Archives For New gTLDs

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recently released an update on the New gTLD Program Committee’s (NGPC) discussion about how and when it would address the Governmental Advisory Committee’s (GAC) advice from Beijing.

ICANN has stated that the NGPC’s goal is “to carefully consider GAC advice and community input and to make decisions that will allow the greatest number of new gTLD applications to move forward as soon as possible.” This may be difficult given that the GAC advice, if accepted, could significantly delay gTLD applications.

In its update, ICANN restates that the NGPC’s discussion was structured around the GAC Advice Framework to organize and prioritize individual advice items. ICANN is developing a scorecard to do just that.

The update also reveals that the NGPC has begun discussing the GAC Advice on Safeguards. ICANN is seeking input on this topic via an open Public Comment Forum, which closes on June 4, 2013.

ICANN also reminds us that over the next few weeks, the NGPC will be holding a series of calls “to discuss applicant responses to the GAC advice, the Safeguard advice and related public comment, and other matters including the GAC’s advice on singular and plural strings, its questions in Annex 2 [of its Advice], and its requests for briefing papers.”

ICANN recently held an Applicant Update Webinar led by Christine Willett, VP of Operations, as part of a series intended to provide information on the evaluation progress, program developments, and other topics of interest to new gTLD applicants. While the webinar didn’t produce any groundbreaking news, applicants should take note of key dates for ICANN auctions and Community Priority Evaluations.

New gTLD applicants in Contention Sets can request an ICANN auction after publication of Initial Evaluation results. Completion of the Initial Evaluation stage is expected by August, with ICANN planning to begin auction proceedings in September; this is likely because private auction providers have previously announced their intentions to begin their own auction processes in the coming weeks.

ICANN also announced that community-based new gTLD applicants can request Community Priority Evaluations (CPEs) starting in June. The CPE is a process by which to resolve string contention, which may be elected by a community-based applicant. CPE evaluations are then scheduled to take place in September.

Other important ICANN updates include:

  • The last set of Financial, Technical, and Registry Services Clarifying Questions (CQs) will be released on May 22, 2013
  • ICANN will be holding a Contracting Webinar Session in early June to inform applicants on material information needed for an executable Registry Agreement
  • ICANN has launched a new Contracting & Registry Agreement microsite
  • Pre-Delegation Beta Testing has begun and ICANN has clarified that applicants will need to have signed their Registry Agreement prior to Pre-Delegation Testing
  • Thanks to implementation of the Strawman Model, 50 domain labels found to have been previously abused have been added to existing verified TMCH records
  • ICANN will release a timeline for the earliest theoretical launch of new gTLDs

Much remains and will remain unknown until the ICANN Board decides how to proceed on the Registry Agreement, the latest draft of which is now open for public comment, and on the GAC Advice, which the board is now reviewing.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Washington DC Chapter of the Internet Society recently co-hosted a panel discussion on the dicey topic of “The Geopolitics of Internet Governance.”

Panelists addressed the questions of how to devise a more inclusive Internet Governance structure to replace the U.S.-centric one developed in the 1990s. The trick will be how to satisfy non-western states’ desire for a larger role and still maintain essential democratic principles such as the free flow of information and human rights.

The panel featured:

  • Phil Verveer, Former US Coordinator, International Communications and Information Policy, US Department of State
  • Veni Markovski, ICANN, Vice President for Russia, CIS and Eastern Europe
  • Jane Coffin, Director, Development Strategy, The Internet Society
  • Bill Smith, Senior Policy Advisor, Technology Evangelist, PayPal
  • Laura DeNardis, Associate Professor in the School of Communication, American University

Phil Verveer said that since the multi-stakeholder process creates inherent challenges, we need a better definition of “multi-stakeholder” to determine who participates and in what way. Among the considerations, he said, are that the U.S. created the Internet; the economic, social, political, and cultural influences the Internet has on the world; the dominance of U.S. sensibilities about content, which are not universally shared; and the threat of cybersecurity and the uncertainty of how to address it.

Veni Markovski, who lived in Bulgaria for 28 years, praised that country’s approach to the Internet. Hundreds of Internet providers are available to Bulgarians. And when the government tried to take control, the people sued and won. Markovski said education and development are key in the geopolitics of Internet governance. Different countries view the Internet in different ways, he said, and they all have different views of what it entails.

