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Accountability Initiatives to Secure a Strong Future for .ORG

Last fall, when we put forth our bid to acquire the Public Interest Registry (PIR), our announcement—made jointly with PIR and its parent, the Internet Society—was met with questions. We took them seriously and made a conscious effort to engage with representative members of the .ORG community to deepen our understanding. We found that a consistent message was that the commitments made by Ethos since this fall addressed most of the community’s issues, but there was a question as to whether they were enforceable and if so, how?

To that end, on Friday we announced a series of initiatives that are a direct response to the community’s feedback on the need for enforceability (you can find the full announcement at www.keypointsabout.org/accountability). First and foremost, we voluntarily agreed to enshrine our commitments in a Public Interest Commitment (a “PIC”). What does this mean? It means that any commitments made in a PIC become part of PIR’s contract with ICANN, and are directly enforceable by ICANN and by members of the community through ICANN’s Public Interest Commitments Dispute Resolution Procedure (“PICDRP”). For more on the strength of the PIC mechanism and its enforceability, please refer to Allen Grogan’s blog here.

The PIC we are ready to implement will provide enforceability on two key issues: price limits for .ORG; and the formation of a .ORG Stewardship Council that will have a specific oversight mandate on PIR’s policies regarding freedom of expression and the protection of customer information. The PIC also formalizes the establishment of a Community Enablement Fund to support the .ORG community, and mandates the publication of an annual report that will assess PIR’s compliance with the PIC.

Price limits: Consistent with our previous public statements, Ethos has committed that fees charged to registrars for initial or renewal registration of a .ORG domain name will not increase by more than 10% per year on average for eight years from the start of the current Registry Agreement. At no point in time would the average exceed 10%, so there could not be front loading of an increase. Through this commitment, .ORG will become one of the only TLDs to have a price restriction, and the only one to do it voluntarily for the public interest, and it will therefore remain one of the most affordable domains in the world.

I want to be very clear about what these price limits mean, since there has been some confusion: any increases will not exceed the price limit, but there is no requirement to increase .ORG prices up to the maximum price. In fact, .ORG pricing is constrained by the competitive market of registrars and registrants. So this does not mean that we will increase prices by 10% each year on average; it means that if we ever do increase the price, it will not exceed that limit. In any event—and this is important—we will always be constrained by operating in a highly-competitive environment, competing with .COM, .NET, .CHARITY, .FOUNDATION and other TLDs. An affordable price is critical for attracting new customers to .ORG.

.ORG Stewardship Council: As we’ve said before, this will be an independent and transparent body comprised of noted figures, some of whom will initially be appointed by the PIR Board, but thereafter will be selected through an independent nomination process administered by the Council. No employee, director or member of Registry Operator shall serve on the .ORG Stewardship Council. The Council will have specific authority to provide independent advice on and a binding right to veto modifications proposed by PIR to PIR’s policies regarding (1) anti-abuse measures and freedom of expression and (2) use of .ORG registrant and user data—or any proposals or modifications that would limit the Council’s oversight in these areas.

Community Enablement Fund: PIR will establish a Community Enablement Fund that will continue and expand on education and outreach activities to enhance the .ORG community. The Fund will be overseen by the Stewardship Council, and it is anticipated that the Fund will receive a minimum of $10M over the remaining life of the current Registry Agreement.

Annual Compliance Report: The PIC also mandates that PIR publish an annual report that will assess PIR’s compliance with the PIC and the ways in which PIR’s activities benefitted the .ORG registrants during the preceding year.

To everyone who wondered how they can be sure that Ethos will keep its promises—we heard you. The community asked for strong measures that would ensure that Ethos would stand behind its promises, and this PIC will do just that. We are making our promises legally binding to address this question.

When we decided to invest in PIR, we did so for several reasons. We saw an opportunity to support PIR’s growth and expansion through reinvesting its revenues in the .ORG platform. We also believed, and continue to believe, that new investment could deliver significant benefits for the .ORG community and help to advance mission-driven goals, while maintaining the Registry’s core values of stability, security and reliability. We are committed to building an even stronger .ORG and enhancing its benefits for the .ORG community and users around the world—benefits we are confident Ethos can, and will, deliver.

By Erik Brooks, Founder and CEO at Ethos Capital

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Nonesense Karl Auerbach  –  Mar 3, 2020 6:35 PM

I disagree.

These “PIC"s are *not* enforceable by people who have acquired .org domain names.

Rather those people must go to ICANN, beg ICANN to initiate an inquiry, and then hope and pray that ICANN does something.

That offers no real protection.

Real protection will come only through an express third party beneficiary statement that gives .org registrants, individually or as a class, the power to march into a court and initiate a legal action to enforce these provisions.

That third party beneficiary designation ought to be sufficiently broad to also cover those who have attempted to have .org registrations but who were prevented from doing so.

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