When No Action Is the Wisest Action (ICANN Does Good)

Although ICANN is now getting a lot of ridicule for the "glitch" in its TLD application System, it deserves some praise and respect for the results of its April 10 board meeting. In that meeting, the board showed the involved community — and the rest of the world — that it is no longer going to be stampeded by extra-procedural political pressure to make yet another round of hasty amendments to its new TLD program's policies and procedures. It passed two resolutions which, in effect, did nothing. That is, the resolutions refused to enact any more changes in the Applicant Guidebook. And in this case, nothing was exactly the right thing to do.

The board's April 10, 2012 "Resolution on defensive applications for new TLDs” was a response to trademark holders who had been worked into a lather by opportunistic lobbyists who had told them, without any real basis, that they would be forced to defensively register a new gTLD simply to protect their brand. The resolution's numerous "whereas" clauses patiently explain that "cybersquatting [is] not likely to be a significant issue in the registration of top-level domain names" and that there are many protection mechanisms already embedded in the new gTLD program. It politely suggests that those worried about such things should do their homework and learn about those existing protections.

The second resolution, on the "GNSO Recommendation for Protection of Red Cross and International Olympic Committee Names in New gTLDs," was short and sweet. It acknowledged the receipt of the hastily thrown together and controversial recommendation from the GNSO to enact sweeping new rights to names for two privileged international organizations, the International Olympic Committee and the International Red Cross. And the board simply resolved that "the New gTLD Program Committee chooses to not change the Applicant Guidebook at this time."

This blog covered the clash over the GNSO Recommendation. It noted that industry representatives, in order to appease the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) and in complete violation of ICANN's notice and comment procedures, had railroaded through what amounted to new international law regarding name protections. In the process, they ignored objections from other international organizations and complaints from Greek government officials from Olympus. Implementing those recommendations would have opened a Pandora's box. It is excellent that the Noncommercial Stakeholder Group's principled stance against the recommendation, which earned them so much enmity from the other GNSO Council members, was vindicated by the board.

Hopefully, the board is signaling to the US government, to the US Congress, to the US-centered trademark lobbyists and to the GAC that enough is enough. The new gTLD program went through 6 years of policy development, all stakeholders were fully represented in the process, huge and unearned concessions were made to various special interests, and the thing is over and done with. There should be — there will be — no more pandering to last-minute lobbying putsches by special interests.

Written by Milton Mueller, Professor, Syracuse University School of Information Studies