I'm willing to listen to anything that lessens ICANN's power, but I'm not so sure that this proposal is the best answer. For one thing, it is willing to start with a baseline of policies largely laid down by ICANN. If ICANN is a failure, why keep their policies? The authors write:
What minimum policies should we require each ICANN to mandate? Very few -- and only those that are necessary to prevent wrongdoers from imposing costs on others without any justification.Because we need to be able to track down wrongdoers, any policy-development forum recognized by DoC should be required to establish a policy requiring some mechanism for appropriate access to accurate whois data by those with justification for seeking it.It depends on how one defines justification. This could be read to mean a global 24/7 thick WHOIS accessible to anyone, or it could mean a private registrar specific thin WHOIS that requires the justification of a court order or UDRP panel request for access, which is what I would prefer. If we are going to have competition in policy, we could have both. Why grandfather in the current procedure?
Because virtually everyone agrees that cybersquatting imposes unjustified costs, any policy-development forum should be required to have some cheap, fair, and globally efficient dispute resolution mechanism focused on that problem.Again, how does one define cybersquatting? A number of entities who have lost domains through the UDRP wouldn't fit virtually everyone's (or even a majority's) definition of a cybersquatter. And again, why grandfather this in? Individuals like the hapless Adrian may register names similar to trademarks, but if they don't otherwise use the names, that doesn't infringe on or dilute the trademark. I see no real "cost" to the trademark holder in such cases. There is no rationale to take it as a given that trademarks must map to domain names or vice versa. Some of us think the UDRP is badly flawed, why build on such a foundation? There has never been a full public global discussion on why the rights of trademark holders should be enhanced online over what they enjoy offline, perhaps it is time that we did so.
Because exposing registrants to loss of their domain name in the event of registrar or registry failure is unwarranted and unnecessary, any policy-development body recognized by DoC should require that critical data be escrowed.Agreed, though that goes beyond policy and should be a given, though with what ICANN has done in this area to date, perhaps they shouldn't be one of the fora.
Because registrants may invest heavily in developing a domain name and will be vulnerable to abuse if locked in to a particular name, any policy development body recognized by DoC should be required to establish some form of price cap (e.g., renewals may not be priced higher than new registrations) to address this "lock in" problem.I have various problems with this. Technical policy has nothing to do with managing market forces. There are all kinds of products and services one might buy which "lock in". This isn't normally illegal, or even necessarily a bad thing, assuming there is no monopoly. With new domain registrations down, this would limit a registrar/registry from raising prices on their main product/service, and even assuming that multiple fora should be involved in market policy, I see no justification for that.
I can see additional problems. The authors go on:
Each policy-development forum may find it desirable to develop policies in additional areas.Assuming for the sake of argument that we do grandfather in the above, and even assuming that the authors, or the DoC, are the ones defining the terms more precisely, all this does is raise (or depending on your outlook, lower) the absolute bottom that each policy body would race for. How long would it take for those wrongdoers and cybersquatters, however they are defined, to find the registry using the policy forum most beneficial to them? And we saw how long eresolution survived by not catering best to those racing for a particular bottom. Such competing policy bodies would market to the registries' best customers: cybersquatters, speculators, those registering expiring names, and defensive registrations by IP folks. The vast majority of internet users don't fit in any of those categories, their interests will be no better served than under a single ICANN, it could easily get even worse.
Registries should be able to choose among at least three different fora (and to move from one to the other freely) in order for true policy competition to exist.It seems to me there would be much potential for confusion on the part of registrants, and perhaps registrars. What policy are we governed by today?
We already have the seeds of this competitive regime -- with ccTLDs forming their own policy-development bodyIn fact these are the seeds of a much more competitive regime, they aren't particularily answerable to DoC, and they mostly don't accept the above grandfathered baseline policies. I see the ccTLDs as a better mediating force to ICANN excesses than multiple ICANNs. Various ccTLDs are now quite mature and growing. They are generally less full of drek than the legacy gTLDs, and haven't had the startup problems or bad press (and still more drek) of ICANN's new TLDs. Bad actors in the ccTLD space are generally at the registrar level, not the registry level as with ICANN's VeriSign (and to some degree Afilias and NeuLevel).
If we left ICANN in charge to continue on as it has, I fully expect that free market forces would see many ccTLDs (and I'm not primarily speaking of those open ones like .tv) continue to gain market share, while ICANN's gTLDs continue to be tarnished and continue to shrink. Here in Canada for example, one increasingly sees/hears ads for entities using .ca, with a corresponding decrease in .com. Many of the remaining .com ads are for businesses like those seen on infomercials, make big money quick working from home selling breast enlargement formula; that is, the ICANN namespace is tarnished, devalued, rapidly approaching a joke. This is despite .ca names not being priced competitively, they are almost three times the price of the cheapest .com registrars.
I think ICANN, its gTLDs, and the DoC, all know that their influence is waning, and that is a major impetus for the present call for reform. These latter bodies want a reformation that protects and enhances their interests.
and some who have not been admitted to the ICANN regime talking of developing a competitive (but non-conflicting) alternative.As the authors also state: [w]e take as a given the proposition that there can only be one authoritative root zone file, It isn't clear whether this is meant to mean alternative roots (and if not, what?). Most alt-roots are non-conflicting, and while their competition to date has been mostly talk, they also aren't particularily answerable to DoC, and they mostly don't accept the above grandfathered baseline policies. To the extent that ICANN, or multiple ICANNs, extend themselves into policy areas, I expect alt-roots to grow. Frankly, I'm surprised they haven't grown more to date (or perhaps they have and I'm just not aware of it). If you wish to offer controversial content to a particular clientele (and I don't just mean paying clientele, there is peer to peer file sharing for example) without being bothered, use an alt-root and those who would oppose you are less likely to find you. The more control there is in the ICANN root, the more likely some will go elsewhere. Ironically, those who would want to police that space would have to be able to access it to do so, carry that to its logical conclusion and it becomes the default namespace.
But we believe the world should want competition for policy-development in other areas where the answers are not so clear: business models and alternatives among lawful practices of registries, decisions regarding how to implement internationalized names, and decisions on how to open new TLDs are all examples of policy areas where diversity would be a good thing.Both the ccTLDs and alt-roots give us the first. I don't see how one can leave the implementation of the second (IDNs) to various and optional policies and still maintain a single authoritative root. The same is even more true for the third, new TLDs. Who decides if, when, and which .web, or ,biz, enters the root? Without a single central authority, collisions would be inevitable.
If the reformed ICANN proves to have the most attractive policy-development processes, inducing most registries and registrars to sign up for its form of "governance," more power to it. Who's to say that ICANN should even be one of the three or more policy fora? If it is, it has a huge first mover advantage, and we see how VeriSign has used its similar position to engage in various questionable policies and methods, generally met by approval or silence from ICANN. If we're going to rethink ICANN, it would be preferable (and poetic justice) to start with a clean sheet. As the at-large allegedly didn't work (there is significant difference of opinion on this point), it was completely shelved. As ICANN allegedly didn't work (on which there is near universal agreement), it should more rightly be completely shelved. Rather than ICANN 2.0 or 3.0, let's move on to Internet Assigned Names and Numbers Co-ordination 2.0 (or 3.0). I'm optimistic that that will happen in spite of (and partly because of) what ICANN does or becomes. -g