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GAC gets more power to block controversial gTLDs

Kevin Murphy, January 12, 2012, Domain Policy

While the new version of ICANN’s new generic top-level domains Applicant Guidebook contains mostly tweaks, there’s a pretty big change for those filing “controversial” applications.
The Guidebook now grants the Governmental Advisory Committee greater powers to block gTLD applications based on minority government views.
ICANN has adopted poorly-written, ambiguous text approved by the GAC at its meeting in Dakar last October, which lowers the threshold required to force the ICANN board to consider GAC advice.
The changes essentially mean that it’s now much easier for the GAC to force the ICANN board to the negotiating table if a small number of governments object to a gTLD application.
In the September Guidebook, a GAC consensus objection was needed to force the ICANN board to manually approve controversial applications. Now, it appears that only a single country needs to object.
This is the relevant text:

The GAC advises ICANN that there are concerns about a particular application “dot-example.” The ICANN Board is expected to enter into dialogue with the GAC to understand the scope of concerns. The ICANN Board is also expected to provide a rationale for its decision.

Applications for .gay, of which there are expected to be at least two, will almost certainly fall into this category.
If you’re applying for a potentially controversial gTLD, you can thank the GAC for the fact that your road to approval is now considerably less predictable.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that the GAC is allowed to file an objection based on any aspect of the application – not just the chosen string.
So, for example, if you’re applying for .bank or .pharma and your application falls short of one government’s expected consumer safeguards, you may also see a GAC “concerns” objection.
In cases where the GAC objects to an application, the ICANN board of directors does have the ability to overrule that objection, if it provides its rationale, much as it did with .xxx.
However, .xxx was a special case, and ICANN today is under a regime much friendlier to the GAC and much more nervous about the international political environment than it was 12 months ago.
Make no mistake: GAC Advice on New gTLDs will carry weight.
This table compares the types of GAC Advice described in the Applicant Guidebook published in September with the one published last night.
[table “5” not found /]

It should also be noted that since Dakar the GAC has defined consensus as “the practice of adopting decisions by general agreement in the absence of any formal objection”.
In other words, if some GAC members push for a GAC consensus objection against a given gTLD, other GAC members would have to formally object to that proposed objection in order to prevent the minority view becoming consensus.
It’s a pretty low threshold. The .gay applicants, among others, are going to have a nerve-wracking time.

Cialis maker files UDRP on over 200 domains

Kevin Murphy, May 25, 2011, Domain Policy

Eli Lilly seems to have filed a single UDRP complaint covering 209 domain names that all contain its Cialis trademark.
The contested domains include duffers such as bestcialisinfoguide.com, cialisblogfeed.net and affordablecialistips.com.
Based on a sample, they all appear to be affiliate splogs pimping pills for the Belize-based mail-order pharmacies Pharm4All and Generics4All.
They all appear to have been registered in September 2010 by the same Moscow-based registrant.
While such large cases are not unheard of, they still constitute a material chunk of the annual UDRP workload. WIPO, for example, processed 4,370 domains last year.
This particular complaint was filed with the National Arbitration Forum, which has not yet disclosed the complainant. It’s pretty obviously Lilly, or the biggest chancer on the planet.
Lilly is a fairly strict enforcer of its trademarks. Its number of UDRP complaints to date is around the 100 mark, and most of those related to the Cialis brand.
The company is also one of those pushing most heavily for greater law enforcement take-down powers over “fake pharma” domain names.

Go Daddy proposes fake pharma site shutdown body

Kevin Murphy, December 15, 2010, Domain Policy

A cross-industry body that will make it easier for web sites selling fake drugs to be shut down is forming in the US, led by Google and Go Daddy.
The idea for the currently nameless organization was announced yesterday following a series of meetings between the internet industry and White House officials.
The group will “start taking voluntary action against illegal Internet pharmacies” which will include stopping payment processing and shutting down web sites.
The domain name business is represented by the three biggest US registrars – Go Daddy, eNom and Network Solutions – as well as Neustar (.biz, .us, etc) on the registry side.
Surprisingly, VeriSign (.com) does not appear to be involved currently.
Other members include the major credit card companies – American Express, Visa and Mastercard – as well as PayPal and search engines Google, Microsoft and Yahoo.
According to a statement provided by Neustar:

GoDaddy and Google took the lead on proposing the formation of a private sector 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that would be dedicated to promoting information sharing, education, and more efficient law enforcement of rogue internet pharmacies.

It’s early days, so there are no specifics as yet as to how the organization will function, such as under what circumstances it will take down sites.
There’s no specific mention of domain names being turned off or seized, although reading between the lines that may be part of the plan.
There’s substantial debate in the US as to what kinds of pharmaceuticals sites constitute a risk to health and consumer protection.
While many sites do sell worthless or potentially harmful medications, others are overseas companies selling genuine pharma cheaply to Americans, who often pay a stiff premium for their drugs.
The organization will do more than just shut down sites, however.
It also proposes an expansion to white lists of genuine pharmacies such as the National Association of Boards of Pharmacies’ Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS).
And it will promote consumer education about the “dangers” of shopping for drugs online, as well as sharing information to stop the genuine bad guys “forum shopping” for places to host their sites.
This is what the statement says about enforcement:

The organization’s members agree to share information with law enforcement about unlawful Internet pharmacies where appropriate, accept information about Internet pharmacies operating illegally, and take voluntary enforcement action (stop payment, shut down the site, etc.) where appropriate.

While taking down sites that are selling genuinely harmful pills is undoubtedly a Good Thing, I suspect it is unlikely to go down well in that sector of the internet community concerned with the US government’s increasing role in removing content from the internet.