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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.

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