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    Board of Directors NomCom
    What Does the ICANN Board Do?
    posted by michael on Friday August 03 2007, @10:12AM

    As part of my now nearly complete service on the ICANN Nomcom, I had to think about what skills make for a good member of the ICANN Board of Directors. It seemed to me one way to think about it was that skills should be defined by what I wished the Board did; but that another way to think about it was that that skills should be defined by what the Board actually does.

    But what does the ICANN Board actually do? I decided to find out. Or rather, I made my research assistant find out. The results surprised me.

    What Does the ICANN Board Do?

    An Analysis of ICANN Board Minutes for the Years 2005 and 2006

    Michael Froomkin, Professor of Law, University of Miami
    Peter Huy, Class of 2007, University of Miami School of Law
    April, 2007

    In an effort to identify the skill set that would best serve future Board members, we conducted a quick and crude analysis of the most visible evidence available of what the ICANN Board actually does: the ICANN Board meetings. We recognize that this is perhaps not the best evidence imaginable: much of what the Board does is done in secret, and Board meetings have been criticized as somewhat scripted. Nevertheless, many Board members reject these critiques, and even if it were true that meetings are scripted, they remain important events and do memorialize many of the most important things that ICANN does. Besides, one has to start somewhere.

    ICANN issues minutes following all official meetings of the ICANN Board, which are posted to the ICANN website.[1] These ICANN minutes follow a form in which each separate item considered by the Board is identified by a bullet point. Analysis of these minutes provides some data as to what the Board actually does, information that sheds some light on the skills needed by ICANN Board members.

    Categorization was conducted by Peter Huy, using his best but undoubtedly subjective judgment. Mr. Huy consulted minute transcripts[2] to help resolve any doubt in cases that could not be properly categorized based on the information given in the bullet points themselves. Thus,for example, the items in the topic "Other Business" could not be categorized from that characterization alone as either legal or technical, but some transcripts detail the "Other Business," allowing it to be categorized.

    Each bulleted item listed in ICANN Board minutes held in 2005[3] and 2006[4] was coded as one of four categories:

    • Legal. For example, the bullet-pointed issue of "Consideration of proposed sTLD Agreements and Applications"[5] was categorized as purely legal due to the overwhelmingly contractual nature of the issue.
    • Technical. For example, the bullet-pointed issue of "Single Letter 2d Level Domain Name Discussion"[6] was categorized as technical. Aside from the information provided in the bullet-pointed topic, there was no other information available. A single letter second-level domain name discussion likely would have included the technical consequences involved in allowing or disallowing a single letter. There is no mention of agreements, contracts, or policy, accordingly this item was categorized as purely technical.
    • Legal and technical. For example, the bullet-pointed issue of "Proposed Guidelines for Implementation of IDN's, v.2.0"[7] was categorized as mixed legal and technical. Although this issue mostly concerns the drafting, approval, and execution of guidelines in regards to international domain names (IDN), there is also a technical element present. Here the guidelines are contemplating the evolvement of technical standards and a focus of the revisions is to minimize the abuse of IDNs for deceptive purposes. Although there is no description in the transcripts as to whether this was accomplished by technical or legal means, the underlying technical nature of the issue made it seem inappropriate for characterization as purely legal. Note that items coded in this mixed category were not double-counted in either the individual legal or technical tallies.
    • Administrative, organizational, or otherwise uncategorizable. For example, the bullet-pointed issue "2006 Nominating Committee Chair Appointment"[8] was categorized as administrative because the issue affects the structure of ICANN itself and not that of domain names. Likewise, recurring bullet points of "Thanks and Acknowledgments" were also listed as administrative since these items are more ceremonial than either legal or technical.

    2005 2006 Total
    Legal 60 69 129
    Technical 1 17 18
    Legal and Technical 17 13 30
    or Uncharaterizable
    49 40 89
    Total 127 139 266


    In the two-year period studied, pure legal issues outnumbered pure technical issues by a more than 7:1 ratio. Even counting mixed issues of law and technology as technology issues, the ratio of legal to substantially non-legal issues was over 5:2.

    These data do not weigh issues by their importance, only by their number. We submit, however, that the legal issues were not only far more numerous but also at least as weighty as the technical ones. If this is correct, then this analysis suggests that given what the ICANN Board actually does, legal experience should be seen to be at least as important as technical experience although the perfect Board member would of course have both.


    [1] http://www.icann.org/minutes (last visited April 20, 2007).
    [2] The minute transcripts are available via links labeled "Minutes" in the far right column of ICANNs website where the minutes are posted (http://www.icann.org/minutes/index-2005.html and http://www.icann.org/minutes/index-2006.html).
    [3] The 2005 minutes are at http://www.icann.org/minutes/index-2005.html (last visited April 20, 2007).
    [4] The 2006 minutes are at http://www.icann.org/minutes/index-2006.html (last visited April 20, 2007).
    [5] Dec. 4, 2005 at ht 5 tp://www.icann.org/minutes/index-2005.html
    [6] Nov. 8, 2005 at http://www.icann.org/minutes/index-2005.html
    [7] Nov. 8, 2005 at http://www.icann.org/minutes/index-2005.html.
    [8] Dec. 4, 2005 at http://www.icann.org/minutes/index-2005.html.

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