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The Olympics and the death of the GNSO, part deux

Kevin Murphy, March 26, 2012, 19:20:51 (UTC), Domain Policy

ICANN’s GNSO Council today narrowly voted to approve controversial special brand protections for the Olympic and Red Cross movements in the new gTLD program.
The vote this afternoon was scheduled as an “emergency” measure after the Council’s dramatic showdown at the ICANN public meeting in Costa Rica earlier this month.
Then, the Non-Commercial Stakeholders Group forced a deferral of the vote on the grounds that ICANN’s proper bottom-up policy-making processes had not been followed.
Today, a virtually identical motion barely squeaked through, turning on just a single vote after all six NCSG councilors abstained in protest.
It was a fairly tense discussion, as these things go.
“This is a sham of a proposal cooked up by a couple of lobbyists and shoved down the GNSO’s throat and that’s why I’m abstaining,” said Robin Gross, sitting in for absent councilor Wendy Seltzer.
“I’m abstaining to avoid the downfall of the GNSO Council,” said fellow NCSG councilor Rafik Dammak.
Essentially, the non-coms are upset that the decision to give special protection to the Olympics, Red Cross and Red Crescent appeared to be a top-down mandate from the ICANN board of directors last June.
(The board was itself responding to the demands of its Governmental Advisory Committee, which had been lobbied for special privileges by the organizations in question.)
ICANN policies are supposed to originate in the community, in a bottom-up fashion, but in this case the normal process was “circumvented”, NCSG councilors said.
Rather than bring the issue of special protection to the GNSO constituencies of which they are members, the IOC and Red Cross went directly to national governments in the GAC, they said.
The motion itself is to create a new class of “Modified Reserved Names” for the new gTLD program’s Applicant Guidebook, comprising solely of strings representing the Olympic and Red Cross.
Unlike the current version of the Guidebook, the International Olympic Committee and Red Cresent and Red Cross would actually be able to apply for their own brands as gTLDs.
The Guidebook would also give these Modified Reserved Names the same protection as ICANN itself in terms of string similarity – so Olympus might have a problem if it applies for a dot-brand.
Of course, the GNSO Council resolution does not become law unless it’s approved by the ICANN board of directors and implemented by staff in the Applicant Guidebook.
With the March 29 and April 12 application deadlines approaching, there’s a limited – some might say negligible – amount of time for that to happen if the GNSO’s work is to have any meaning.
That said, ICANN chair Steve Crocker said on more than one occasion during the Costa Rica meeting that he wants the board to be more flexible in its scheduling, so it’s not impossible that we’ll see an impromptu board meeting before Thursday.

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Comments (8)

  1. Avri Doria says:

    Good summary, but you forgot to mention that the motion that was approved by the GNSO council on behalf of the GNSO also gave the IFRC and IOC the ability to license others to register names similar to those specially reserved names, either for a direct fee or for an indirect fee, aka a contribution. It also creates an appeals mechanism to the string similarity review for applicants of strings similar to those listed in the special reserved names. No other reserved string or organization named in a reserved string has such a review or the ability to license others to use their name. Only governments have such power. Well governments and the IFRC and IOC if the GNSO gets its way.
    It’s a dog’s breakfast of a motion that they passed.

  2. Andrew says:

    I don’t understand why people abstain rather than voting no. Is is just a wimpy way of voting ‘no’, or is there a reasonable rationale in this case?

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      In this case I assume, but do not know, that abstaining was a way to vote no on the substance and the process at the same time. If you abstain, you don’t acknowledge the vote as legitimate. Something like that, I expect.

    • Kristina says:

      When I was on the Council, the only way a Councilor could vote no and get a statement on the record for the reason for the “no” vote was to abstain. Abstention counted as “no.” If you just voted “no,” you didn’t have a right to read a statement. (I did this when the Council first voted on the RAA Amendments in 2009.)
      I think these provisions are still in the bylaws.

      • Avri Doria says:

        Actually those are the old rules. The new GNSO operating procedure allows for a statement to be attached to a Yes/No vote as well as to a Abstention. An abstention is the only one for which it is required.
        4.3.2 For each motion or action of the GNSO Council requiring a vote, Councilors may enter either a “No”, “Yes, or “Abstain.” For a vote of “Abstain,” a reason or explanation is required. For votes of “No” or “Yes”, at the discretion of the Councilor, an explanation or reason may be provided which will be recorded in the meeting minutes.

  3. Tom Barrett says:

    Sorry, but I’ve never owned a dog.
    What is meant by a “dog’s breakfast”?

  4. Avri Doria says:

    Dog’s breakfast: a real mess or muddle
    As for abstaining instead of voting no:
    1. Abstention demands a statement as to why that goes on record with the motion.
    2. i see two reasons for abstaining
    – conflict of interest
    – motion is illegitimate and voting just legitimizes something that is not legitimate.
    As for it being Wimpy, people always call abstaining something. One has to accept that one will be called Wimpy and all sorts of other names when abstaining for reason 2. But what’s wrong with being called Wimpy. I have always gotten a real kick out of: “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today”

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