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Who is Wagging Who? Same Dog, New Tale.

Today, my company AusRegistry International signed an open letter to the United States House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet as a show of support for ICANN and its new Top-Level Domain program. I’m disappointed by the nature of the oversight hearing the Subcommittee has called and I believe it will only be a distraction.

Let’s not kid ourselves; the reason for this hearing is to beat up ICANN over the new TLD program. I think this is unfair and unjustified.

ICANN’s new TLD program has undergone extraordinarily thorough and inclusive discussions going back to ICANN’s incarnation in 1998, and in earnest since 2005. It is without question that rights holders be afforded reasonable protections. However, it must be fairly pointed out that since initiation of this discussion nearly six years ago, ICANN staff and participants (including rights holders, trademark representatives, and delegates of the US government), at significant expense, have accommodated the needs and demands of the IP community to prevent intellectual property theft or needless cost to IP owners.

This is why I’m at a loss for why this hearing has been called at such a late stage in the process, when we are so close to approving the program.

It frightens me that ICANN must jump when the US government calls a hearing on new TLD’s. There is something fundamentally wrong with this situation; the global organisation dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable should not feel such an imbalanced sense of accountability to one government—the US government.

ICANN’s acclaimed multi-stakeholder model means it’s accountable to numerous stakeholders, which include Internet users, Regional Internet Registries, Country Code Registries, several committees and councils, and the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) to name a few. It’s important to remember that the US government forms just one part of the GAC, which is one stakeholder in the vast ecosystem that comprises ICANN.

It makes me think, if any other Government was to call a meeting would the ICANN Community feel as intimidated to participate. What gives them such sway and power and how does the rest of the GAC membership feel about this?

Furthermore, in the Affirmation of Commitments (AoC), ICANN committed to maintain and improve robust mechanisms for public input, accountability and transparency so as to ensure that the outcomes of its decision-making reflect the public interest and are accountable to all stakeholders. The AOC and the completion of the original agreement signalled a globalisation of the Internet and its governance. Yet, we still find ourselves at the mercy of the US government as demonstrated by this House Subcommittee oversight hearing.

What is more intriguing is why the US Government is seemingly opposed to the implementation of the new TLD program and its associated benefits. It’s contradictory for the US Government to be speaking about the importance of stimulating the economy and job creation on one hand, and then to be also involved in stifling the new TLD program, which has the potential to drive innovation, create jobs, and boost the digital economy.

At ICANN’s recent meeting in San Francisco, former US President Bill Clinton said the technology sector should play a pivotal role in driving economic recovery. He recognised the importance of online innovation for a strong and sustainable economic climate and said information technology was a key driver of the American economy during his eight years in office. He said IT jobs represented 30 percent of the United States’ job growth and 35 percent of its income growth. It is my belief that new Top-Level Domain names are the most compelling opportunity for innovation the Internet has seen since its creation.

ICANN is in the final stages of executing a well developed plan that will see new TLDs and all the benefits associated with them approved later this year. To ICANN’s credit, they have worn the body blows from various sectors of the Community throughout this long, careful and calculated process. They have battled on working towards a solution that provides for the benefit of ALL stakeholders—an incredibly hard task. I understand that the US Government may have questions—however, ultimately they are one voice and not the only voice providing input into the process. The ICANN Community, including the GAC need to remember that.

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Discussions are pointless, Adrian, if they don't George Kirikos  –  May 4, 2011 7:17 PM

Discussions are pointless, Adrian, if they don’t lead to acceptable changes in the proposed policies. ICANN “holds the pen” in terms of drafting proposals, and those self-serving proposals are simply unacceptable. Their own economists were not allowed to consider alternative plans, such as tender processes or my own Ascended TLDs approach, which would benefit domain registrants and the public interest far more than ICANN’s scheme.

How about it, Adrian—what if ICANN opened things up for a REAL discussion, e.g. what’s stopping them from posting alternative plans on their homepage, like my own, or a proposal for a TENDER process (including a tender process for .net)? Really, what’s the “cost” to them of simply opening up a comment period, and see who might actually support those alternatives? Give them the same publicity as the staff-supported plans, and perhaps the public will rally behind these alternatives.

When your only “alternative” is “our way”, no matter how much ICANN polishes that turd, it’s not going to be palatable.

Tell me, why isn’t AusRegistry advocating that it be allowed to run .com or .net or .org, be allowed to actually compete for that contract, say for 5 years? (and then hold another tender process after that expires) Why aren’t you advocating for that form of competition? You say you’re ready to run a registry, wouldn’t you want to run a registry with 100 million or 10 million existing registrations? By offering a lower price to existing registrants in renewals, and for new registrations, it’s an absolute “win” for consumers.

The only people who would complain are monopolistic registry operators like VeriSign. They don’t have my sympathy.

It’s laughable that you suggest that their solution “benefits all stakeholders”—do you actually believe all the people who’ve been posting against ICANN’s policies are lying, that we don’t feel the policies will have serious negative effects? Presposterous.

Agree 100% Antony Van Couvering  –  May 4, 2011 8:18 PM

Adrian, nice post.  Agree 100%.  Some people don’t like new gTLDs because they already have a bunch of them and they may be devalued if new options are available.  Or, to look at it from a consumer’s point of view, new TLDs make good domain names affordable again. Today, even tenth-choice names are available only in the secondary market at inflated prices.

One of the best indications that the ICANN process has worked is that everyone is a little unhappy with how the Guidebook looks, including me. The only difference is that the trademark lobby can afford to convince some otherwise uninformed Congresspeople to spread their FUD.  If Congress had really been interested in hearing the truth, they would have invited a variety of different points of view, and they would have been rewarded with a vision of consensus with safeguards for minority viewpoints, including those of trademark holders. 

The trademark lobby would have been better served to not stack the deck to such an extent.  Instead, the one-sidedness of the witness list makes it completely obvious to everyone what a kangaroo hearing this was.  As a result, it was very hard to take seriously as anything except yet another example that money will get you lots of things in Washington D.C.

Boot on other foot? Brian Retkin  –  May 5, 2011 9:20 AM

Who is wagging who?
Stacking the deck?
Yet another example that money will get you lots of things?
A kangaroo hearing?
Had really been interested in hearing the truth?
Safeguarding a minority viewpoint?

Is this about the United States House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property or the “xxx” TLD approval process?......Although in the case of “xxx” TLD, fortunately, not everyone is a little unhappy.

Hmmm...Probably unwise to say too much now David Wrixon  –  May 6, 2011 6:00 PM


Probably unwise to say too much now they have liquidated Bin Laden.

There will be a lot of unallocated “Assets” out there seeking redeployment.

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