Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Wendy Seltzer on ALAC

In a post to the ALAC list, Wendy writes:
"Since I'll miss the first of the "ALAC Strategic Review" sessions, let me share a few thoughts by email -- and with the public list. I hope we will have a serious discussion of whether ALAC, as envisioned by the ICANN bylaws, can ever be an effective voice for the public in ICANN. We have tried, over several years, to work within the directives of the ALAC charter, and yet we in North America still find lack of interest from broad segments of the public in joining ALSs -- and interest from individual members of the public for whom ALSs as described do not serve an effective role. The experience from other regions may differ, but for Internet users in the U.S., I think the model is fatally flawed. Discussion of our plans for the future should include asking ourselves what impact we have had within ICANN; whether a reconfigured ALAC could better serve the interests of at-large; or whether there are other ways to give individual Internet users a voice in ICANN policymaking."

IRC ICANN Vancouver

Robert Guerra on the cpsr governance list writes: wanted to let all of you know that there's an IRC chat channel set up for the ICANN meeting now in Vancouver.
details are as follows:
- irc.freenode.net
- channel : #icann

CFIT Complaint Posted

The Antitrust complaint against ICANN lodged by CFIT has been posted. In addition to the lawsuit, CFIT has filed papers seeking a restraining order preventing the contract from being signed in the interim. The following documents were filed in support of CFIT's application for a restraining order:
Application for the Temporary Restraining Order
Memorandum in Support of the Temporary Restraining Order
Draft Order
Declaration of Michael Geist
Declaration of Keith Butler
Declaration of Richard Chambers
Declaration of Tony Farrow
Declaration of Taryn Naidu
The judge has not yet accepted CFIT's request for a restraining order, and has provided VeriSign and ICANN until 4 p.m. (PST) on November 29, 2005 to file submissions in response.

New Risk for Registrants

Name Intelligence's Jay Westerdal writes in opposition to the newly posted WHOIS Operational Point of Contact proposal -- excerpt:
" Registrants could not stress enough that they use the expiration date field daily. Domain Registrants rely on this date field to be uniform and the registry output is the only place it can be found that is uniformly the same. If this proposal got ratified as it stands registrars such as Schlund and Melbourne IT are on the record for saying they would stop showing the expiration date field altogether in their own registrar output! This would leave registrants with no PUBLIC way to determine when to renew their domain or when it expired. The impact on Registrants would be huge."

ALAC Agenda

ALAC At-Large Planning Forum -- 09:00 - 11:00
Fraser Room Westin Bayshore Vancouver, BC
* Welcome
* Status report on At-Large organizing and advocacy
* At-Large Advisory Committee Internal Review report
* GNSO Review and ICANN Strategic Planning - Implications for At-Large
* Discussion of what *At-Large’s* strategic plan should contain – what is the best way forward for the global At-Large community in ICANN?

One has to wonder why the issue of "representation" for the At-Large is never on the ALAC agenda...

WDND Complaint Online

The World of Domain Name Developers Inc. that filed just suit against ICANN and VeriSign has posted on-line their
COMPLAINT FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF
(1) Conspiracy in Violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act;
(2) Illegal Maintenance of Monopoly in Violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act;
(3) Attempted Illegal Maintenance of Monopoly in Violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act;
(4) Conspiracy to Monopolize in Violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act;
(5) Unlawful Restraint of Trade in Violation of the Cartwright Act;
(6) Unlawful and Unfair Business Practices in Violation of California Business & Professions Code Section 17200;
(7) Unfair Business Practices Inconsistent with Status of Non-Profit Public Benefit Corporation in Violation of California Business and Professions Code Section 17200

Anti-Phishing Panel Discussion

Notification of Presentation to Registrars Constituency on Thursday at 5:00 pm -

The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) cordially invites attendees of the Vancouver ICANN meeting, particularly the Registrar Constituency to a panel discussion on the current headline issues of Phishing, Phraud and Botnets. We will be presenting valuable information on
the scale of these problems and their effects on the domain registration system and registrars. Additionally, we'll cover the latest techniques used by these criminals to defraud consumers and domain registrars, as well as best practices and new ideas for combatting them. The panel will include members of the APWG who are on the front-lines of the anti-phishing fight, along with peers from the registrar community who have successfully implemented programs to
prevent and quickly eliminate fraudulent registrations abusing their services. We hope to use this opportunity to give you valuable tips that you can implement right away to be able to eliminate abuse on your services. We also wish to start discussions on procedures and
policies that the entire registration community can work on to make it harder for criminals to so thoroughly abuse the Internet via the domain name system. This is designed to be an open discussion with plenty of input from the assembled audience to get good ideas on the
table. The APWG wishes to include the domain registration community on the team dedicated to making the Internet a safer place for all to use, keeping the momentum moving forward for its continued health and growth.

