ICANN in Singapore


Petter Rindforth

Nearly 2,000 people from around 150 countries participated in ICANN’s 49th public meeting in Singapore, from March 23 to 27. Petter Rindforth reports on the highlights.

The ICANN meeting in Singapore followed a special full day conference on March 21, which was organised by the Non-Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC) of the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO), with ICANN’s support. The theme and name of that meeting was ICANN and global internet governance: the road to São Paulo, and beyond.

The conference was held just one month before the highly-anticipated Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance meeting in São Paulo, Brazil, from April 23 to 24. At the Brazil meeting, governments and non-governmental stakeholders were set to debate significant proposals regarding the institutional evolution of internet governance. The aim of the March 21 conference was to provide a first opportunity for intensive, face-to-face cross-community dialogue on the main substantive topics to be addressed in São Paulo.

At the March 21 meeting, stakeholders from across the ICANN community expressed a range of views and uncertainties about the meeting’s precise substantive focus, expected outcomes, and potential significance in the continuing evolution of the global internet governance ecosystem.

"A main objective for the US government is to make sure that the NTIA is not replaced by the UN or another governmental organisation."

Once the full ICANN meeting started, it was of course dominated by discussions related to the recent announcement by the US government that it wants to relinquish its stewardship of some vital technical internet functions.

As a first step, ICANN is consulting global stakeholders about a proposal for transitioning the role played by the US Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in coordinating the internet’s domain name system.

Fadi Chehadé, president and chief executive of ICANN, stated that “the US government has modulated its stewardship over time ... this was just a natural moment for all this to happen”, and said that “it’s not the end of the internet as we know it”. A main objective for the US government is to make sure that the NTIA is not replaced by the UN or another governmental organisation, but instead a new free global multi-stakeholder organisation.

The Singapore meeting also included a number of other discussions about, and decisions on, increasing the availability of the internet. These focused on having clear and safe contact information and making decisions more efficient and clear.

The Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) and the GNSO met in a special consultation group to create a process for the smooth and timely exchange of information; the early engagement of the GAC in GNSO policy development process work; and the early resolution of conflicts between, and the accommodation of the different working methods of, the two organisations.

Focus also turned to providers of privacy and proxy services, which limit the publication of a registrant’s contact information in the publicly-accessible Whois domain name directory. The privacy and proxy services accreditation issues working group was chartered by the GNSO Council in October 2013 to develop policy recommendations relating to the accreditation of privacy and proxy service providers.

The group presented the result of the Whois privacy and proxy abuse study. It seems that a clear policy is needed, as privacy and proxy providers act differently on many issues, such as how complaints and domain disputes are handled. The working group will now reach out to the country-code top-level domain (TLD) name community to get a feel for their experience with privacy and proxy providers. A preliminary report from this working group will be issued by early 2015.

The policy development process working group on translation and transliteration of contact information had several meetings related to questions on whether it is desirable to translate contact information (Whois) to a single common language or transliterate contact information to a single common script, and who shall be responsible for the translation or transliteration in light of the extra costs involved for such a service. Other related questions are whether translation or transliteration should be mandatory for all generic TLDs, and whether they should apply to all registrants or only those based in certain countries (using non-ASCII scripts).

From an IP point of view, it is clear that without the proper translation or transliteration of contact information, the Whois system will lose its clarity, which may cause difficulties for domain name holders in confirming that they have up-to-date and correct contact information. It may also cause unnecessary legal actions and/or alternative dispute resolution actions where the holder of a domain name could not be properly identified and contacted. In fact, the combination of contact information in both the holder’s local language and a worldwide acceptable translation or transliteration should provide an adequate legal basis for the sufficient identification of contact information in national legal actions, as well in global domain dispute cases.

The working group will finalise and submit its initial report in mid-September, and the GNSO Council will decide on a motion at its December 11, 2014 meeting.

Petter Rindforth is a senior partner at Fenix Legal KB and a member of ICANN’s GNSO Council.
He can be contacted at: info@fenixlegal.eu

internet governance, gTLDs, ICANN, NCUC, GNSO, Whois

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