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Earthquake survivors given domain renewal holiday

Kevin Murphy, February 14, 2023, Domain Policy

ICANN has announced that registrants in earthquake-hit Türkiye and Syria could have their domains protected from expiration.

It’s triggered part of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement that permits registrars to avoid deleting names owned by registrants unable to renew due to “extenuating circumstances”.

ICANN has declared last week’s quakes, which have claimed tens of thousands of lives, such a circumstance.

The move requires registrar participation to be truly effective. There are nine registrars based in Türkiye, none in Syria, but the offer is valid to all accredited gTLD registrars.

ICANN has exercised this power three times before — after Hurricane Maria, during the Covid-19 outbreak, and last year’s Russian invasion of Ukraine.

How ICANN could help out after Türkiye earthquake

Kevin Murphy, February 8, 2023, Domain Policy

A new ICANN program could see funds directed to Türkiye and Syria after Monday’s devastating earthquakes.

Interim CEO Sally Costerton last month said that the Org has created an Emergency Assistance Program, which emerged out of the $1 million it pledged towards the crisis in Ukraine almost a year ago.

The initial donation saw money go to the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), a network of humanitarian organizations, UN agencies, charities and private companies that provides connectivity to disaster zones.

ETC said this week that a coordinator is on the ground in Türkiye to assess the need for its services. It has been in Syria for many years due to the ongoing bloody civil war.

While ICANN’s donation to ETC was a one-off, it intends to open an expressions of interest process soon for global organizations that provide communications during disasters. Contributions up to $1 million will be considered.

Much like the early days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there were calls this week for Elon Musk to make his Starlink satellites available over Türkiye to help coordinate emergency relief, but his subsequent offer was reportedly declined by the government.

There have also been reports today that the Turkish government has blocked access to Twitter in the country, after receiving criticism over its handling of rescue efforts.

While ICANN’s funds will of course not be available during the current phase of the crisis, they could if connectivity issues persist. The Turkish government has declared a three-month state of emergency.

The earthquake hit close to home for ICANN, which has several staff at its satellite office in Istanbul, more than a thousand kilometers from the quake’s epicenter.

Judge blocks seizure of Iran’s ccTLD

Kevin Murphy, November 13, 2014, Domain Policy

ICANN has won a court battle, and avoided a major political incident, over an attempt by terrorism victims to seize ccTLDs belonging to Iran, Korea and Syria.
A District of Columbia judge ruled this week that while ccTLDs may be a form of “property” under the law, they’re not “attachable” property.
Attachment is a legal concept used when creditors attempt to seize assets belonging to debtors.
The ruling overturns a request by a group of terrorism survivors, led by attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, to have .ir, .sy, .kp, سور, and ايران. transferred to them in lieu of payment of previous court rulings.
Darshan-Leitner has previously secured US court judgments amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars against the three nations. Because the nations have not paid these penalties, she’s been using the courts to seize state-owned assets in the US instead.
But US District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled (pdf) earlier this week:

the country code Top Level Domain names at issue may not be attached in satisfaction of plaintiffs’ judgments because they are not property subject to attachment under District of Columbia law.

However, he added in a footnote:

But the conclusion that ccTLDs may not be attached in satisfaction of a judgment under District of Columbia law does not mean that they cannot be property. It simply means that they are not attachable property within this statutory scheme.

Drawing on “sparse” case law, Lamberth’s rationale appears to be that domain names are not a product, they’re a service. He wrote:

The ccTLDs exist only as they are made operational by the ccTLD managers that administer the registries of second level domains within them and by the parties that cause the ccTLDs to be listed on the root zone file. A ccTLD, like a domain name, cannot be conceptualized apart from the services provided by these parties. The Court cannot order plaintiffs’ insertion into this arrangement.

The ruling, which may of course be challenged by the plaintiffs, helps ICANN and the US government avoid a huge political embarrassment at a time when the links between the two are being dissolved and relations with Iran are defrosting.