Settlement Workshop Agenda

Workshop on the Proposed VeriSign Settlement - today
11:30 a.m. - 14:30 p.m. Grand Ballroom A-C Westin Bayshore Vancouver, BC

Proposed Agenda
1130 Welcome
1135 - 1215 Perspectives from ICANN Stakeholders (short summary statements from ICANN constituenciesand advisory committees)
1215 - 1300 Open microphone for individual participant comments
1300 - 1400 Thematic discussion and identification of common themes and issues, including:
- Pricing and Renewal
- New Registry Services and Policy Development
- Funding and Budget Mechanism for ICANN
1400 - 1430 Developing consensus (this session will be supported by rapporteurs and real time blogging of key themes to be presented in the last segment for discussion and general agreement, if possible, of the attendees/participants.

Solving the WHOIS Problem

Ross Rader writes: "There’s simply too much in the way of personal data and exploitable data inside the whois system to allow this to continue any further. With this in mind, a group of like-minded registrars got together in Mar del Plata to discuss possible approaches to solving the various problems. The result of this discussion is a proposal called “Implementing Operational Point of Contact”." Thanks to the registrar community for taking the lead on this issue.

Go Daddy Group Statement

The Go Daddy Group has released a lenghty statement on the proposed ICANN-VeriSign settlement agreement putting forth a large number of salient and actionable points. Their statement concludes with the following paragraph:
"We are encouraged by the fact that the Board and Staff have given the community this opportunity to review the settlement, and in particularthe proposed new .COM Registry Agreement. This is certainly a step in the right direction in restoring the trust lost as a result of the un-vetted .NET agreement terms. We encourage the Board and Staff to continue working with the community to address its concerns with the proposed .COM agreement, ensuring that the principles under which the ICANN was formed are properly reflected in it and any future Registry Operator agreements."

Another ICANN Lawsuit

Reuters reports: "A trade group of Internet businesses challenged a proposed settlement over control of the ".com" domain as a violation of U.S. antitrust laws in a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in California. The World of Domain Name Developers Inc., asked the court to stop the nonprofit body overseeing the Internet's addressing system—the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN—from allowing VeriSign Inc. to maintain control of the lucrative ".com" domain until 2012. "

ICANN & VeriSign sued

An article in Computer Business Review states:

"A new lobby group calling itself CFIT, for the Coalition for ICANN Transparency, has sued VeriSign Inc and the Internet Corp for Assigned Names and Numbers for alleged anticompetitive conduct in VeriSign's proposed .com registry contract. The Washington DC-based organization, currently believed to be membered purely by Momentous.ca, a Canadian domain name services firm, claims the deal would allow VeriSign to extend its monopoly as .com registry into adjacent markets. The proposed .com deal will come under intense scrutiny and debate at this week's ICANN annual meeting in Vancouver. The deal, which would allow VeriSign to raise the price of a .com by 7% a year, has already been hit by unprecedented public criticism.

Momentous, via CFIT, is concerned with the provisions of the deal that would dilute ICANN's powers to block VeriSign's new registry services, potentially enabling VeriSign to muscle in on Momentous's market. The proposed deal came as part of a settlement between ICANN and VeriSign of a lawsuit in which VeriSign accused ICANN of breaching antitrust law by blocking such services. ICANN, it seems, has a rock/hard-place dilemma. It is VeriSign's proposed secondary market domain auctioning service, the Central Listing Service, formerly known as Waiting List Service, that Momentous fears it will have to compete with.

Indeed, Momentous subsidiary Pool.com sued ICANN and VeriSign over the same matter two years ago, when the WLS idea was first publicly disclosed. CLS would allow VeriSign to skim off 10% of the sale price of re-registered domain names, names that were previously registered but are about to see their registration expire, or "drop", for whatever reason. Such properties often already have traffic associated with them, and are valued by domain name speculators.
Currently, dropping name registration services are the domain of a handful of retail-level service providers such as Pool.com. VeriSign's CLS could essentially make these services redundant by pre-empting them at the wholesale level. Hence the lawsuit. In the complaint, filed in the District Court in San Jose, California yesterday, CFIT alleges breaches of the Sherman Act, which governs monopolistic practices, as well as unfair competition and cybersquatting. "

GAC Opens Public Forum

The ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee has opened a Public Forum. The Committee is to be commended for its effort to listen to other participants in the ICANN process.

Joint Motion on IDNs

Bruce Tonkin writes to the Chair of the CCNSO:
The following is a proposed motion for the ccNSO and GNSO to jointly request that the ICANN staff produce an issues report on the topic of IDN strings related to existing top level domains. I hope that the ccNSO will consider this motion at its meeting this week. The issue will be before the GNSO Council in its meeting on Friday.

