GAC backs off TLD censorship a bit. But not enough.

An official “Scorecard” has been posted in advance of the Feb. 28 showdown in Brussels between the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) and the ICANN Board. The “scorecard” is intended to identify the areas where GAC differs from the positions developed by ICANN's supposedly official and open policy development process. Amusingly, the so-called GAC position follows almost verbatim the text submitted as the “US position” back in January. It's clear that the US calls the shots in GAC and other governments, including the EU, make minor modifications to U.S. initiatives. But there is one interesting change. The U.S. has been publicly shamed into backing down a bit from its initial demand for an arbitrary veto over gTLD applications.

Call to Action: Say No to the GAC veto!

If you've been following our coverage recently, you'll want to sign the petition telling the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) that you oppose a U.S. Commerce Department proposal to give the world’s governments arbitrary power over the Internet’s domain name system.

The proposal would give national governments the right to block the creation of new web site addresses. Proposals for new top level domains could be vetoed by the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) of ICANN “for any reason.” This means that governments could object simply because the name is controversial, or because one or two governments don’t like the applicant, or because an authoritarian government wants to suppress the kind of content that might be published under a specific top level domain name.

The proposal will be discussed at the upcoming ICANN Brussels special meeting on Feb 28.  Don't waste a second, sign the petition today!

Upcoming Event: “NCUC@ICANN: Internet Governance and the Global Public Interest”

Public Interest Groups to Discuss Controversial Plans to Add New Domains at San Francisco ICANN Meeting Pre-Event

craigslist Founder Craig Newmark to Keynote Internet Policy Conference

(San Francisco)  ICANN’s Non-Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC) is pleased to host a policy conference “NCUC@ICANN: Internet Governance and the Global Public Interest”on Friday 11 March 2011 at the Westin St. Francis Hotel at Union Square in San Francisco.

The all-day civil society policy conference will be held immediately before the 40th International ICANN Meeting and is targeted at international Internet governance participants, as well as Bay Area law and policy experts, digital rights activists and other civil society actors concerned with Internet governance policies.

Panelists will explore a number of Internet policy issues in which NCUC is engaged, including panel discussions on censorship, privacy, intellectual property rights and domain name take-downs. The conference will also examine the appropriate role for national governments vis-à-vis other stakeholders in Internet governance, and consider ICANN’s ability to address the concerns of developing countries and serve the global public interest.

A radical proposal surfaces in ARIN

Warning: This post delves back into the arcana of IP address governance. This may seem strange, as most of the Internet policy world is buzzing with high-level discussion of Secretary Clinton’s latest Internet Freedom speech and the role of Facebook and Twitter in the Arab world revolutions. Those are great topics, but we remain steadfastly fixated upon the boring, nitty-gritty technical details of how the Internet is governed, both because no one else covers them and because those details probably will, in the long run, have more impact on Internet freedom than politicians’ speeches.
Our last post noted the looming battle over IP address Whois. Since that came out a policy proposal has been placed before ARIN that could be construed as an attempt to lay the groundwork for a more open and competitive market in post-allocation IP address registration services. The proposal is called “ARIN-prop-133: No Volunteer Services on Behalf of Unaffiliated Address Blocks.” The great thing about this proposal is that it finally faces a crucial fact about the evolution of IP address governance institutions and, instead of agonizing and hand-wringing about it, actually tries to do something.

Battle begins over IP address WHOIS data

A few days ago ICANN quietly posted this letter from David Holtzman of Depository Inc. to ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom. The letter, dated January 27, has gone almost totally unnoticed, but it is important. It means the first warning shots have been fired in a prospective litigation duel between ARIN, which is the IP address registry for North America, and a company positioning itself to compete with ARIN in the provision of certain IP address-related services. What is at stake here is the control of IP address Whois data – or more precisely, whether ARIN owns this data and can withhold it from other organizations in order to maintain exclusive control over certain services.

Doublespeak from the NTIA

Our warnings against the GAC top level domain veto are getting attention. The story has been picked up by Ars Technica, CBS and CNET News and widely tweeted. An interesting new argument has surfaced in this controversy. As more and more reporters ask the U.S. government what the heck it is doing, the NTIA is issuing a stock answer. NTIA is telling reporters that its proposed veto procedure “diminishes the potential for blocking of top level domain strings considered objectionable by governments. This type of blocking harms the architecture of the DNS and undermines the goal of universal resolvability (i.e., a single global Internet that facilitates the free flow of goods and services and freedom of expression).” That's doublespeak. Let's translate it into plain English.