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Intellectual Property Interests Line Up to Crucify ICANN in Congress

On Wednesday, May 4, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing called ICANN Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLD) Oversight Hearing.

Kurt Pritz from ICANN has been invited to testify. Arrayed against him are a parade of intellectual property interests, some reasonable, some pur et dur lobbyists for complete corporate hegemony over all aspects of the Internet. Not invited are any existing registries, any potential candidates, anyone representing free-speech concerns or civil society. Except for Kurt, it’s all intellectual property interests, all the time.

In short, the meeting will resemble an intervention, except without the love.

Here are the other witnesses:

  • Steve Del Bianco, Net Choice. As a Washington insider, Steve Del Bianco is not a surprise choice. Last time he testified, he brandished a label-making machine, saying that new gTLDs were just labels. Expect a new prop or other easy-to-grasp soundbite prepared for the benefit of our elected representatives.
  • Mei-lan Stark, Fox Legal. I’m not familiar with this person, but I wouldn’t be going out on a limb to suppose that Fox Legal hates new gTLDs, especially given that “fox” is a common English word, which makes it hard to reserve entirely to themselves.
  • Steve Metalitz, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP. Steve Metalitz sticks to his guns but he is someone looking for a solution, not a disruption.
  • Mike Palage, Pharos Global. Mike seems to love the exercise of government power, but sings to his own tune, preferably with a puzzling metaphor as lyrics.
  • Joshua Bourne, CADNA. CADNA never met a restriction on domain names or free speech that it didn’t celebrate with a press release. A reliable source of the most extreme and outrageous positions.

Most of those testifying have been targeting Kurt Pritz for years now at ICANN meetings, and Kurt has always responded with civility. That’s why he’s a great choice on ICANN’s part. He knows the issues backwards and front; he’s polite; he doesn’t avoid questions; answers with candor; and he doesn’t get rattled.

It should be clear to everyone that there will be no new information coming out of this hearing. If previous meetings in front of this committee are any indication, the congresspeople have little insight into the issues. They will be reading the polemics handed to them by their lobbyists and staff, and will not be asking follow-up questions unless those too have been prepared. The domain press headlines will read “ICANN Spanked by Congress,” and CADNA will be issuing its usual “CADNA Congratulates House Judiciary Committee” press release.

But will it derail the new gTLD process? I think not. Happily, ICANN is a global organization. While the House of Representatives can do what it wants, the “approved” channel for governments to beat up on ICANN is the GAC, which is finally getting well integrated into the ICANN process and has become part of the ICANN community, whether you like its positions or not. Just another reason I’ve learned to stop worrying and love the GAC.

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