Last week's refusal of civil society organizations to endorse the OECD's Principles for Internet Policy Making was powerful. It killed any pretense that the OECD's call for Internet intermediaries to “assist rights holders in enforcing their rights” has consensual support. But news coverage of that phenomenon has overlooked two other, equally important questions. First, why was this struggle even necessary? The very same battle was fought in Europe only a few years ago and the rights holders lost. Second, why didn't the business interest advisory committee (BIAC) and the Internet Technical Community Advisory Committee (ITAC) join civil society in its dissent?
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.
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.
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.