WHEREAS, the GNSO Council recognises that one of the goals of ICANN to increase the internationalisation of the domain name space.
WHEREAS, the GNSO Council wishes to liaise closely with the ccNSO with respect to the issue of localised IDN equivalents of existing gTLDs and ccTLDs, and for the purpose of jointly requesting an issues report.
The GNSO Council requests that the staff produce an issues report on the policy issues associated with creating internationalised equivalents of existing gTLDs, and second level domains within existing gTLDs.
The GNSO also requests that the staff liaise with the ccNSO to ensure that the policy issues associated with internationalised versions of the existing ccTLDs can also be considered.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Individual Users Statement

A ten point statement has been issued by the Individual Users Constituency on the proposed ICANN-VeriSign settlement agreement. A web form allows individual users to add their names as signatories to the document. It should be noted that individual users no longer have representation within the ICANN process (as ICANN decided to eliminate both elected At-Large directors and the elected representative structure of the DNSO General Assembly during their last "reform"). This effort therefore represents yet another initiative in the ongoing struggle to make sure that ICANN heeds the voices of the broader Internet community. We look forward to a time when ICANN affords representation to this stakeholder group.

ISPCP Statement, almost

Mark McFadden writes: "The constituency put out a call for comments on the proposed versign agreements. I've seen no comments, so I decided to post my personal thoughts."

The vast majority of people impacted by the proposed Verisign settlement are connected to the Internet through the community of Internet Service Providers. Repeatedly, our constituency has stood for reliability, fairness and predictability for all of our customers - the users of the Internet - large and small. Under most circumstances we would welcome a settlement that allows ICANN to return to its core activities. The Verisign dispute has required staff, financial and community resources that could have been better used on other tasks in the last two years. Under most circumstances we would also welcome a settlement that provides a firm foundation for ICANN's finances. The uncertainty regarding income from .com has made it difficult to do strategic planning, help in the prioritization of ICANN activities, and even distinguish between what is possible for ICANN to accomplish and what is not possible. Regretfully, the ISP community within ICANN cannot welcome the current version of the settlement.

While ICANN has succeeded at putting choice and competition in the names space, we note that .com remains the dominant top-level domain. It will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. With that in mind it is essential that any new.com agreement provide fairness and equity to the entire Internet community. We believe that the .com agreement with Verisign does not meet this standard. Decisions about funding models for ICANN should not be based on individual contract negotiations with individual providers of services. The ISP community believes that ICANN would set a dangerous precedent if it based financial and strategic decisions on private negotiations with individual vendors of services.We believe that no single entity should have perpetual rights to a resource under ICANN's administrative control. There must be a system of checks and balances in place to ensure that due process and meaningful arbitration is available to users of registry services. Unfortunately, the .com proposal appears to grant Verisign unlimited control of .com without any of these safeguards. This puts the .com registry on a completely different setting than any of the other registries.

We also believe that the fundamental costs of management and operation for registries is lower each year. Unfortunately, the proposed settlement allows Verisign to increase their prices 7% per year without any review or safeguard. Regardless of whether or not Verisign intends to take advantage of this, the principle is simply wrong: prices for domain name registration should not rise in the future - the costs should be lower over time. Our customers don't work with registries to register their names - that task is in the hands of registrars. It is unlikely that registrars will be able to absorb the costs on increases in the ICANN fees or registry fees. The result is that those increases will be passed directly to the registrants. The Q&A posted by ICANN staff on the proposed agreements suggests that the 7% allowance is allowed to provide for a transition to market forces to determine prices. The ISP community notes, however, that there is no "market" when a dominant, monopoly is allowed to control a single resource. The ISP community feels that the monopoly registry service ought to have a predictable fair cost that is directly related to the actual cost of providing the administrative registry service. Allowing for incremental 7% per annum increases in unfair to our customers - many of whom have no choice but to stay in .com for business, branding or technical reasons. The ISPCP recommends the following action:- [* I leave this to further discussion *]

Noncommercial Agenda Posted

The NonCommercial Users Constituency meets on Thursday (10AM to 6PM) in the Oak 2 room at the ICANN session in Vancouver; their agenda is posted below:

1. NCUC issues and strategies:
1.1. Report about Elections
1.2. Next steps with: re-register the members
1.3. New web site
1.4. New organizations from Latin America and Caribbean
1.5. NCUC and the Internet Governance Forum (Athens)

2. Icann-related issues:
2.1. Nomcom representative selections (done by Executive Committee but worth discussing)
2.2. .mobi Public Advisory Board selections (also done by EC but worth discussing)
2.3. meeting with Canadian privacy groups
2.4. Verisign - Icann settlement

