The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is not obliged to implement government wishes about Internet domain names, according to board chair Steve Crocker.
Speaking in a video interview last week in response to Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) demands to kill off at least two generic top-level domain (gTLD) bids, Crocker said the recommendations were not binding.
“The GAC communiqué (and more generally advice from governments) carries quite a bit of weight,” he said. “Equally, it is not the end of the story… We want very much to listen to governments and we also want to make sure there is a balance.”
Crocker said ICANN’s by-laws state a “preference” for following GAC advice but there is not an “absolute requirement” to do so. If ICANN rejects the advice, he said, it must explain why and be prepared for the governments to “express their displeasure”.
Last week, on the final day of ICANN’s Beijing meeting, the GAC advised ICANN to reject one of two bids for .africa (from DotConnectAfrica) and .gcc (for Middle Eastern Internet users). These were consensus decisions, meaning ICANN is strongly presumed to implement them.
The GAC can issue advice against applications it deems problematic – typically those potentially violating national laws or raising sensitivities.
ICANN must also examine two applications – .islam and .halal – which are seen as being potentially sensitive, while 14 more bids may warrant “further consideration”, expected to be at ICANN’s next meeting in Durban in July.
Additionally, the GAC said scores of applications falling into 12 categories including IP may require stronger regulations governing, among others, privacy and security.
This advice is now open for public comment, according to ICANN president Fadi Chehadé, who was speaking alongside Crocker in the interview.
Crocker’s comments may come as welcome news to applicants whose bids received GAC advice. Internet retailer Amazon and Patagonia, a clothing company, have filed branded applications that the GAC has warned it may review this summer.
Elisa Cooper, director of product marketing at brand protection company MarkMonitor, said: “Undoubtedly, there are many competing interests at play as the new gTLDs are launched. The GAC is a powerful force within ICANN and its advice must be taken very seriously.”