Live from Lisbon

I am at the Lisbon, Portugal meeting of ICANN. There are about 900 registrants and maybe 400 at the plenary sessions at any one time. A number of interesting things are happening here, although in general this is a calm and relatively routine meeting. Judging from the growing amount of swag you get with registration, ICANN looks prosperous and confident. Items of note include: growing pressures to find an acceptable compromise on Whois policy reforms; a surprise
appearance from the Secretary-General of the ITU on Friday; and an announcement this morning from ICANN CEO Paul Twomey that a final decision on the .xxx TLD will be made this week.

The contention over WHOIS and privacy continues, with a lot of attention shifting to the GAC. The Governmental Advisory Committee entered into meetings with the GNSO about this on Sunday afternoon. Bruce Tonkin, GNSO Council chair, and Jordyn Buchanan, chair of the WHOIS policy task force, did this long-running task force a bit of a disservice. Their presentations to GAC made it seem as if the task force is evenly split when in fact, due to weighted voting and the support of the Nomcom representatives on the Council, the reform forces are at or near a supermajority of 2/3. They also gave the Task Force-recommended OPoC proposal, supported by a preponderance of the GNSO, equal time with the trademark/copyright interests' “special circumstances” proposal, which imposes a huge burden on domain name registrants to prove they are worthy of shielding their data. I spoke publicly at this meeting, pointing out that the real roadbock to progress was the intransigence of the trademark/copyright interests and their attempt to link their needs to the legitimate needs of law enforcement authorities. Indeed, only reason the trademark/copyright people made any concessions at all was the April 2006 vote on Whois purpose which showed that a 2/3 majority of the council supported privacy protection in whois data. Bottom line: if you want movement on this issue, you have to vote; further attempts at “consensus” only play into the hands of those who favor the status quo.

The GAC also passed (so I heard) their “Principles Regarding gTLD Whois Services.” It is a typically schizophrenic
document. The EU forces seem to have forced the US to accept language indicating that there are “legitimate concerns” about abuse of unrestricted access to Whois data, and the “conflict with national laws and regulations, in particular applicable privacy and data protection laws.” One of the applicable principles is that “gTLD WHOIS services must comply with applicable national laws and regulations.”

At the same time, the bulk of the document consists of a laundry list of current uses of Whois, which the document deems “legitimate.” A strange paragraph about abuses of ICTs such as “racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance, hatred, violence, all forms of child abuse, including paedophilia and child pornography, and trafficking in, and exploitation of, human beings” has been added, showing that governments' tendency to seek to use ICANN to engage in wide-raning censorship and other forms of policy leverage unrelated to technical coordination remains. And the recommendations of the GAC statement are truly insulting, in that they call only for greater accuracy and a “study” of other problems, and thus only advance one stakeholder group's agenda.

A joint dinner of ICANN Board members and GNSO leaders last night tried to focus discussion on the LSE recommendations for reforming the GNSO. Some of us are very interested in constituency restructuring, and in particular LSE's recommendations that the number be reduced to three: Business users, Civil Society users, and the Supply Industry (registries and registrars). Some supported that idea. One Board member proposed a different tripartite structure: registries, registrants, and registrars. In general, there was not a lot of support among the dominant, more conservative board members could be found for a major restructuring, although of course the trademark/copyright interests criticized weighted voting for registries and registrars.

One comment

  1. Anonymous

    Milton,
    Reagrding the soon to be adopted GAC Whois Principles paper, you wrote :
    “the bulk of the document consists of a laundry list of current uses of Whois, which the document deems “legitimate.”
    A clarification here : the final document says “Whois data is now used to support legitimate activities, including …..”.
    This voluntarily only qualifies the activities (such as law enforcement) as legitimate and not the fact that Whois data is used by these activities. The main reason is precisely that in some countries, the public availability of this data is contrary to privacy laws.
    So the final text is much less shizophrenic than previous draft versions that may have been circulated.
    The text basically presents two factual statements :
    – there are legitimate activities that happen to use whois data
    – there are concerns about misuse of whois data and conflicts with national laws, particularly those related to privacy and data protection.
    Hope it clarifies the approach a bit.
    Best
    Bertrand
    Bertrand de La Chapelle
    French GAC representative