.EU Sunrise Registrations

From CENTR's Domain Wire Newsletter:
"EURid has announced that its first phase of registrations for the new Top Level Domain .eu will begin on 7 December 2005. This marks the start of a 4-month “sunrise”period during which only the holders of existing trademarks or other prior rights may register. Registrations for .eu will be fully open to the public from the beginning of April 2006. EURid is the independent organization selected by the European Commission to operate the new registry for ".eu". At the beginning of October 205, according to the data EURid made available, 475 companies and organisations in 40 countries completed the procedure and are recognised as .eu registrars."
For a complete overview of the .eu timetable, visit http://www.eurid.org

Letter to the GAC

Freelance journalist Kieren McCarthy writes to the GAC:

"Dear Mr. Tarmizi,

The Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) of ICANN is at a turning point in its history, having recently been recognised by the world's governments as the main forum in which to discuss many of the issues surrounding the Internet. As you yourself have publicly acknowledged as chair of the GAC, an integral part of this endorsement will be reform of the committee itself. Discussion over what shape these reforms should take and how they should be implemented is due to take place at ICANN's conference in Vancouver this week. I would like to argue very strongly in favour of one reform that would not only enhance the GAC's role but also lend it greater credibility in the eyes of the world. That is: to end the practice of holding closed GAC meetings and instead allow interested observers to sit in on all meetings of the GAC and report on its deliberations.

One of the most striking features of the recent World Summit process, culminating in this month's meeting in Tunis, was the benefit derived from free and open dialogue between all stakeholders. This openness, and the inclusion of civil society, was remarked upon by all, not least United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan, as a step in the right direction and something of lasting advantage to all parties.The philosophy of a multi-stakeholder process with free and open dialogue was also explicitly endorsed through countless mentions in the Tunis Summit final documents.

I would very much like to see the GAC continue in this spirit of co-operation and allow non-participatory observers into all meetings. What's more, I am convinced that it is in the GAC's own interests to relax its rules. The dispute over Internet Governance saw the world's governments meeting publicly several times in order to discuss a highly contentious matter. The result of this real-world process was that many of the arguments previously put forward by governments to retain closed meetings of the GAC were effectively demolished. There were no disruptions. Rather, a far greater understanding of governments' perspectives was fostered.

There was no inaccurate or misleading reporting of events within the meetings. In actual fact, by having the meetings open, a certain degree of balance was achieved when the implications of decisions made inside were selectively represented by various parties outside in order to sway public opinion. There were at least no doubts over what people had actually said.There is also little reason for governments to be anxious or uncomfortable about publicly expressing their views. In part thanks to WSIS, observers are now well aware of individual government's perspectives.

The huge educational process that all sides went through now means that participants are able to state their views without fear of being misunderstood.At the same time, there are several clear advantages to holding open meetings.For one, they would provide instant accountability and put valuable pressure on participants to co-operate with one another in a constructive manner, to everyone's benefit.They would produce greater understanding of governments' position on matters of vital importance. Everyone without exception accepts that governments have an important role to play in the Internet. As a result, the better understood governments' views are, the more efficient decision-making processes can be expected to be.Plus of course, open meetings would increase the GAC's credibility in the eyes of the public, and eliminate the fear that secret deals are being done behind closed doors.

With the Internet now the subject of global, widespread review, there is a large, genuine and legitimate interest in all its decision-making processes. With the GAC a fundamental part of this, not only would it be beneficial to open up meetings, but failure to do so in the light of recent events could be viewed as a retrograde step.I therefore ask that in your capacity of chair of the GAC, you review, and prompt committee members to review, the policy of closed meetings."

ICANN's IPC Statement

The Intellectual Property Constituency appreciates this opportunity to comment on the proposed settlement agreement between ICANN and Verisign, and in particular on the proposed revised .com registry agreement that forms part of this settlement.

IPC applauds the efforts of ICANN and Verisign to achieve an amicable resolution of the legal disputes between them. A successful settlement should plug, to a significant degree, the draining of limited ICANN resources into litigation. To the extent that this resource drain is responsible for ICANN’s shortfalls in critical areas such as (but not limited to) contract compliance and enforcement efforts, IPC calls on ICANN to re-direct those resources constructively and efficiently. We believe the freeing up of these resources for such critical but apparently neglected tasks may be the most important consequence of the settlement for copyright and trademark owners in their relationship to ICANN and to the Domain Name System.

Beyond this, IPC has identified the following areas where the interests of its members may be directly affected by the settlement. In general, these are the areas in which further questions need to be answered, or more concrete commitments or reporting obtained. Of course, this is not necessarily an exhaustive list, and as we participate in the further discussion within ICANN about the settlement and the proposed new .com agreement, we hope to learn more that may result in additions to (or deletions from) this list.

