US subcommittee holds hearing on ICANN accountability


US subcommittee holds hearing on ICANN accountability

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The House of Representatives Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet held a hearing yesterday (May 13) on how to improve accountability structures at ICANN.

The discussion focused on the transition of key domain name services from ICANN to an international multi-stakeholder community.

Last year, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced it was going to transfer the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions away from ICANN to an international body.

Speakers at the hearing criticised the way ICANN handled the recent controversy surrounding the .sucks domain and cited it as an example of the need to improve accountability.

Last month, ICANN asked the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Canada’s Office for Consumer Affairs (OCA) to investigate the price of registering a .sucks domain.

Vox Populi, the registry managing the domain name, currently charges trademark owners $1,999 to register.

Mei-lan Stark, former president of the International Trademark Association (INTA), said that the controversy over the price showed that “congressional oversight” of the IANA transition was necessary.

She said the controversy “strongly suggests that the critical framework required for a successful transition of the IANA function does not yet exist”.

She added: “ICANN was warned about these practices and was advised before the .sucks launch but it chose to ignore the request.”

Phil Corwin, counsel for the Internet Commerce Association, who also attended the hearing, agreed.

He said that while congress should not “reflexively oppose” the IANA transition, it should “exercise strong oversight in support of ICANN’s stakeholders”.

Corwin said ICANN’s referral of the .sucks price to the FTC and OCA was an “abdication of responsibility”.

“ICANN had more than a year to explore and take action against the registry under available contract options,” he added.

A spokesperson for ICANN told TBO: “The time is now for the transition, and our focus is on getting the transition right through the bottom-up, multi-stakeholder model”.

ICANN has welcome comments from stakeholders on the transition.

Interested parties can have their say on the IANA stewardship transition until May 20 and parties can submit their views on how to better enhance accountability at ICANN until June 3. 

ICANN; IANA; House of Representatives Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet; Mei-Lan Stark; NTIA; .sucks; INTA

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