Category Archives: ICANN

Where are the individuals, domain name holders, within ICANN ?

icann-thumbThe just published Whois Registrant Identification Study, Draft Report, is an interesting read. This study, conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, uses Whois to classify entities that register domain names, including natural persons, legal persons, and Privacy/Proxy service providers.

One major finding in this study is that one third of domain name registrations are done by natural persons, i.e. individuals. As the study points out, these domains are more likely to be used for non-commercial purposes. Up to now, the common wisdom among the ICANN community was that the number of domain names registered for private use was, at best, marginal. Hence, the belief that they were not worth spending any resources on them on the policy side. Read more »

Réunion de l’ICANN à Bruxelles en juin 2010

Ainsi donc, l’ICANN tiendra une réunion à Bruxelles en juin 2010. Toutes mes félicitations à Marc Van Wesemael et l’équipe d’Eurid.

Lors de la conception du projet de la réunion ICANN à Luxembourg qui se déroula en 2005, j’avais un temps envisagé de l’organiser à Bruxelles, tant il me semblait logique que la capitale de l’Europe accueille une telle manifestation. Le contexte était cependant différent.

A l’époque, le coût de la manifestation était entièrement supporté par l’organisateur local et ses partenaires. Le fractionnement institutionnel de la Belgique, avec ses multiples niveaux de pouvoirs aux compétences redondantes et en concurrence directe rendait tout simplement la participation des pouvoirs publics impossible. De nos jours, l’ICANN a compris qu’elle ne pouvait plus compter sur des tiers pour ouvrir leur portefeuille et finance elle-même la majeure partie des coûts.

Il n’en reste pas moins qu’il sera intéressant de voir qui seront les orateurs lors de la séance inaugurale. Aura-t-on un ministre fédéral ? Les télécoms sont une compétence largement régionalisée. On pourrait donc avoir un ministre bruxellois. Oui mais, Bruxelles est aussi la capitale de la Flandre. Aura-t-on peut être un ministre flamand ? Le responsable  du protocle va s’arracher les cheveux.

New Top Level Domains and software implications

Many software applications rely on validation routines to check the validity of domain names. By validation, I mean here to test the string submitted by the user and see if it matches a pre-defined pattern. A typical example are web forms that need to validate e-mail addresses.

This is by no means a new issue. It first appeared with the introduction of the .info TLD. Before that TLDs were only two or three letters long, and many validation routines could not cope with the 4 letters of .info. At the time, ICANN had developed a testing tool which allowed developers to test if their code took into account the requirement for 4 letters. Still, you find today on the Internet tons of library routines that do not support 4 or more letter TLDs.

Some of these routines also rely on a hard-coded list of TLDs. Even today, I sometimes find that some web sites cannot deal with my .eu domain, which was introduced 4 years ago.There are hundreds of thousands of these routines written in Javascript, PHP, Perl, ColdFusion, ASP and just about any programming or scripting language you can think of.

Read more »

IRT Final Report on Trademark Protection in new Top Level Domains – Part 1 – Uniform Rapid Suspension System

The ICANN IRT working group has published its final report, which I decided to analyze a bit further. I already made a few comments last month, both in the At-Large Advisory Council framework and on my own.   There are several issues raised by the recommendations of this report. The URS is one.

Reliance on e-mail

Among the issues is the fact that most of the URS process relies on e-mail for notifications to the registrant, to the registry operator, etc.  Let’s face it: e-mail has become unreliable for critical applications. With more than 90% of e-mail being catalogued as spam, identifying the one important e-mail that you are not expecting is like searching a needle in a haystack.  Some techniques like DKIM, S/MIME signing, etc might help getting through the spam filters, if only the latter are well-configured. Most users do not have fine-grained control on the configuration of their spam filter, and none at all on the one used by their ISP.

Where this matters is that “A Registrant has fourteen (14) calendar days from the date of the initial email notification to submit an Answer“.  If the e-mail was caught by your spam filter, or if you are on vacation, travelling or more simply not reading your e-mail on a regular basis, you are out of  luck. You might lose your domain name without you even noticing it before it is too late.

The language issue is also an important one. It may be that English is the lingua franca of the business community. However, it may not be a language understood by the domain name registrant and he may, in good faith,  discard the notification message. Read more »

Intellectual Property rights in new Top Level Domains: Implementation Recommendation Team draft report

The IRT has released a draft report.  The composition of the  team is strongly biased towards North American intellectual property interests. Unfortunately, individuals were not represented.  Neither were potential new gTLD operators.  There was only one US-based registrar present and only one incumbent US-based registry.  In summary, this report is partial, both because it does not cover the whole picture and because it is strongly biased towards the interests of a specific group.

Quite confusingly, it was published on 24th April, with a 30 day comment period. However, one needs to comment before 6 May if it wants the IRT to consider the comments. Strange tactics.

As others have pointed out, the effective 7 day comment period over this draft report is way too short. It may be wise that the ICANN board does not consider this report before the community has had a real opportunity to comment.

I totally support Michele Neylon’s comments on the whois model  contemplated by this report. It would be in breach with many privacy regulations throughout the world. Further, if the ability to comply with the whois recommendations, as set forth in this report, would become one of the evaluation criteria for the new gTLD applications, this would favour registry operators located in countries with little or no privacy laws. This would put at a competitive disadvantage those businesses which need to comply with local laws. Questions to the IRT:

  • Did the IRT consider if their recommendations regarding the whois were actually compliant with relevant legislation throughout the world ?
  • Will the ability to comply with the whois recommendations, as set forth in this report, be a part of the evaluation process of new gTLD applications ?

Regarding the IP clearinghouse, it is stated that “The recommendation should not result in unnecessary or undue costs, either to trademark owners or to legitimate users and consumers”. Does this mean that the registry operators will have to bear all the increase of their operating costs for protecting third parties interests? The net effect of this is that operators will need to shift the increasing cost among all their customers, including those who have no IP rights to protect. This will mean raising the unit price of domain names for every customer, making the TLD less attractive and potentially be a cause of registry failure. In the case of community-based TLDs that focus on a limited market through a not-for-profit model, this may simply mean that the potential costs  and legal risks may be disporportionate for them to bear.

There is a major concern that different levels of protection for marks may put the registry operator in a position to have to arbitrate between second level domain name  applications and become legally involved in disputes between third parties. Unlike trade marks, which can be multiple according to industrial sectors and geography, domain names are by nature globally unique. As technical operators, registries should have no business in deciding who is the legitimate intellectual right owner.

If such IP clearinghouse system is put in place, it should, at a minimum:

  1. Be automated and implementable at a marginal cost by registries and registrars
  2. Exempt the registry operators from further legal consequences if it has demonstrated that it queried the database at registration time.

In addition to the above, I think it would be only fair that whatever policies are decided as a consequence of this process are also made mandatory for the existing gTLDs. The new entrants should not be the only ones having to bear the weight and costs of these policies.