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Another View of the New ICANN-DoC Agreement

The new MoU, called a Joint Project Agreement (JPA) is a cosmetic response to the comments received by NTIA during its Notice of Inquiry in July 2006. The object seems to be to strengthen the public’s perception that ICANN is relatively independent. But the relationship between the USG and ICANN is fundamentally unchanged. In one important respect, the JPA has actually increased direct US intervention. If the new agreement was a movie, it might be seen as the sequel to the .xxx domain veto exercised by the U.S. Commerce Department last year. Read the analysis of the Internet Governance Project here.

By Milton Mueller, Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology School of Public Policy

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George Kirikos  –  Oct 1, 2006 6:09 PM

Proponents of .xxx who feel that the US Government is to blame for the rejection of the TLD conveniently fail to mention that the public comments were for the most part in opposition to the creation of the .xxx TLD.

Indeed, three of the largest adult entertainment companies submitted letters opposing .xxx—see the comments of Flynt Management Group, Wicked Pictures, and Private Media Group. Since .xxx was supposed to be a sponsored TLD, it was correct for ICANN to reject the creation of the TLD, since it lacked the support of major organizations in the industry it was purporting to represent, namely adult media companies. This is a basic test for any sponsored TLD, which .xxx failed to pass.

Milton Mueller  –  Oct 2, 2006 5:54 PM

Anyone who’s followed this issue knows that .xxx wasn’t rejected because of the opposition of the porn industry (that would have made it more likely to pass in most quarters) and both the porn industry opposition and the public comments to ICANN had nothing to do with it, because those comments all came before ICANN voted to approve it.

There are hundreds of pages of documentation, obtained by ICM registry via the Freedom of Information Act, that prove that it was targeted politically by religious rightwing activists with close connections to the Bush administration, and delivered to them as a means of securing Bush’s political base. True, other governments pretended to oppose it in order to embarass ICANN and the USG. But in the final analysis, it was DoC opposition that killed it.

George Kirikos  –  Oct 2, 2006 7:08 PM

While it may be true that US government assistance/politics helped to kill .xxx, if ICANN simply followed its own rules for a sponsored TLD, that assistance was not required. ICM Registry didn’t have the support of major organizations in the adult industry, and thus should have been denied on the basis. Most of the public comments were against it, even from folks outside the adult industry.

If ICM Registry sued, ICANN could simply point to the public comments, and rest its case. Whether the US government got involved or not becomes moot.

The Famous Brett Watson  –  Oct 3, 2006 12:52 AM

George, the sticking point is not whether or not ICANN did the right thing in blocking .xxx, but whether or not it did so for the right reasons. Assuming that Milton’s assertion is true, and that the primary reason for the rejection of .xxx was a matter of pressure applied via the Bush administration, then the rest of the world can feel justly unrepresented by ICANN whether or not they liked the actual outcome in this case.

John Berryhill  –  Oct 3, 2006 12:50 PM

If ICM Registry sued, ICANN could simply point to the public comments, and rest its case.

George, I believe you missed Milton’s point.  The Board already approved the .xxx proposal and instructed staff to negotiate a contract.  The final vote was on the contract itself, not whether to approve .xxx in principle.  That decision had already been made.

No sponsored TLD is going to win unanimous support in any community, and that is not a criterion.  As you know, on GFY and elsewhere, a vocal cadre was quite proud of masquerading as moralists to send automated emails from a particular website in opposition to .xxx, but the last decision on the current draft of the .xxx was ostensibly made on the basis of GAC concerns of enforceability of certain provisions, and not in view of some measure of community support or non-support.

Obviously, if the relevant community does not support a sponsored TLD, then the TLD will have limited market success.  However that market would be a more accurate measure of “support”.

Jane Clinton  –  Oct 4, 2006 4:08 AM

So we’ve got

1. GAC (various governments) problems about enforceability of certain .xxx provisions

2. Various porn media companies not supportive of .xxx

3. And lots of religious folk associated with Bush who can’t see past the xes.

And the conclusion is that it’s all Bush’s doing, and therefore ICANN is doomed to be a US poodle.

I’m not sure that’s fair, or accurate.

Kieren McCarthy  –  Oct 7, 2006 5:34 PM

Milton is right. The huge number of public comments came from right-wing US Christian groups that made it abundantly clear they didn’t have the slightest idea of what the .xxx proposal actually entailed.

As for the porn industry. The porn industry was doing what it always does in these situations - watch carefully and turn with the tide.

In fact, ICM Registry had a lot of people - perhaps it’s fair to say, most people in the adult industry agreeing with .xxx. It was only at the very end when the case started turning against .xxx because of US lobby pressure that Flynt decided to come down against it.

Flynt’s letter was then seized on by ICANN to help distract attention away from the US government’s hand in rejecting the TLD even after ICANN had approved it.


George Kirikos  –  Oct 7, 2006 5:58 PM

Kieren, I don’t see how you can say that ICM Registry had “most people in the adult industry agreeing with .xxx”. I don’t think they ever produced a public list of supporters. If you have such a list, feel free to link to it in a reply.

Kieren McCarthy  –  Oct 7, 2006 6:26 PM

Ah, well then I am party to confidential information.

I argued with Stuart Lawley over whether the adult industry would want .xxx so he must have provided me with some information. Plus I have been researching the adult online industry as part of my Sex.com book and have discussed .xxx with a few of the big boys so I know they were supporting it.


George Kirikos  –  Oct 7, 2006 7:13 PM

From Twomey’s comments after the vote:

Twomey said the board took the porn sites’ concerns as a sign ICM did not fully represent the industry, a criteria required in the current round of domains.

George Kirikos  –  Oct 7, 2006 7:36 PM

By the way, I consider secret lists of .xxx supporters as legitimate as VeriSign’s lists of SiteFinder supporters. If folks can’t go on the public record, then their support doesn’t count. It’s not as though ICM has much to lose anymore by making their list public.

Kieren McCarthy  –  Oct 8, 2006 1:09 PM

I agree with you over the secret list thing.

The easy solution to this is just to ask Stuart Lawley. He tends to give straightforward answers to questions.


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