The GAC understands that the ICANN Board, further to its previous assurances, is prepared to fully implement GAC advice; an outstanding matter to be finalized is the practical and effective implementation of the permanent preventative protection of IGO acronyms at the second level.

The key word here seems to be “preventative”. Under the resolution passed by the GNSO Council today, IGO acronyms would be allowed to enter the Trademark Clearinghouse and participate in the Trademark Claims service, but Claims does not prevent anyone from registering a matching domain.

It’s looking like the ICANN board is going to have to make a call — does it accept the GAC advice, or does it accept the unanimous consensus position of the GNSO?

Given that much of ICANN 48 here in Buenos Aires this week has been a saccharine love-in for the “multistakeholder process”, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which the GNSO Council does not win out.

ICANN massively expands the reserved domains list for new gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, November 28, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s board of directors has given the Olympic and Red Cross brands – along with those of a batch of intergovernmental organizations — special second-level protection in new gTLDs.

Its new gTLD program committee this week passed two resolutions, one protecting the International Olympic Committee and Red Cross/Red Crescent, the other protecting IGOs that qualify for .int domain names.

New gTLD registries launching next year and beyond will now be obliged to block a list of names and acronyms several hundred names longer than previously expected.

Domain names including who.tld and reg.tld will be out of bounds for the foreseeable future.

In a letter to the GNSO, committee chair Cherine Chalaby said:

The Committee adopted both resolutions at this time in deference to geopolitical concerns and specific GAC advice, to reassure the impacted stakeholders in the community, acknowledge and encourage the continuing work of the GNSO Council, and take an action consistent with its 13 September 2012 resolution.

The first ICANN resolution preempts an expected GNSO Council resolution on the Olympics and Red Cross — which got borked earlier this month — while the second is based on Governmental Advisory Committee advice coming out of the Toronto meeting in October.

The resolutions were not expected until January, after the GNSO Council had come to an agreement, but I’m guessing the World Conference on International Telecommunications, taking place in Dubai next week, lit a fire under ICANN’s collective bottoms.

The full text of the resolutions will not be published until tomorrow, but the affected organizations have already been given the heads-up, judging by the quotes in an ICANN press release today.

The press release also noted that the protections are being brought in before the usual policy-making has taken place because it would be too hard to introduce them at a later date:

In approving the resolutions, the New gTLD Program Committee made it clear it was taking a conservative approach, noting that restrictions on second-level registration can be lifted at a later time depending on the scope of the GNSO policy recommendations approved by the Board.

The new Reserved Names List will presumably be added to the Applicant Guidebook at some point in the not too distant future.

Meanwhile, Wikipedia has a list of organizations with .int domain names, which may prove a useful, though non-comprehensive, guide to some of the strings on the forthcoming list.

GNSO gives thumbs down to Olympic trademark protections in shock vote

Kevin Murphy, November 15, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s GNSO Council voted against providing special brand protection to the Olympics and Red Cross today, in a shock vote that swung on a trademark lawyer’s conflict of interest.

A motion before the Council today would have temporarily protected the words “Olympic”, “Red Cross” and “Red Crescent” in various languages in all newly approved gTLDs.

The protections would be at the second level, in addition to the top-level blocks already in place.

The motion merely needed to secure a simple majority in both of the GNSO houses to pass, but it failed to do so despite having the unanimous support of registries and registrars.

Remarkably, the motion secured 100% support in the contracted parties house (registries and registrars) but only managed to scrape 46.2% of the vote in the non-contracted parties house, just one vote shy of a majority.

While the Non-Commercial Users Constituency predictably voted against the extra protections, it was an unnecessary abstention by an Intellectual Property Constituency representative that made the difference.

Trademark lawyer Brian Winterfeldt explained that he was abstaining — which essentially counts as a “no” vote — because the American Red Cross is his client so he had a conflict of interest.

The second IPC representative, newcomer Petter Rindforth, accidentally abstained also, before changing his vote to “yes” after it was explained that abstention was not an official constituency position.

Another member of the non-contracted parties house was absent from the meeting, potentially costing the motion another vote.

Half an hour later, when the Council had switched its attention to other business, Winterfeldt realized that his conflict of interest didn’t actually bar him from voting and asked if he could switch to a “yes”, kicking off a lengthy procedural debate about whether the vote should be re-opened.

In-at-the-deep-end Council chair Jonathan Robinson, in his first full meeting since taking over from Stephane Van Gelder last month, eventually concluded that because some councilors had already left the meeting it would be inappropriate to reopen the vote.

So the decision stands, for now at least: no special protections at the second level for the Olympics or Red Cross.

The Council is due to meet again December 20, when it may choose to revisit the issue. If it does, proponents of the motion had better hope the NCUC doesn’t request a deferral.

If today’s “no” vote is still in effect January 31, the ICANN board of directors may feel obliged to overrule the GNSO in order to approve the second-level reservations.

This wouldn’t look great for the vaunted bottom-up decision-making process, but the board is under a lot of pressure from the Governmental Advisory Committee to protect these two organizations, and it has already said that it favors temporary protections.

I suspect that the damage done today is not to the Olympics or Red Cross, which will probably get what they’ve been lobbying for for the last few years, but to the GNSO Council, which seems to have kicked off its new year on a divisive and embarrassingly bureaucratic note.

GAC gives reprieve to four at-risk new gTLD bids

Kevin Murphy, October 22, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee has given four new gTLD applicants cause to breath a sigh of relief with its official advice following last week’s meeting in Toronto.

The last-minute reprieve comes in the form of a list of specially protected strings matching the names of intergovernmental organizations that is much shorter than previously demanded.

Led by a US proposal, the GAC has told ICANN to protect the name of any IGO that qualifies for a .int domain name.

As .int is the smallest, most restricted gTLD out there, it only has about 166 registrations currently. More IGOs are believed to qualify for the names but have not claimed them.

If ICANN eventually implements the GAC advice — which seems likely — these 166-plus strings could be placed on a second-level reserved list that all new gTLD registries would have to honor.

While some may object to such a move, it’s a much shorter list than requested by the United Nations and other agencies earlier this year.

In July, the UN and 38 other IGOs said that any name found on the so-called “6ter” list of Paris Convention organizations maintained by WIPO should be protected — over 1,100 strings in total.

The UN had also asked for protection at both top and second levels immediately, which would have killed off four paid-up applications.

Corporate Executive Board Company (.ceb), Platinum Registry Limited (.fit) Top Level Domain Holdings (.fit) and Dot Latin (.uno), all have applications for strings on the 6ter list.

Crucially, the Toronto GAC advice only asks for the names to be protected at the top level from the second round of new gTLD applications.

The Toronto communique states:

in the public interest, implementation of such protection at the second level must be accomplished prior to the delegation of any new gTLDs, and in future rounds of gTLDs, at the second and top level.

This means that applications for strings on the .int list are probably safe.

We ran a recent .int zone file against the DI PRO database of new gTLD applications and found three applications that would have been affected by a first-round prohibition on .int strings.

The two applications for .gdn (Guardian Media and Navigation Information Systems) and the one for .iwc (Richemont DNS) appear to be safe under the rules proposed by the GAC.