Here are some of the main issues for brand owners: Sorting out the long-awaited transition from U.S. Government oversight to a truly multi-stakeholder model of governance; ensuring Registrant data (Whois) accuracy, accessibility and privacy (where appropriate); launching reviews of the new gTLD program; and protecting/preserving the robust business and brand voices in the process.
The IANA Stewardship Transition and Enhancing ICANN Accountability Efforts
When the United States Department of Commerce announced in March 2014 that it would relinquish oversight of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) function, the world of Internet Governance erupted into a flurry of activity to decide what organization (or group of organizations) would assume the stewardship in its place. In order to replace the Affirmation of Commitments, the agreement between the Department of Commerce and ICANN, cross-community working groups were formed to discuss and put forth proposals, and that work is now well underway.
In its simplest form, there are two inter-related working groups that are mainly overseeing discussions surrounding this important governance issue. One is the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG) and the other, the Cross-Community Working Group on Enhancing ICANN Accountability (CCWG – Accountability). The ICG is tasked with developing the proposal and next steps of the transition itself, comprised of concerns around three main areas: domain names, number resources and protocol parameters. The CCWG –Accountability is responsible for enhancing ICANN processes and procedures to prepare it for eventual self-oversight of the IANA functions by ensuring that the organization is truly accountable to and representative of the multi-stakeholder community through bottom-up decision making. The two main groups (and the relevant sub-groups) are well underway on their respective tasks, and updates presented at ICANN 52 were largely positive and encouraging to the business and brand communities.
One of the main concerns surrounding the transition has been timing. The current US Department of Commerce agreement with ICANN is set to expire in September of this year. Many in the community felt rushed to develop, implement and test a proposal by that time, a timeline that would be near impossible. Lawrence Strickling, from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the Department of Commerce assured the ICANN community that extensions are available and will be utilized. The focus, he said, was to get the transition right, not to do it quickly. MarkMonitor and our business partners were encouraged by this assurance, and will continue to work diligently with community members to ensure that we maintain a voice in the ongoing process.
Registrant Data Accuracy, Accessibility & Privacy
As we’ve highlighted before, Registrant data and contact information (Whois) is of prime importance to brand protection efforts. Several concurrent policy efforts are underway to improve the accuracy and accessibility of Whois data, and to balance this with the right to privacy. These efforts include reviewing the costs and benefits of the validation and verification requirements under the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement, reviewing Whois Policy as required by the Affirmation of Commitments and beginning policy and implementation discussions around the Expert Working Group on gTLD Directory Services Final Recommendations from 2014.
ICANN 52 provided an opportunity for the community to begin to come together on these issues, and it’s apparent that there are a lot of opinions, viewpoints and perspectives which should be carefully taken into account when discussing, reviewing and developing Whois policy.
One of the most interesting sessions highlighted the immense amount of work that the community has in order to explore the Expert Working Group’s recommendations for revamping and revitalizing Whois. In recommending an interdependent, interrelated three-step process flow with at least ten elements of the final recommendations to discuss under each step, the EWG neatly demonstrated the amount of work and time the community will have to put into these issues in the future. Substantive work on this will begin in March 2015 with an ICANN Staff prepared Preliminary Issues Report that will be put out for public comment. The community should be prepared to comment on its willingness and ability to participate in the rigorous process.
New gTLD Reviews
ICANN staff gave us a status update on the new gTLD program at ICANN 52, with an outline and rough timeline for the various reviews, including the highly anticipated review of the Rights Protection Mechanisms (RPM), for which a draft issues report was just released for public comment. There are also reviews that are slated to examine Program Implementation, as well as the impact of the new gTLD program on the Security and Stability of the Internet (including Root Stability), and Consumer Choice, Competition and Trust, respectively.
The RPM Review will officially kick off with an official Issues Report in October of 2015. The Consumer Choice, Competition and Trust review will begin with a call for volunteers in October of 2015, with work beginning in early 2016. The Program Implementation review (a self-evaluation of ICANN Staff) is underway, and the Security, Stability and Resiliency Review should begin in the second quarter of this year. More information can be found on ICANN’s New gTLD Microsite.
Each review will depend heavily on community input, and we will be sure to alert you to calls for volunteers and participation as each opportunity arises. Both the Intellectual Property Constituency and Business Constituency will be heavily involved as well.
As anticipated, 2015 is off to a great and busy start. The ICANN community will reconvene in Buenos Aires for ICANN 53 in June 2015. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us.