DNS Policy Notes for Sept. 2, 2014

Collected news and opinion about the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the domain name business, Internet governance, and misc other cyberlaw topics for Sept. 2, 2014.

Candidates for GAC Leadership Finalized

Two candidates are vying for the position of GAC chair: Imad Youssef Hoballah (Lebanon), and Thomas Schneider (Switzerland).

Six candidates have been nominated for three open vice chair positions:

  • Olga Cavalli (Argentina)
  • Vujica Lazovic (Montenegro)
  • Henri Kassen (Namibia)
  • Gema M. Campillos González (Spain)
  • Wanawit Ahkuputra (Thailand)
  • Ihsan Durdu (Turkey)

The election comes at a time when the ICANN community is considering giving the GAC more influence over domain name policy by changing the bylaws to require a board super-majority to override GAC advice. Regardless of how that policy proposal turns out, GAC methods and GAC membership are unquestionably becoming more important.

From what I can tell, the process of selecting a GAC chair is similar to the selection of the Pope. Secret ballot, no public discussion. Voting will take some time during the ICANN Los Angeles Public Meeting, set for Oct. 12-16, 2014.

Two of the candidates for vice chair represent countries that have poor reputations for human rights and Internet openness.

Regarding Thailand, the U.S. State Department's Report on Human Rights Practices (Thailand, 2012) had this to say:

A maximum five-year prison sentence and a 100,000 baht ($3,300) fine may be imposed for posting false content on the Internet that undermines public security, causes public panic, or hurts others. A maximum 20-year sentence and 300,000 baht ($9,800) fine may be imposed if an offense results in the death of an individual. The law also obliges Internet service providers to preserve all user records for 90 days in case officials wish to access them. Any service provider who gives consent to or intentionally supports the publishing of illegal content is also liable to punishment. Most prosecutions continued to be for content-related offenses. By law a court order is required to ban a Web site, although this requirement was not always applied in practice. Media activists criticized the law, stating that the offenses were defined too broadly and some penalties were too harsh.

There was continued Internet censorship, and use of the law continued to stifle certain areas of freedom of expression. The government closely monitored and blocked thousands of Web sites that criticized the monarchy. Many political Web boards and discussion forums chose to self-censor and monitor discussions closely to avoid being blocked, and newspapers disabled or restricted access to their public comment sections to minimize exposure to possible lese-majeste charges.

Thailand would almost certainly use whatever leverage it had within ICANN to promote policies that aid online censorship.

Outward indications of Turkey’s support for an open and free Internet are even less encouraging. A Sept. 1 news account, Future of Internet freedoms in Turkey bleak, say forum participants, reports that the Turkish government is very active censoring the Internet.

The U.S. State Department’s Report on Human Rights Practices (Turkey, 2012) identified an active government campaign against Internet freedom, a situation that has gotten worse since a highly restrictive Internet law came into force in early 2014.

David Post on the Future of Internet Governance

Prof. David Post in the Washington Post:

ICANN's dispute resolution system deals exclusively with claims that website names are infringing local trademark protections, not with larger questions about violations of other legal rules. But there is a vacuum in international law, and ICANN is in a position to fill that vacuum, and it just might be interested in doing so. It will surely be under increasing pressure to do so from the many governments out there, and the many private interests out there, that are frustrated with the inability to deal with law-breakers on the Net. Whether or not ICANN takes on this role, and the strictures under which it would operate were it to do so, strike me as critically important for the next decade or so.

For example, Iran ...

Grand Ayatollah Issues Fatwa Stating High Speed Internet is against Sharia

Via the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran:

Internet access has been an ongoing struggle between Iran's hardliners, who retain key bases of power in the judicial, intelligence and security branches of government and wish to maintain strict censorship and control over all information, and the 42 million Iranians -- some 55% of the population -- who use the Internet. Internet speed is a critical weapon in this battle, as the authorities frequently slow the speed of the Internet as a means to render it effectively useless, thereby depriving the citizenry of the online access it needs for professional, educational, and commercial use.

Iran is a member of the GAC and the International Telecommunication Union, where it recently tossed this non-germane, GAC-aggrandizing proposal into the mix for the upcoming ITU Plenipotentiary.

New TLDs Tempting for Big-City Governments

Via Linda Gyulai in the Montreal Gazette, word that Montreal is considering a bid for .mtl in next round:

New York, which began working on the initiative under de Blasio's predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, partnered with a private business that offers domain name registry services. The company, Neustar Inc., paid the US$185,000 application fee to ICANN, along with related approval costs.

New York, meanwhile, promotes the domain name and is guaranteed at least US$3.6 million over an initial five-year period under its contract with the company. The deal can be renewed for two five-year extensions.

And if .nyc proves particularly profitable, the city is to receive 40 per cent of gross annual revenue from domain registrations, advertising and other related business.

Yet another reason why big city governments will be lining up in numbers when ICANN begins taking applications for the next round of new gTLDs. For some, it's a risk-free shot at a few million dollars in revenue.

Videos From Aug. 28 NETmundial Initiative Event Posted

Fadi Chehade at NETmundial Initiative

That was exciting. My favorite part was when one news reporter, who likely had been scribbling words like "begin ... the process," "multistakeholder," "accountability," "NETmundial ... exciting ...," "actionable," "capacity building" all day long, asked the speakers if they could tell him, in comprehensible and reportable language, what exactly had just happened.

I think this is what happened: ICANN, which is under pressure from governments to solve big problems that it didn't create, went to the World Economic Forum to enlist the aid of the world's most powerful international corporations, entities more influential than the usual Internet governance crowd, and to explain to them that they too have a stake in the Internet governance discussion and in preserving multistakeholderism.

No TLDs Delegated since Aug. 16?

Seems like it's been a while since ICANN has delegated additional new top-level domains. The last time was Aug. 16, when it delegated these: .click, .diet, .how, .ol, .ooo, .help, .hosting, .property, .ltda, and .cern.

Sunrise registrations for trademark owners are beginning today for .gifts, .quebec, .restaurant, and .sarl.


Thomas O’Toole is managing editor of Bloomberg BNA’s Electronic Commerce & Law Report and a contributor to Bloomberg BNA’s Internet Law Resource Center.