1. Impact on ICANN finances: As we understand it, the registry fees set forth in the proposed new .com agreement are likely to have an impact on ICANN in two main ways. First, the budgetary resources ICANN can expect to have available in recent years will be dramatically increased. Second, a much higher proportion of ICANN’s revenue will come from a single source -- Verisign – in comparison to the current system, in which fees paid by registrars make up the bulk of ICANN’s revenue. The effect of these changes on ICANN is almost certain to be significant and may well be profound.

In order to assess this impact, it would be useful for ICANN to present to the community some projections about the size and sources of the ICANN budget over the next few years, first under the current system, and second under the funding system contemplated by the proposed .com agreement. Of course both sets of projections are subject to a number of assumptions, but it should be possible to get at least a general picture of the magnitude of the shift.

If in fact we are correct that ICANN will, after this settlement, have much greater revenue and be much more dependent on a single source for that revenue, IPC believes that this calls for fundamental changes in the way ICANN budgets, prioritizes, and spends. Much greater transparency and accountability will be necessary than under the current system. The perception – justified or not – that “he who pays the piper calls the tune” can only be dispelled through a system in which ICANN budget and priority decision are shielded, as much as possible, from manipulation by its sole major funder. We believe it essential that the much larger pie be divided up with much greater input from ICANN’s constituencies, especially the GNSO constituencies and particularly the user constituencies, including IPC, whose members (as gTLD registrants) are the ultimate source of this funding. Indeed, the significant changes in ICANN’s funding levels and sources may call for significant restructuring of ICANN itself. In other words, we believe the Board should recognize that approving this agreement may usher in the era of ICANN 3.0.

2. Process for approval of new registry services: IPC representatives to the GNSO Council were deeply engaged in the process of devising procedures for the approval of new registry services (indeed, an IPC proposal provided the original template for these procedures). We are engaged in a comparison between those procedures, as developed in the Policy Development Process, and the procedures put in place in the proposed new .com agreement. We welcome input from the Board and staff on their views of this comparison.

3. Fate of Appendix W: In an appendix to the current .com agreement, Verisign promised to invest at least $200 million in research, development and infrastructure improvements, a “substantial proportion” of this prior to November 2007. Verisign also pledged to prioritize in this effort the design and development of “a Universal Whois Service that will allow public access and effective use of Whois across all Registries and all TLDs.” Appendix W does not appear to be carried forward in the new agreement. IPC believes Verisign should account to the community for its actions to carry out Appendix W before the new .com agreement takes effect. We also ask whether Verisign has made a similar commitment to invest in improvements of the .com registry, and to move toward greatly improved Whois service, under the new agreement; if so what the commitment entails; and if not, why it should not be expected to do so as a condition of extending its .com franchise virtually in perpetuity.

4. Traffic Data: Section 3.1(f) of the proposed new .com agreement allows Verisign to make commercial use of traffic data regarding domain names for almost any purpose, and without any obligation to follow the procedure for new registry services with respect to such uses. This very broad entitlement could raise concerns about competition, protection of proprietary activities, and personal privacy, that could impact on IPC members, their business associates, and their employees. This traffic data could be an extremely valuable commercial asset, and IPC believes further discussion may be warranted about whether it should be allocated to Verisign virtually without restrictions, obligations or commitments.

ICANN Registrars Statement

We, the undersigned registrars, recommend against ICANN signing the proposed.com Registry Agreement. The following reflects those issues that are of foremost concern to registrars:

1. New Registry Services -- The proposed .com contract locks ICANN and VeriSign in for three years on aversion of the consensus policy covering the standards and process forconsideration of new registry services. The new registry services consensus policy process that recently was approved by the ICANN board is untested, and it is likely that the ICANN community will need to refine and improve it after it is implemented. A three year lock will unnecessarily handcuff ICANN and the ICANN community. We recommend the deletion of Sections 3.1(b)(v)(B) and 3.1(b)(v)(C), and allowing the existing ICANN policy development and refinement process to be used during the term of the agreement.

2. Registry Agreement Renewal -- According to its own Bylaws and the Memorandum of Understanding betweenICANN and the United States Department of Commerce, one of ICANN's core missions is to promote competition. We understand that the current .com contract contains a "presumptive renewal" provision, which by its nature hinders competition. The proposed .com contract, however, goes much farther than the existing contract by strengthening the presumptive renewal and termination provisions on behalf of VeriSign, thereby making it virtually impossible for VeriSign to lose the .com registry and impossible to reap the benefits of competition. VeriSign should be appointed as the administrator of the .com registry, not its owner. We recommend reverting from Section 4.2 of the proposed .com agreement to the renewal terms of Section 25 of the current .com agreement, which requires a six month review of a "Renewal Proposal" provided by VeriSign and only under terms that are in "substantial conformity with the terms of registry agreements between ICANN and operators of other open TLDs. . ."ICANN also should strengthen the termination provisions currently contained in Section 6.1 of the proposed agreement by using the relevant text from Sections 16(B-E) of the current agreement.

