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    Highlights of the ICANNWatch Archive
    (June 1999 - March 2001)

    ICANN Meetings Snookered Again
    posted by jon on Monday March 12 2001, @05:53PM

    michael writes "A few days ago, ICANN CEO Mike Roberts was explaining that the Board had no set agenda for its Melbourne meeting. People who were getting excited about all the last-minute documents were over-reacting. The usual whining from ICANN-bashers. Well, it's even worse than it seemed: we're stupid, and we've been snookered again.

    With no warning to anyone, the ICANN staff pulled a bunch of resolutions out of their pockets at the last minute. There was no public notice. No advance publication. As a result, the entire public comment period the day before the Board meeting was little more than a pointless farce, since no one except the staff (and maybe the Board?) knew what was on the agenda, and almost no one had time to wade through the pile of documents.

    The issue of the new gTLD contracts is especially rank. (Recall, as you read all this, that ICANN is supposed to be "open and transparent".)"

    Let's recall the bidding. The gTLD contracts were supposed to be agreed by Dec. 31, 2000. That would have given us a couple of months to digest and debate them. And make no mistake: these contracts are important if only because they are being touted as "template" agreements that should shape the relationship of future gTLDs to ICANN. Furthermore, these contracts further enshrine the UDRP (whose review was promised for last years, but has yet to materialize), even as it becomes increasingly clear just how unfair that process works out to be. They undermine the first-come-first serve rule of domain name registration that was always the Internet tradition, and give priority rights to (some) corporations over individuals and other corporations. (You might think such a major change in the rule that has operated since the start of the Internet might be worth some debate?). They further create a new class of reserved names that can't be registered by anyone ? a list negotiated in secret between the ICANN staff and the new gTLD operators without one wiff of public participation.

    These contracts were produced in a manner that made informed public participation impossible. And they were negotiated only with the parties that had the most incentive to cave to ICANN. Divide and conquer. Deals in the dark. That's just how ICANN likes it.

    Much of these agreements appeared earlier this month; key parts of the agreements in some of the appendixes were published in the last few days. Some parts remain to be published. What we've seen so far, however, seems likely to reshape Internet governance in more fundamental ways than the VeriSign contract. But the VeriSign deal got most of the attention, so the gTLD contracts slipped under the radar.

    Mike Roberts deserves a lot of credit here. He as much as promised that the Board wasn't going to decide this issue. You may recall, only a few days ago, Mr. Roberts responded to critics by saying "None, repeat none, of the items [including the contracts] has been posted for action in Melbourne" And, none of them were, even 48 hours before the meeting. Or 24 hours before the meeting. And, in the end, they didn't decide the VeriSign contract, but they decided pretty much everything else. Most importantly, they wrote the staff a blank check on the critical matter of the contracts with the new gTLDs. And ICANN can laugh all the way to the bank, since in addition to giving it substantial regulatory powers over the new gTLDs, they are going to pay ICANN $3.5 million next year, with the possibility of 15% annual increases thereafter. Here's the key resolution that passed with only minimal debate:

    Whereas, in resolution 00.89 the Board selected seven proposals to operate or sponsor top-level domains for negotiations toward appropriate agreements between ICANN and the registry operator or sponsoring organization;

    Whereas, in resolution 00.90 the Board authorized the President and General Counsel to conduct those negotiations on behalf of ICANN, subject to further Board approval or ratification, to enter into appropriate agreements;

    Whereas, the base agreements have been negotiated with the four selected unsponsored top-level domain registry operators (NeuLevel, Afilias, Global Name Registry, and RegistryPro);

    Whereas, the base agreements and many of the associated appendices, as completed and agreed by the negotiators, have been posted for public comment;

    Whereas, the Board has received a presentation from the General Counsel and the proponents on the progress and results of their negotiations;

    Whereas, comments from the public have been received on a web-based public comment forum and at a Public Forum held on 12 March 2001; [This is an especially cruel clause - most of the public comment time was consumed by prepared presentations by invited speakers. There was no notice this decision was coming down the pike. And there's not much indication anyone on the Board actually paid attention to the public comment, and the public couldn't have read all the agreements since they weren't published! In any event, apparently not one iota of these agreements will be altered in light of all this comment.]

    Whereas, the Board has considered the posted agreement and appendices, the presentations, and public comments and finds that approval of the agreements is necessary and appropriate to further ICANN's purposes;

    It is therefore

    RESOLVED [01.__] that the President and General Counsel are authorized and requested to complete negotiation of the remaining unsponsored top-level domain appendices as soon as feasible and to post the resulting appendices on the ICANN web site, along with any minor corrections or adjustments to the base agreement and appendices as already posted;

    RESOLVED [01.__] that the Board shall be notified of the complete posting of the agreement and appendices for any of the four unsponsored top-level domains (.biz, .info, .name, and .pro) and after that notification seven days shall be allowed for Board members to make any additional comments to the President and General Counsel;

    RESOLVED [01.__] that in the absence of the request of any Board member to the contrary based on policy considerations, the President is authorized to sign the posted agreements after the conclusion of those seven days; and

    RESOLVED [01.__] that upon signature of the agreements the President is authorized to take such actions, including causing reports to be made to the United States Department of Commerce, as appropriate to implement the agreements.

    You know, it's hard to escape the conclusion that we are stupid. After everything, we believed we'd at least get notice, and a real debate. It seemed obvious that there was no way these contracts could be approved in Melbourne since almost no one -- including, I'd bet, most of the Board -- had time to read them. Indeed, those stalwarts of the IP community Marilyn Cade and Steve Metalitz told the public forum that more time was needed to digest the contracts. No one disputed that. And it seemed obvious that if the Board were going to vote on the contracts there might have been some public notice of that fact.

    There is obviously value in rolling out TLDs quickly. But at the expense of laying a decent foundation for how ICANN will regulate TLDs?

    Is there any way to salvage anything of lasting value from this mess?

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  • ICANNWatch.org
  • negotiated only with the parties that had the most incentive to cave to ICANN
  • responded to critics by saying "None, repeat none, of the items [including the contracts] has been posted for action in Melbourne"
  • the public forum
  • Mike Roberts was explaining that the Board had no set agenda for its Melbourne meeting
  • a bunch of resolutions
  • the new gTLD contracts
    This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
    Snookered Again | Log in/Create an Account | Top | 4 comments | Search Discussion
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    Re: Snookered Again
    by jbw123 on Tuesday March 13 2001, @06:47AM (#406)
    User #37 Info | www.jonathanbwilson.com
    The "stupid" ones are the ICANN board members who take such liberties with the knowledge that the world is watching. ICANN's MOU with the DOC is still in place and still subject to review. Outrages like these give ammunition to those of us who would like to see the U.S. government take back the regulation of the DNS from ICANN.

    Congress: Are you watching?
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Re: Snookered Again
    by michael (froomkin@lawUNSPAM.tm) on Tuesday March 13 2001, @05:30AM (#405)
    User #4 Info | http://www.discourse.net/
    It's proprietary, has very limited functionality until they deploy true root servers, and it doesn't play nice with ORSC, so for all its marketing oomph, I find it hard to be a fan.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
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