Jane Coffin agreed that education is essential to effective participation in Internet governance, noting that discussion is difficult when some languages, Russian, for example, don’t have a word for or an understanding of the concept of “multi-stakeholder.” Coffin felt strongly that the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union (ITU) must play a role. She urged that the debate be broadened to include and listen to developing countries around the world.

Bill Smith observed that the agenda for almost every meeting on Internet governance over the past few years has been based on the Tunis agenda, and since the ITU is the only group mentioned in the agenda, it has tried to assert itself as the intergovernmental agency charged with defining Internet governance. Smith was critical of the ITU, doubting its ability to address important governance issues such as cybersecurity, spam, use and misuse of the Internet, privacy and personal data, and protection from abuse and exploitation.

Laura DeNardis observed that Internet governance debates can be “proxies” for debates over economic and political power, in part because it is entangled with national security, given its role in modern warfare. DeNardis described the complexity of Internet governance as a mosaic: complicated beyond the management abilities of any one entity.

Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the New gTLD Program issues were not raised until the Q&A session and, even then, were only touched upon lightly.

DeNardis said there is no technical need for new gTLDs and that they will create problems for trademark holders. On the other hand, she said businesses will find advantages in a larger domain name space and new possibilities for marketing innovations.

Markovski defended ICANN against a complaint that the New gTLD Program was implemented without diverse input, arguing that many governments around the globe participated via the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC). Jamie Hedlund, VP, Stakeholder Engagement – North America, for ICANN – was in the audience. He said ICANN is the only multi-stakeholder institution with a role for governments and that 124 governments are members of the GAC. He said ICANN believes the GAC was highly effective and influential in shaping the New gTLD Program.

Hedlund emphasized that the GAC Communiqué, drafted at the ICANN 46 meeting in Beijing, will be taken seriously by the ICANN board. ICANN’s credibility hinges on the effective contributions of governments, he said, echoing GAC Chair Heather Dryden’s comments in her recent video interview.

By now you’ve hopefully filed your taxes and received your refund – and if you buy and sell BitCoins, you definitely filed that information and any losses or gains, right? Sounds wacky but Forbes explains in a recent article that the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCen) considers the online currency to be a traded and taxable good or service.

“The IRS already gets a piece where you swap one product or service for another, as the IRS explains at its Bartering Tax Center. Soon the IRS may have a Bitcoin Center too. The Treasury unit called FinCEN… already has rules about Bitcoin and the IRS is likely to follow.”

This may be due to all of the attention the digital coin has been getting recently as media outlets report wild fluctuations and question its value. The coins, which can be purchased on bitcoin.org, reside in an online wallet (like an online bank account) and a Bitcoin address is “the only information you need to provide for someone to pay you with Bitcoin,” according to the site.

Clearly users trust Bitcoin’s cryptography and the website itself in order for the currency to survive and thrive. Consumer trust is critical to the success of online banking as well – and bank IT security leaders work tirelessly to stay on top of or ahead of an endless barrage of cyber attacks, especially in the form of phishing. As recently as April 5, Ars Technica reported a phishing attack on Coinbase, a Bitcoin wallet service: “Someone has been sending e-mails to Coinbase users claiming that they need to log in to confirm recent transactions but directing them to a website not controlled by Coinbase.”

So maybe Bitcoin should apply for its own branded top level domain (TLD) .BITCOIN in the next round of applications? If Bitcoin operated a closed registry, meaning that it didn’t allow anyone else to purchase secondary domain names in the TLD, some phishers could be thwarted. IF enough consumers understand that addresses in the address bar cannot be spoofed, they will KNOW corp.BITCOIN can only be a Bitcoin site. Moving the currency to its own, more secure TLD may also please government officials, who are beginning to discuss regulating the purchase and trade of these cyber coins.

As Neil Irwin described the idea of bit coin in a recent Washington Post article, “There is a certain theoretical elegance to the idea of a borderless currency.” The same is true of the Internet itself: there is elegance to the idea of borderless communication, or transactions in the currency of information and knowledge. But the same issues that exist within boundaries and between countries exist in even a borderless cyberspace: issues of security, politics, culture, and governance. Online currency is in its infancy, but seems an inevitability – and also one of the ‘innovative business models’ that supporters of new gTLDs imagined when launching the new gTLD program.