3. Registry Fees -- The proposed .com contract would permit VeriSign to unilaterally raise registration fees by 7% per year. The existing .com contract and all gTLD registry agreements (other than the .net agreement with VeriSign, which was entered into without community input in violation of ICANN's Bylaws) require the registries to cost-justify any price increases. In an industry where the economics suggest that fees should be going down when there is competition, it is particularly troublesome and anti-competitive to grant a monopolist or a single source provider the unilateral right to increase costs without justification. Unfortunately, these fee increases would result in cost increases to individual registrants. We note that in the recent competitive process for .net, VeriSign significantly lowered its registry fees. There is no reason for unilateral cost increases for the larger .com registry. We recommend that the Board delete the current text of Section 7.3(d)(ii) and replace it with Section 22(A) of the current .com agreement requiring VeriSign to justify and ICANN to approve any proposed fee increase. If there is a dispute between ICANN and VeriSign over a cost increase, ICANN should have the right to seek competitive price proposals from other registry operators to ensure that the ICANN community receives the benefits of competition.

4. New ICANN Fees -- ICANN and VeriSign propose a new ICANN fee that would be assessed onVeriSign and passed on to the registrars. This fee would result in excess of approximately $150 million dollars to ICANN, and would be an end run around the existing ICANN budget approval process. As proposed, ICANN staff has removed an important check on the ICANN budget process. All ICANN fees that impact registrants should be subject to the ICANN budget approval process and should not only be the subject of negotiations between VeriSign and ICANN. In addition to the changes suggested in number 3 above, we recommend the removal of Sections 7.3(g-h) in the proposed contract. Any transaction fees that ICANN needs to collect from registrars (and hence registrants) should be assessed through the current transaction fees charged by ICANN to registrars and be subject to the existing budget approval process. While we understand the desire to finalize the litigation, it should not be done so without a sufficient review process nor at the expense of major tenets of ICANN's mission. In its current form, it is a bad settlement for ICANN, the ICANN community, and the public-at-large. We, therefore, urge the ICANN Board to take advantage of the six month review of a "Renewal Proposal" contemplated in the existing .com agreement, which doesn't expire until November 2007. The Board should use this time to review the complicated contracts in their entirety, have a public comment period commensurate with the importance of the issue, and make the changes necessary to improve the agreement.

Signatories to this Statement --AAAQ Inc, Ace of Domains, Active 24, Ascio, AvidDomains, Blue Razor, Bulkregister, CoolHandle Hosting, CORE, CSIRegistry, Directi, Domain Bank, Domain Contender, Domain Name Sales Inc, DomainClip, DomainHip, DomainPeople Inc, Domains Only, DomainSystems, Inc., DotRegister, Dotster, Easy DNS, Encirca, Enom, EPAG, GMO, GoDaddy, Hosting.com, Intercosmos, Joker.com, Key-Systems, Melbourne IT, Misk.com, Moniker Online Services, Name Intelligence Inc, Name.com, Namebay, Namesecure, NameScout Corp, NameShare, NameStream.com Inc, Network Solutions, Nominalia, PSI-USA Inc, PSi-Japan, RallyDomains, Register.com, Register.it, SpA, SaveMoreNames.com, Schlund+Partner, Spot Domain LLC, SRSPlus, Total Registrations, Tucows, Vivid domains, Wild West Domains!, #1 Host Kuwait Inc!, #1 Host Malaysia, Inc.!, #1 Host United Kingdom, Inc!!!, $0 CostDomains

Sunday, November 27, 2005

ICANN: Out of "Resources"

A new ICANN Staff-issued report to the GNSO (prepared by Maria Farrell) reveals the existence of "Non-active projects: approved but not resourced". Specifically the document points to a PDP that was passed by the GNSO Names Council on 13 January 2005 for which ICANN has no available resources -- the issue: "Problems caused by contention for domain names made available by a gTLD registry". Each PDP involves a staff-prepared Issue Report that according to the bylaws is supposed to be completed within 15 days. Yet even after announcing the hiring of five new staff members, ICANN claims it still doesn't have the resources to draft a simple report. Pretty pathetic, don't you think? If Louis Touton was still with the organization we could have fired a good two dozen staff members and still have gotten the job done.

