What to Watch at ICANN 53 in Buenos Aires

Bloomberg BNA will be on the ground at next week’s ICANN meeting in Buenos Aires, and we’ll keep you up to date on all the important developments. Here are some of the key sessions to know about going into the meeting:


GAC meetings . There are several Government Advisory Committee meetings on Saturday, but the one to watch is a session on the effectiveness of GAC advice. The big question is whether governments seek to flex their muscles and try to find ways to make GAC pronouncements harder for ICANN’s board to ignore.


And more GAC meetings . Governments take up the two central themes of the overall meeting: the IANA transition and enhancing ICANN’s accountability. We’ll be watching to see whether any countries attempt to stall or undermine the transition process by holding up GAC approval of the CCWG-Stewardship’s transition proposal. The proposal needs support of all the CWG chartering organizations, including the GAC, which can only act at an ICANN meeting. So if the GAC doesn’t sign off by the end of the week, it won’t have another chance until the Dublin meeting in October, significantly delaying the transition process.

CCWG-Accountability meeting with ICANN board . This is the can’t-miss meeting of the bunch, and we could see some fireworks as a new power dynamic potentially begins to play out. The revised DOTCOM Act that’s sailing through Congress has empowered the CCWG, as it requires the working group’s outputs to be in place before the U.S. government signs off on any transition plan. The only notable potential loser from the legislation is the board itself, which will find itself more constrained under the proposed fundamental bylaws and community empowerment mechanisms. The board submitted one of the more skeptical comments on the CCWG’s first draft plan, but if it maintains its current stance, it risks being left behind politically. 


CCWG on Country/Territory Names as TLDs and Global Domains Division Update. At a meeting otherwise focused heavily on the immediate future of ICANN, these two sessions could be among the few that look further forward to the second round of new gTLDs, unlikely to get underway before 2018. The GDD session also promises to provide new statistical data on the health and robustness of the new gTLD program.


Joint Meeting of and ICANN’s Board . On Tuesday, the board spends its day in a series of meetings with a wide variety of stakeholder groups. Registries and registrars in particular may feel the need to vent, as they have taken their lumps quite a bit recently in public debates over contractual compliance and abuse reporting.


GAC meeting with ICANN’s Board . The board concludes its stakeholder meetings with a session with government representatives. We’ll be tracking the session as well as the GAC’s post-meeting communique. With a new chair at February’s Singapore meeting, the GAC issued relatively sparse advice in its communique; this session, though, will show whether that marked a blip or a trend, as the GAC will likely use the session to discuss whatever issues it will then memorialize at its closed communique-drafting session later Wednesday.

Contractual compliance program updates and Q&A session . The IP community vs. the registrars and registries: get your popcorn ready. The Compliance department and CCO Allen Grogan have been questioned from both sides—IP interests (backed by law enforcement) want Compliance to push for a more activist role for the contracted parties in copyright and counterfeiting enforcement. The contracted parties say they are ill-positioned to police content and want Compliance to be less picky in enforcing registrants’ minor and technical errors. Grogan has made outreach a priority, and this session may signal how open the two sides are to finding middle ground. 

GNSO Council and CCNSO Council. ICANN’s primary legislature-like body and the parallel policy group for country code TLDs meet with the IANA transition proposal on the agenda. Other policy development efforts will get their due, but like the GAC, the GNSO and CCNSO are gatekeepers who could delay the transition if the proposal on the table doesn’t get their support. 

For a complete rundown of all the goings-on, check out the full session schedule.