ICANN has posted a “Proposed Final New gTLD Registry Agreement” for public comment, and it’s no surprise many gTLD applicants are not satisfied.

This latest version of the Registry Agreement (RA) “is the result of several months of negotiations, formal community feedback during a public comment forum initiated on 5 February 2013, and meetings with various stakeholders and communities,” ICANN states.

Despite the work that went into it, many applicants hope that this version will not be the last.

The RA features a number of updates and changes – including revisions to the amendment process, a new confidentiality provision, and revisions to registry owners’ rights and obligations on reserved names.

But much work remains.

ICANN’s process for amending the RA – after registries sign it – is still the object of intense debate. Many argue this top-down approach is antithetical to ICANN’s consensus-building, multi-stakeholder process, but ICANN has shown little to no inclination to budge on this point. Brand stakeholders also remain concerned about insufficient trademark protections in the event a registry fails.

The Registry Agreement Negotiating Team (RA-NT) – an informal group with no decisional authority that nevertheless worked with ICANN on the redraft – issued a statement making clear it expects additional changes upon closure of the public comment period, over a month away.

For now, we eagerly anticipate reaction from the ICANN community and the ICANN board and wonder whether the board will accept the community’s feedback before final terms are approved.

On March 22, ICANN announced the first 27 applications for new gTLDs that passed Initial Evaluation.

The 27 applications that passed and that do not face any objections or string contentions will be able to proceed to the contracting phase. These applicants can execute their contract with ICANN “as early as 23 April 2013″.

ICANN is planning on releasing Initial Evaluation results each week, 30 strings at a time, and the organization is hoping to increase the release to 100 strings per week.  The status of the three applications that would have rounded out the first 30 – application 7, 18, and 29 in terms of priority rank – is still unknown for “one or more possible reasons”, according to ICANN., and the reasons could range from “pending change requests, clarifying questions, or follow-up with applicants regarding missing information.”

ICANN’s current plan is to have all Initial Evaluations results posted by the end of August 2013.

Food Fight

FairWinds Partners —  March 20, 2013

A few days after ICANN’s new gTLD Objection Filing period closed last Wednesday evening, the first objections are beginning to be made public. The first Legal Rights Objection posted by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the designated dispute resolution provider for this type of objection, is over the application for .DELMONTE, Domain Incite reported late last week.

The Legal Rights Objection (LRO) is one of the provisions ICANN put in place in this new gTLD application round to protect trademark holders. The idea is that if an applicant applies for a new gTLD that infringes upon an organization’s existing trademark rights, then that organization can file an LRO to assert its rights. Ultimately, if the applicant has no demonstrable rights to the term, the application can be terminated. The LRO was one of the primary reasons ICANN could assure the trademark community that cybersquatting would not occur at the top level.

But what happens when two organizations have rights to the same mark?

The dispute over .DELMONTE raises interesting issues. The organization that applied for the gTLD is a subsidiary of Fresh Del Monte Produce, Inc., and the objector is Del Monte Corporation. Here in the U.S., we know and recognize Del Monte Corporation as the producers of canned fruits and vegetables, and as the parent company of a handful of other well-known brands. Fresh Del Monte Produce, Inc. makes similar products, but primarily markets them outside of the U.S. and South America. If you visit Del Monte Corporation’s corporate site at DelMonteFoods.com, you’ll notice a disclaimer at the bottom that reads, “Del Monte Foods is not affiliated with Fresh Del Monte Produce, Inc., Del Monte International or their subsidiaries or affiliates. ©Del Monte Corporation.” This is because Del Monte Corporation spun off Fresh Del Monte Produce, Inc. in 1989. Now Fresh Del Monte Produce, Inc. uses the Del Monte mark under a licensing agreement.

Undoubtedly, this licensing agreement will come into play during the dispute resolution over this objection. If it turns out that Del Monte Corporation holds the trademark rights to “Del Monte” and Fresh Del Monte Produce, Inc. does not own separate rights, then we could see the .DELMONTE application tossed out.

Then again, there’s always another option: cooperation. If the two Del Monte’s have coexisted for the past 24 years, both in the global marketplace and the online world, then perhaps there is an opportunity to share the use of the .DELMOTE gTLD. So far, the .DELMONTE objection is the only one that WIPO has posted on its site, but you can bet there will be more published over the coming days and weeks.