Chatting with ICANN's Joi Ito

ICANN Board member Joi Ito writes on his blog: "I'm at the ICANN meeting in Vancouver this week. You can often find me on the #joiito IRC channel. I need to give the face to face meeting priority, but I'll try to provide background and contextual information for anyone who is attending or watching the webcast and is interested." As the Board is there to "listen", this is a great opportunity for those of you with issues to have yourselves heard.

ICANN's NCUC on Settlement

The complete NCUC statement is here.
On this forum, too much comment is focused on the specifics of VeriSign and in particular the alleged rate increase. We believe that more general and more important process issues are at stake. The Noncommercial Users Constituency sees a risk that private bargaining between ICANN staff and its contractors will replace the policy development process of ICANN's constituencies. While we do not believe that every change in registry contracts should be subject to collective oversight, in this case we believe that ICANN staff has crossed the boundary between contracting and policy making. We also see a dangerous conflict between ICANN's putative oversight role and its incentive to negotiate generous financial agreements with a contractor that is at the same time ICANN's main source of revenue. Accordingly, our comments have three actionable items:
1. We would like to see the "no criticism of ICANN" provisions stricken from the settlement agreement.
2. We would like to see ICANN's GNSO initiate a policy development process on the issue of registry renewal expectancy, and produce and adopt a uniform policy that would apply equally to all registries.
3. We would like to see a policy development process on the issue of price caps for registries, and adoption of a uniform policy that would apply equally to all registries.

Unified Root & Users

I read the recent CNET article, "Dutch tech firm wants to rid the Web of the .com" shortly after having a conversation with Joe Baptista. Naturally, I was curious to find out more by visiting the unified root website. It was there that I found the note:
"If the image on the left shows an error, your system is not resolving UnifiedRoot TLDs.
You can arrange to correct this in two ways:
Contact your ISP, and request it to resolve UnifiedRoot TLDs; or
Re-configure your own DNS settings in accordance with the information below (please attempt only if you have a full understanding of your PC settings!)."
This notice made it clear to me that the alternate root community is still not ready to properly deal with the general public. What percentage of the populace is savvy enough to re-configure their own DNS settings? I would advise Joe & friends to have a look at the plug-in work being done by James Seng and others -- users will need a plug-in of some type if they are ever to take advantage of the Unified Root's offering.

ALAC Violates GNU GPL

Writing on the GA list, Sotiris Sotiropoulos states: "The new ALAC site is in violation of the GNU GPL terms of use for the Mambo CMS. On the Mambo CMS site it is explicitly stated that "You may NOT alter the license and you must NOT alter the copyright." The icannalac.org site is in clear violation of this condition, the ALAC 'webmaster' removed the copyright notice from the footer which ought to read: " Miro International Pty Ltd. © 2000 - 2005 All rights reserved. Mambo is Free Software released under the GNU/GPL License." This is actually a fraud, just like the entire ALAC itself (i.e. trying to pass itself off as legitimate and distinct). So, we know that the ALAC is lacking technical proficiency and...scruples. What more needs be said? Shame!"

.SUCKS

With the recent posting of an ICANN staff-produced GNSO Discussion Document on new TLDs, the GNSO Council is all but guaranteed to launch a formal Policy Development Process to kick-start a new round of talks on new TLDs that can be expected to drag on for several years -- of course, certain constituencies such as the Intellectual Property Constituency will invariably delay matters interminably by questioning whether we should even have any more new TLDs, but I digress -- what's important to me is to make sure that we capitalize on this opportunity to promote a .sucks domain. I can't think of any new TLD that would be more appropriate in the current climate. Imagine the value of registering bush.sucks or icann.sucks or verisign.sucks or any other such protest domain. The expansion of the namespace should definately demonstrate utility, and such a namespace would clearly be in the public interest. The big question is, can Civil Society or some other benefactor entity be convinced to pony up the cash to make such a choice a viable possibility...

Saturday, November 26, 2005

GNSO Non-public Forum

ICANN's Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) has scheduled a Public Forum to cover the broad range of topics currently before the GNSO Council. They have allocated a whole two hours for this event-- how magnanimous! -- (out of which perhaps 5 minutes will be set aside for public comments). Of course, they haven't published an email address to which comments may be sent, so for now, please send your comments to the GNSO Secretariat: Glen de Saint Géry gnso.secretariat@gnso.icann.org You might want to ask the Council why they haven't even discussed the policy implications of the proposed ICANN-VeriSign settlement, or why they haven't done anything about registrar data escrow, or why the Council has no public comment intake mechanism... and for fun, you might ask them which of their constituencies represents the Internet's individual users.

