The following letter was written three days after a House hearing on new gTLDs and within a heavy Washington DC atmosphere regarding intellectual property and the Internet, most notably in the drafting of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
Congress of the United States
House of Representatives
Washington DC 20515
December 16. 2011
The Honorable John Bryson
Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20230
Dear Mr. Secretary:
We write to express serious concerns about the decision by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to dramatically expand the number of generic Top Level Domain names (gTLDs) without adequate review of the impact of a full implementation.
Committee Chair, Representative Greg Walden: Mr. Pritz, I want to start with you at the Senate commerce hearing last week and the issue you announced that ICANN would reduce the fee for a new gTLD to $47,000 for applicants in a need of financial assistance, so I have a couple of questions here. How can ICANN determine what constitutes an applicant in need of financial assistance? Will lowering the fee ironically make it more affordable for individuals with bad intent to engage in cybersquatting? And does ICANN have the ability to delay?
Kurt Pritz: The criteria for awarding financial assistance as all things was developed by the ICANN community. And so seeing this issue across constituency group was formed to consider this issue and develop the criteria by which applications for financial aid would be considered, and they are, one...
GW: Can you make that available to us, whatever those criteria are that would meet this?
The United Nations, ITU, IMF, NATO, OECD and 23 other international organizations have requested special protection in next year's expansion of the Internet.
In a letter send to the organization overseeing the expansion, ICANN, the lawyers of the international organizations, which also include the World Health Organization (WHO), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and World Trade Organization (WTO), argue that special exemption rules agreed to earlier this year for the Red Cross and Olympic Committee should be extended to them.
They propose that their names and related acronyms be subject to a "targeted exclusion of third party registrations" at both the top and second-level of the domain name system i.e. neither www.nato.example or www.example.nato would be allowed.
Re: Protection Against the Misleading Use of the Names and Acronyms of International Intergovernmental Organizations in the Domain Name System
We, the Legal Counsels of the public international intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) indicated hereunder are writing to convey to you the concerns of the IGO community. The IGO community concerns relate to the increased potential for the misleading registration and use of IGO names and acronyms in the domain name system under ICANN's significant expansion plans.
Statement of the Honorable Greg Walden, Chairman, Subcommittee on Communications and Technology
Hearing on “ICANN’s Top-Level Domain Name Program”
December 14, 2011
Although most Americans have probably never heard of the Internet
Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the California not-for-profit
manages top-level domains: that part that comes after the “dot” in, for example, dot-com, dot-net, and dot-gov. Today’s hearing focuses on how to balance ICANN’s plans to expand the availability of top-level domains with safeguards to ensure businesses are not forced to spend extraordinary sums to guard against fraud, trademark abuse, or dilution of their brands.
For several years, ICANN has considered the expansion of top-level domains. Reasonable people can differ on the process that ICANN has followed leading to this point. But we now stand at the threshold of implementation and the question before us is what’s the best path forward?
ICANN is nervous about a new economic study, and grateful to the US government for supporting it at a crucial time; the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) is pleased with the results of its six-month campaign but has accepted defeat; and the IP industry wants a pre-registration blocking system as a final concession before hundreds of new Internet extensions are applied for in the new year...
That is what we have gleaned from reviewing the testimonies of six witnesses due to speak at a Congressional Hearing run by the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology on the “new gTLD” program tomorrow morning.
Somewhat unusually, almost the exact same hearing was held last week in the other part of Congress – the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation – which has provided the opportunity to see what has changed in the main actor’s minds over the past few days.
ICANN has posted the minutes of its Board meeting last Thursday, 8 December, and has made a number of significant decisions.
The two most important were flagged up last week at a Senate hearing by senior vice president Kurt Pritz: that those who qualify for "applicant support" in the new gTLD process will pay $47,000 rather than $185,000; and that Board members will be banned from working for any new registries for 12 months, as well as be required to recuse themselves from votes on any applications in which they are connected.
What is new is the announcement of a "batching" process for the new gTLD program in case there are more than the estimated 500 applications (something that most industry observers are now saying is likely).
According to the Board minutes, the process for deciding what group will be evaluated first in the situation where there are more than 500 will be a "secondary timestamp".
For the second time in a week, ICANN faces a hostile Congressional hearing over its new gTLD program, with the witness list stacked against it.
The House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology this morning published the list of people it has called for its hearing this Wednesday and it is almost an exact re-run of the Senate Hearing last week.
Last week's Senate hearing saw three of the five witnesses seemingly chosen because of their opposition to the program. The pattern is the same this week. Alongside representatives from ICANN and the US government, are three anti-gTLD witnesses and, just for good measure, an anti-ICANN witness.
ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom has failed for the third time in a row to represent his organization, putting up Senior VP Kurt Pritz to face the fire while he continues on a world tour promoting the program (he is currently in Moscow).
The Washington Post has called for the rollout of hundreds of new Internet extensions to be delayed, claiming that the program is "not ready for prime time".
In a lead editorial in Monday's paper, entitled "What's the .rush?" the influential journal takes issue with plans to open out the top level of the Internet and aims a series of punches at ICANN itself, claiming it is unaccountable, non-responsive and may undermine its own legitimacy by driving ahead with plans to open up applications on 12 January.
The strongly worded piece follows a week of high drama in the US capital where FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz said he was "very, very concerned" about the new gTLD program and that it could be a "disaster" for consumers and businesses,
Put the brakes on an expansion of Web domain names
Washington Post Editorial Board.
For two decades, .com, .org and some 20 other “generic top-level domain names” have served as calling cards for the vast majority of Web sites. That may change dramatically — and not for the better — if the obscure but powerful organization that manages domain names gets its way.
Starting next month, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) plans to take applications from individuals and groups interested in plunking down $185,000 a pop to buy the rights to new domain names — the words to the right of the dot. Some of these could focus on a community of businesses or services, such as .bank or .news. Others may be used to market specific brands or products, as in .Coke or .Chevy. ICANN officials say that they expect up to 500 applications to be filed between January and April when the organization opens the process; those approved would go live in 2013. ICANN believes these changes will lead to innovations that build on the already explosive growth and inventiveness of the Internet age.