ICANN 56 Helsinki - Legal eagle Luc, reports back…

ICANN is the organisation in charge of domain names and IP addresses. It’s a community of volunteers developing policies applicable to the domain name system. Anyone can join a working group and take part. Fancy it?

by Luc - 12.07.2016

Policy development process (PDP)

Due to the global nature of the Internet, working group participants are scattered around the globe, holding meetings via conference calls. Despite technological advancement, face to face meetings are still paramount for the groups to function effectively.

Sarcasm will never be rightly conveyed with an emoticon, but I’ll keep trying.

Three times a year, ICANN holds a public meeting where the stakeholders of each community meet in person; Helsinki being the location of the most recent.

Thanks to these meetings, this lawyer and 1800+ attendees get to enjoy windowless meeting rooms all around the world.

ICANN has working groups for every little thing

Previously, all three meetings followed the same format. But a dedicated Meeting Strategy Working Group wrote a report recommending a specific format for each meeting.

Yes, ICANN sets up working groups for everything.

The format of the meetings is shown below.

  • The first meeting of the year lasts six days and has a global scope.
  • The second meeting lasts four days and focuses on policy development and outreach.
  • The third meeting lasts seven days, focussing on showcasing ICANN’s work to a broader global audience.

You can read about future meeting strategies, if you’ve a mind to.

Helsinki – where the sun never sets and policy is discussed

The former meeting format involved short sessions that discouraged debate, but gave each party a public platform. The new format should provide opportunities for inter communities’ discussions by giving each working group member and interested parties more time to discuss.

However, escaping from the grandstanding straitjacket is difficult when you’ve been strapped in it for years. Hence, some fairly meaningless discussions still took place. There’s still hope that this new format will become a real forum where policy is discussed and work gets done, with a lot less ceremony and ego boosting.

Country, territory and other name calling

The Registry Agreement (the license to use a domain extension), forbids new registries from offering for registration or registering themselves domain names corresponding to country names and codes (e.g. Luxembourg.newTLD and LU.newTLD), unless an agreement is reached with the applicable country.

Considering the number of new extensions and countries, there would be 300, 000+ agreements. To facilitate this, the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) developed a database which informs the public whether a country intends agreeing to all requests, reviewing case by case, or disagreeing with all.

BTW – a nervous country representative managed to side track this session with their radical ideas on this topic, concerned that their country name could be abused with the registration of certain ‘liberal’ extensions. Presumably ones like .LGBT, .GAY, .SUCKS, .WTF, .CATHOLIC…

.FI(nally) a registry-registrar model

The Finnish registry announced that from September 2016, a registry-registrar model will be introduced and the local presence requirement to register .FI domain names lifted. Domain name registrations under the .FI extension will be easier and more secure. Our technical team’s currently implementing this new platform.

Going, going, gone!

While most of the applicants with a contentious application (i.e. multiple applicants for the same extension) have found a way to settle the battle, the resulting auctions have raised USD 100, 000, 000+.

ICANN has setup a Cross Community Working Group to devise a mechanism to allocate this impressive amount.

Yet another working group!

During the Helsinki session, several attendees expressed concern about how to use this money, recommending the hiring of ‘experts’ to allocate it.

If you’re an expert in spending hundreds of millions of dollars, you may want to apply.

WHOIS reform – the oldest vaporware(?)

Since the birth of ICANN, reformation of the WHOIS system has been on the cards. However, every initiative has failed to produce an alternative solution acceptable to all parties.

Summarising the view of each group would require writing a saga but a simplistic distinction between the two main groups can be made.

  • The non-commercial users’ community and the majority of registrars who are willing to protect their and their customers’ rights to privacy.
  • The law enforcement agencies and Intellectual Property law firms fearing that respecting privacy rights would mean allowing more abuse by domain name users.

The latest attempt to create a new WHOIS system lead to the creation of a working group (Yawn!) composed of 263 volunteers, who’ve been meeting since January of this year. The goal of this group is to reach agreement on two things.

  • What are the fundamental data requirements for domain name registration?
  • Is a new policy framework and next generation Registration Directory Service (RDS) needed to address these requirements?

After reaching consensus on how to reach consensus, the working group is now writing a comprehensive list of possible requirements. As of today, almost 800 proposed requirements have been submitted and the working group will need to review them all and condense them.

This task will last for several years, but it’s hoped that it will result in a workable policy.

EuroDNS is doing its best to keep on top of the discussions within this group but considering the volume of information to be reviewed on a daily basis, we do it as an observer and not a participant.

UDRP review to happen… one day

When the new domain extension programme launched, several right protection mechanisms (RPM) were introduced. Amongst others:

  • the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH) which allows trademark and other rights holder to register domain names on a priority basis under every new extension;
  • the Trademark Claims notice which allows trademark owners to monitor third party registrations matching their brand; and
  • the URS which allows registrants to swiftly and at a low cost obtain the suspension of a blatant trademark infringement.

In April 2016, a working group was tasked with reviewing the effectiveness of the protection mechanisms and the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) as a whole.

Animated reactions are expected from non-commercial users afraid to see the RPMs being abused and from IP rights holders wanting to expand RPMs to protect their brands.

Up against the wall and spread ’em!!!

When a domain name is registered under a generic extension, the details of the registrant are published in the public WHOIS database. This is why registrars like EuroDNS offer domain privacy, a way for customers to keep their details private and safe from spammers and identity thieves.

However, some providers aren’t monitoring the use and more importantly the abuse of their service. A working group was formed (No way!) to establish a Privacy and Proxy Accreditation Programme, tasked with creating an accreditation framework for WHOIS privacy service providers, allowing only accredited providers to offer their services.

The working group issued its report and recommendations in 2015. The discussions were passionate and at times contentious but they finally agreed on several principles in the 198 page report.

Trouble sleeping? Take a look – Initial Report on the Privacy & Proxy Services Accreditation Issues Policy Development Process.

Despite numerous discussions, certain governmental representatives are unhappy that their comments did not prevail and are now trying to force them via the GAC route.

EuroDNS participated in the discussions and is committed to becoming accredited as a domain privacy provider as soon as the programme launches.

Universal Acceptance – all domains should be treated equally

There are still some providers who haven’t updated their platform to handle new extensions. Occasionally, you won’t be able to open an account with your email address if it’s using a new domain extension.

A Universal Acceptance Steering Group has been created to ensure, ‘all domain names are treated equally’.

If you come across a provider that doesn’t accept new extensions or if you’re willing to participate in this initiative, please visit the website and Become Universal Acceptance Ready.

Photo credit


Thanks Luc… as always, an informative, honest and interesting read, with just the right amount of sarcasm.

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