The Real ICANN - Gordon Cook and Dave Hughes|
The Australian Smoking Gun
With .com .org .net and all the other GTLDs under its firm control, the Real ICANN is now snuffing out independent country code domains and putting them under the same contractual assurances that GTLDs are.
This has just begun with the Australian country code domain that has been taken away from Robert Elz, an Australian university professor who had done the task for free for more than 10 years. It has been taken without cause, without hearing, and without due process.
ICANN has established a ccTLD Sponsorship Agreement. According to Michael Froomkin's analysis the door is wide open for any group of people in any nation to form an organization to run that country's country code domain name. Such a group can then seek the government's blessing and, by telling ICANN, it will subscribe to the agreement, it has likely reason to believe that ICANN will certify it if the government agrees. With this pledge of fealty from the newly formed ICANN country code compliant entity, ICANN can then take the domain name away from the current administrator and give it to the new entity that wants to run it on behalf of ICANN. The government then is presented with the opportunity to agree to the ICANN action, which the Australian government has done. The result is collusion between the ICANN and the government that permits ICANN to effectively internationalize a formal national resource and by saying that it is just following ICANN's request, execute an end run around any existing due process constraints.
With the .us country code domain the Real ICANN has accomplished that same goal through Karen Rose who has been positioned in NTIA by ICANN's corporate founders to give US government blessing to do what the extra legal forces behind ICANN want. Karen has executed a bid for an administrator of the US country code domain. You can bet the winner will agree to play by the ICANN rules of the ccTLD Sponsorship Agreement. From every thing that we can tell by talking to numerous sources Karen effectively has become an unsupervised agent operating largely on behalf of the entities she is supposed to regulate. Her 'charges' tell her what they want and generally they get it. The agreement of the US government to the actions of ICANN has been reality for three full years.
Bottom line is that in this instance ICANN, in a series of lawless actions, is about gain the ability to dictate the terms under which both American citizens and citizens of other countries can hang out a cyberspace address shingle for a web site.
The REAL ICANN versus the Public ICANN
The public ICANN is being sold as a democratic organization, founded on the basis of California non profit law, respectful of it broad consensus of support by Internet users. This public ICANN is a deception that is presented to distract attention from the real ICANN.
The Real ICANN is acting on its own authority without the backing of national law or international treat to take control of the Internet's naming system and thereby gain a strangle hold over the ability of individual people and small businesses to work, live and express themselves in cyberspace. Having no legal authority to take away the property rights inherent in the Australian country code domain it has nevertheless just done so.
How could this happen? It has happened as the result of three years of gradual accretion of power by its staff -- Stuart Lynn as President, Vint Cerf Chairman of the Board, Andrew Mclaughlin as chief policy officer and by counsel Joe Sims and Louis Touton and ex president Michael Roberts as on going consultant. ICANN's Board is there as window dressing and is informed by staff after-the-fact of decisions that are expected to be rubber stamped.
Let us step back and look at the big picture. That big picture shows that the Real ICANN is WTO done on Internet time. The innovation behind the Real ICANN is that it is an international, supra governmental organization that doesn't have to be based on international treaty like the Hague Convention or WTO -- which treaties take too much time to pass.
The real ICANN fools outsiders by clothing itself in a " legal" structure to which it gives only lip service, a board of directors which it ignores, and by laws that it ignores or changes when it pleases.
It gives lip service to expected 'democratic' requirements like acting on alleged consensus which means nothing more that what ICANN staff chooses to say it does at any time and can be and is changed on a whim.
Indeed it is a totally new kind of organization ostensibly wearing legal clothing but in fact free to ignore or change its dress as convenience dictates. It is succeeding because its area is arcane and highly complex and specialized. Media does not have enough time, understanding and resources to verify whether ICANN is telling the truth or lying. Since we have never before had an organization that is founded on and operates on blatant deception, media, not knowing any better tends to believe ICANN.
The real ICANN is about centralized control of the Internet on behalf of a handful of global corporations that want uniform global control of their intellectual property and corporations that also want uniform national conditions for global e-commerce. Governments that fear the consequences of the Internet's ability to ignore global boundaries will be willing to aid and abet ICANN's intentions.
The real ICANN is carrying out its mission via control of the DNS - the ability of people to have an address that allows them to do business in cyberspace. ICANN will squeeze out independent voices by raising the cost of domain name registration and turning names over to private contractors with the obligation to fund ICANN at a rate of 15% inflation per year.
From Control of Namespace to Control of Content
And control of websites and expression of diverse opinion is what the game is all about. Witness for example the recent statement by WIPO that governments ought to force non WIPO compliant websites to put warnings to that effect up on their home page.
The homogenization of websites into messages safe for governments and multinational corporations is the end goal because we predict that in ICANN's eyes control of content will soon become as important as control of the alleged single root for the stability of the Internet. We cannot of course prove that we are correct in the prediction, but observation of the continued concentration of media into fewer and fewer hands and into the hands of corporate conglomerates benefiting from the emergence of supra national ICANN like authorities makes it seem eminently fair to raise this question. The Internet revolution gives everyone a printing press. This reality makes life more complicated for those who want only to sell the alleged benefits of globalism. By the time that we can be proven right or wrong about ICANN and content, it will be too late. The battle about address space is a battle about control. Control is worth having because it gives the possessor a lever to clamp down on content. To those who say well you can still hang out a web shingle as email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, we reply under what conditions and at what expense? AOL is not a staunch defender of free speech.
ICANN is on the verge of getting enough money for itself to be financially independent of any national base. When Karen Rose either gives her ICANN sponsors the ROOT or ICANN takes control of the root on its own, ICANN can be free to move off shore and will no longer be under the reach of US law. It is imperative to act and to create and sell to congress a structure to replace it with. The move has almost succeeded. Given continued complacency it will succeed. It is time for people more powerful than we and with access to more resources than we to act in California and federal courts and in the halls of congress.
The real ICANN is the test mechanism for global economic interests being able to avoid national legislative processes entirely as well as accepted processes of treaty agreements.
See Michael Froomkin's "How ICANN Policy is Made" for a description of the .au redelegation.
Congress critters to Lobby
Important congress critters are Tauzin and Dingell (House communications) House Sub committee on Telecom and the Internet Fred Upton is chair subcommittee. Ed Markey is ranking member. (Known to dislike Icann.) John Shimkus (Illinois rep) Chip Pickering active and important bellweather. Tom Davis is the representative from Network Solutions write off as a loss…. On demo side not much clue beside Markey.
Senate Commerce Chair Hollings is critical and in fact has a key staffer who is knowledgeable on this issue having been an corporate internet sys admin! Rockefeller has been active but his key staffer has just gone to FCC John Kerry (Mass) is knowledgeable Senator Boxer needs to be educated having had a bad experience with a cyber squatter Senator Burns is knowledgeable Activate commerce committees which are frustrated but understand that when they get unhappy and they do that the intellectual property people on the judiciary committees come out in ICANN’s favor and succeed in squelching any rebellion. Therefore judiciary committees need to be involved as well.
Leahy must be made understand from freedom of speech issues
Barney Franks in the house judiciary committee is sympathetic and very important
Zoe Lofgren (commerce) Zoe is the silicon valley representative and has clues.