Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Milton Mueller on Registrars & WHOIS

From the WHOIS Task Force list:

I note that the concern with keeping the playing field "level" for suppliers comes only from American registrars and it comes AT THE EXPENSE of the consumer. (You know, the folks who are not represented anywhere in GNSO.) You are, in effect, admitting that consumers would
prefer a registrar in which their privacy rights are respected, and you are trying to prevent the system from making that choice available because you fear the effect of the choices. Shame.

Second, this argument can be turned around on you. From the perspective of a European or Asian, ICANN's requirement that registrars violate local privacy law may make it impossible for business in those countries to be accredited as registrars and thus limit competition in this
market. In other words, it's perfectly possible to argue that YOU guys are the ones tilting the playing field, not our little attempt to carve out some room for compliance. Take a look at how the gTLD registrar market is divided up among the world regions right now. What story does
the market share tell? If market share did shift a bit in response to such a change, would it be "unfair" or "more fair?"

Third, there are many ways, aside from Whois data, in which a business's jurisdiction may handicap or benefit a competitor. Tax rates, for example, or other forms of national regulation regarding labor practices, technology, etc. Shall we have ICANN level all those conditions? OK, let's have the RAA dictate the tax rate a locality can charge registrars, and if it doesn't comply, let's refuse to accredit any registrars in that jurisdiction. Don't like that idea? Why not? What
makes whois data any different?

Finally, I would note (for those of you who haven't noticed) that ICANN's globalized model of contractual governance is under subtantial international pressure right now, from WSIS, etc. A short-sighted, "I'm going to oppose anything that might possibly affect my bottom line
adversely in the slightest way" approach to the problem may not be the appropriate response for registrars to take right now. In other words, if you make it all or nothing, you may end up with nothing.

Have a nice day....

Dr. Milton Mueller
Syracuse University School of Information Studies


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