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Mexico City Hosts an Eventful ICANN Meeting

The Mexico City ICANN Conference was more eventful than some of us had anticipated. Among the highlights was Paul Twomey’s announcement that he is stepping down as President and CEO of ICANN effective on June 30. He will remain until the end of the year as “Senior President” in an advisory capacity to assist the ICANN Board in its search for a replacement and in the transition to a new CEO.

Before the Conference, ICANN had released the second draft of its Guidebook for new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) [PDF]. It was not greeted with universal acclaim. ICANN acknowledged that it is still a working document and will be reissued as a third draft before the Sydney Conference
in June. However, most of those offering comments were disappointed by ICANN’s failure to respond to (or even acknowledge) some of the serious objections to the first draft.

Another document released during the Conference was an economic study of the market for new gTLDs prepared by a distinguished Professor of Economics from the University of Chicago. The study apparently was prepared because of critical remarks by the US government about a more comprehensive study that ICANN announced in 2006 but never completed. The study released at the Conference fully supported ICANN’s positions on new gTLDs, and was criticized for failing to deal with the unique characteristics of the DNS.

One notable instance of progress at the Conference was ICANN’s recognition that it needs to take account of the legitimate needs of trademark and brand owners in the new gTLD processes. Both the first and second drafts of the Guidebook deal with the increased possibilities of cybersquatting and abusive use of domain names in a very cavalier manner. The good news is that ICANN and the intellectual property community now recognize that some serious work is needed to deal with these problems effectively. PIR will be participating in this activity.

The reform of the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) continues. All the new Stakeholder Groups: Contracted (Domain Name Registry and Registrar), Non-Contracted (Commercial and Non-Commercial) have posted draft Charters. A new constituency for city name gTLDs has been proposed for the Registry Group. There are two competing charters for the Non-Commercial group, one from the current Noncommercial Users Constituency (NCUC), and one from a group that has previously taken stands opposed to some policy positions of the NCUC.

A revised plan was released for Internationlized Domain Name (IDN) country code Top_Level Domains, but there is no resolution of the two major questions: will the new ccTLDs be required to sign agreements with ICANN, and will they contribute financially. In the meantime, Russia announced its plan to launch an IDN version of .RU on July 1.

ICANN produced a working group study on reform of the Board. Public comment is still requested. It appears that remuneration of directors and chair is likely, and the size of the board may be cut, possibly by eliminating the seats on the Board for the liaisons with the ICANN advisory committees.

By David Maher, Attorney

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