Public Comments Require Changes in ICANN new gTLD Policy

The ICANN comment period on its new gTLD policy is over. The comments reflect overwhelming opposition to the Council's attempt to impose a standard of “morality and public order” on new TLD strings. The vast majority of comments — about 60 of the 75 or so comments — criticized the policy of censoring TLD strings and asked ICANN to stick to technical and operational criteria. Only one comment — by Vittorio Bertola, putative leader of ALAC — called for ICANN to retain limitations on expression. About 50 of those critical comments came from the “Keep the Core Neutral” campaign. It is unfortunate that the effort to create a process for adding new gTLDs will be slowed as the policy must be redrafted to take this opposition into account. There was, at one point, an agreement within a subcommittee to remove the words “morality and public order” from the recommendation, but a single trademark constituency member insisted that it be put back in.

A more subtle issue also emerged from the comments. There was significant opposition to Recommendation 19, which would require all new top level domain registries to rely on ICANN-accredited registrars as the distributors of their services. This opposition not only came from former Board member Michael Palage, but from a domain name registrar from China and a representative of CNNIC, the Chinese country code registry. Both comments argued that it was inappropriate for applicants for internationalized (non-ASCII) domains to rely on ICANN-accredited registrars, because “local registrars best understand local users’ needs.” A Beijing-based registrar made the odd (and obviously false) comment that IDNs are “territory-oriented.” Quite apart from the economic issues associated with requiring registries to follow a particular business model, the resistance from China will be an interesting test of the global nature of the ICANN regime.

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