IPC Website Disappears

ICANN's Intellectual Property Constituency website disappeared about 4 or 5 months ago, and of course, no one has noticed. Perhaps they failed to keep up with payments to Songbird Internet Services (owned and managed by ICANN staffer Kent Crispin), but as those IP lawyers usually do make a good buck, there is probably some other reason for their recent "transparency"... who knows, maybe they were the very first to install the SONY rootkit onto their computers :)

Raging at ICANN

Another recent comment sent to ICANN: "Do you think we're idiots? What I find even more amazing is that you obviously thought that you might slip this by the internet public without notice. No caps on price increases AND perpetual control of the COM registry for Verisign? I have never seen a more blantant example of two organizations scratching each other's backs than this one. ICANN gets to increase (by a factor of three) it's budget and hence their fees while Verisign has carte blanche on their .COM business practices with no one to answer to about it except for their "buddy" ICANN. The proposed .COM renewal contract should be retooled to reflect the Internet community's concerns. YOU WORK FOR US. WE DO NOT WORK FOR YOU. gTLDs are a public trust and as such no registry operator, including VeriSign, should be given indefinite control over them, especially one as important as the .COM registry. Wasn't this the reason why the monopoly was taken away from Network Solutions? VeriSign's unilateral price increases that are not cost-based and not subject to approval should not be allowed. All ICANN fees should continue to be approved by the Internet community. Internet users should not have to pay an unreasonable "ICANN Tax" or pay more for domain names just to increase VeriSign's profits. REMEMBER YOUR FOUNDING CHARTER AND STOP TURNING INTO WHAT YOU WERE CREATED TO PROTECT US FROM."

More ICANN Lawsuits Planned

Tucows has published a lengthy statement on the proposed ICANN-VeriSign settlement agreement. An excerpt: "Of substantial concern to Tucows is the clear message that this proposal sends to the global community. By rewarding Verisign in this matter, the ICANN staff is clearly signaling that the United States legal system is now the preferred mechanism for effecting ICANN policy changes. The outcome will be two-fold; ICANN will have traded one lawsuit for many – there is no shortage of actions being prepared in anticipation of this settlement being implemented – and; the global community will be further alienated by the actions of ICANN’s staff."

No Comment Period, Again

The ICANN Board convened on November 8th and passed the following resolution: "Resolved [05.__], the ICANN Board directs staff to post for public comment the ALAC-proposed ICANN ByLaws changes to Article XI, Section 2, paragraph 4(i). Following the public comment period the ICANN Board will consider the public comments and determine whether the relevant ICANN Bylaws provisions should be modified. " It has been over two weeks now, and the Staff still hasn't posted the requested Bylaws changes. Actually, the Staff hasn't posted a lot of things that were supposed to be posted... they didn't post the .jobs contract for public comment, they didn't post the .travel contract for public comment, and they didn't post the .net contract for public comment. Maybe we should be asking ICANN to post a "Help Wanted" sign -- I'm sure that a more competent staff could be found.

The Dysfunctional ALAC

In discussing the At Large Advisory Committee position on the proposed VeriSign settlement, the ALAC's John Levine writes: "We need to figure out what the issues of most importance to the at large community are." I can sympathize with John. He's stuck on a committee that is supposed to be relaying bottom-up input from certified At-Large Structures to the Board. The problem is: none of these groups has ever supplied any input on any topic whatsoever either to the ALAC or to the ICANN Board. As such, the ALAC is forced to pontificate in the absence of any real public feedback. Interestingly enough, that hasn't stopped the ALAC from launching a new website captioned "Notes from the bottom up"... and yes, the website sucks... it still uses language written by ICANN staff who don't yet even realize that Esther Dyson hasn't been a member of the ALAC for almost a year now. So John, if you're listening, here's a suggestion: take over the Chairmanship of that group when Vittorio retires and start kicking some butt. If the ALAC is ever going to work you'll need to wake up your member organizations and get them involved, and if it can't be done, then do us a favor and call it a day. This fiasco has been dragging on for far too long already.

Replacing the ICANN Staff

OK, we all know that the proposed ICANN-VeriSign settlement sucks. There are hundreds of comments posted in opposition, and within another week the ICANN Board in Vancouver will arrive at a formal determination. Yet within all those comments, not one person has hit upon the issue that bothers me the most -- just how is it possible that ICANN, a body charged with arriving at community consensus on DNS issues, has managed to retain a staff that has no clue whatsoever as to the generally-held views of the broader Internet community? How could Staff have negotiated a deal that was this bad? Adding fuel to the flame was their ridiculous follow-up Q&A which sought to defend price increases and the monumental windfall give-aways that were incorporated into this abomination. We are looking at a group of people that are so far out of touch with the community that one has to ask whether it's time for a wholesale replacement of personnel.