Domain Name System Manager Won't Mandate Takedowns: ICANN

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By Thomas O'Toole

Oct. 19 — Government officials and copyright owners are expected to turn up the heat on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers on issues such as copyright infringement and illegal online pharmacies, ICANN chief executive Fadi Chehadé warned Oct. 19 during opening remarks at the organization's public meeting in Dublin.

Negotiators at the meeting are moving toward finalizing a proposal to transition technical functions surrounding Internet domain names. Copyright owners are unlikely to secure additional copyright enforcement assistance as a condition of the transition. So they, along with law enforcement officials, are expected to increase pressure on ICANN in the area of registrar contract compliance, where they say registrars have a duty to take down domain names upon receipt of a well-founded claim of illegal activity occurring at the associated website.

“When the transition happens, the pressures on ICANN will increase for us to possibly expand our remit,” Chehadé said. “ICANN's remit is not in the economic and societal layer.”

The topic will be the subject of several sessions during the Dublin meetings.

Meaning of ‘Reasonable', ‘Appropriate'

Under the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement, the principal mechanism of ICANN control over domain name registrars, all accredited registrars are obligated to “take reasonable and prompt steps to investigate and respond appropriately to any reports of abuse.”

There is a wide disparity of views regarding what constitutes a “reasonable” and “appropriate[ ]”response to a claim of abuse by a domain name registrant.

ICANN Chief Contract Compliance Officer Allan R. Grogan has attempted to bridge the gap between copyright owners and registrars by calling for best practices regarding the content of abuse claims, as well as encouraging registrars to develop standard practices regarding an appropriate response to abuse claims.

Registrars assert that many reports of abuse are too vague to investigate and respond to.

ICANN's Mission Is Purely Technical

Chehadé pushed back hard against complaints that ICANN is not doing enough to fight such online abuses such as copyright infringement and illegal online pharmacies.

ICANN's mission, Chehadé said, is largely a technical one: to develop domain name policy and to coordinate the Internet's unique system of numbers and names, Chehadé said. “Our job is to maintain the stability of these unique identifiers and the resources necessary to make sure they work,” he said.

ICANN is not, Chehadé added, responsible for developing policy on social and economic issues such as human rights, cybersecurity, and the vast array of legal issues arising from unlawful content distribute across the Internet.

Chehadé said that it is not for ICANN and its accredited registrars to decide what is and is not legal behavior online.

“We have no legal authority to make those determinations,” Chehadé said.

Chehadé said that ICANN would be “responsible” in helping to solve content-related problems, and that it would do so by enlisting the multistakeholder community of businesses, governments, domain name sellers, and intellectual property owners to come together to find a mutually acceptable solution.

To contact the reporter on this story: Thomas O'Toole in Dublin at totoole@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joseph Wright at jwright@bna.com